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Ofcom finds The Live Desk in breach of our rules on due impartiality

Published: 18 December 2023
Last updated: 18 December 2023

An Ofcom investigation (PDF, 490.8 KB) has today found that an episode of The Live Desk, which aired on GB News on 7 July 2023, broke broadcasting due impartiality rules.

The programme promoted a GB News branded campaign, “Don’t Kill Cash”. The campaign called on viewers to sign a petition for Government to introduce legislation to protect the status of cash as legal tender and as a widely accepted means of payment in the UK until at least 2050.

We received a number of complaints about the campaign and earlier this year opened six investigations into various programmes on GB News related to this content. Today’s case is the first of these investigations to conclude.

Due impartiality rules about broadcaster's views or opinions

In line with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters are free to explore any issue, including the use of cash in society, in their programmes, and to encourage viewers to support particular campaigns. But, in doing so, they must comply with the due impartiality requirements in Section Five of the Broadcasting Code.

The Code reflects strict statutory requirements set by Parliament. With some limited exceptions, Rule 5.4 requires that all broadcasters’ programmes – whatever their genre – exclude all expressions of the views and opinions of the person providing the service on matters of political or industrial controversy or current public policy.

The purpose of this important restriction is to safeguard against licensed broadcasters using their channels and stations to advance their own views on matters of political controversy or current public policy.

Broadcasters are also required under Rule 5.5 to preserve due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters of current public policy.

Our investigation and decision

Our investigation sought to determine whether GB News had complied with these rules. It did not seek to question the merits of the campaign itself.

We found that, at the time of broadcast, preserving access to cash – including whether to mandate its acceptance – was a matter of political controversy and a matter of current public policy.

We took into account, among other things, that this issue was a matter of political debate as the Financial Services and Markets Bill passed through Parliament, before receiving Royal Assent on 29 June 2023 – four days before GB News launched its campaign. The stated aim of GB News’s campaign and petition was to call for legislative change, representing an attempt to influence Government policy.

Our investigation also found that, by promoting the GB News-branded campaign, the views and opinions of GB News Ltd – the person providing the service – on the matter of whether to mandate the acceptance of cash were expressed.

Factors we took into account included that: GB News clearly endorsed the campaign; the QR code and messaging shown on-screen encouraged viewers to sign a GB News petition calling for legislative change; and the campaign was promoted across GB News programming.

We also found that the programme failed to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of this matter, with only limited references to different perspectives.

As a result, we have recorded a breach of Rules 5.4 and 5.5 of the Broadcasting Code against GB News.

We expect GB News to take careful account of this decision in its future programming.

We will publish the outcome of our investigations into five other GB News programmes relating to this campaign in due course.

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