In an era where the media landscape is more polarised than ever, the clash of ideologies on our screens has never been so apparent. GB News, a newcomer to the British media scene, bills itself as a haven for conservative voices often overlooked by mainstream outlets. While it has earned respect for providing a platform for the right, a recent incident involving Laurence Fox on Dan Wootton’s show has ignited controversy.
Fox’s rhetoric during his appearance was, to many, deplorable. His comments were characterised by vulgarity, misogyny, and degradation. In a society that values civil discourse, such behaviour was rightfully met with criticism. However, the question arises: should such comments be grounds for cancellation?
GB News, which proudly touts itself as the home of free speech, found itself at a crossroads. Many expected it to condemn Fox’s comments and apologise to those offended. Such a response, it could be argued, would have demonstrated a commitment to its principles of free speech while holding individuals accountable for their words.
However, GB News took a different path. Instead of addressing the issue head-on, they appeared to perpetuate cancel culture by not fully addressing the situation. This has raised concerns about the integrity of their commitment to free speech. After all, freedom of speech is a two-way street, requiring the consideration of views that one fundamentally disagrees with.
The controversy spilt over to other media outlets, including the BBC. Figures like Adam Boulton and MP Caroline Nokes condemned GB News and even called for its removal from the airwaves. This reaction raised eyebrows, as it seemed to betray the very principles of free speech that GB News purportedly stood for.
The irony here is palpable. While demanding balance and accountability from GB News, the BBC faced its share of scrutiny. The case of Martin Bashir’s unethical tactics to secure an interview with Princess Diana in 1995 by forging bank statements and the subsequent cover-up cast a shadow on the broadcaster’s commitment to ethical journalism. Similarly, the troubling episode of Tom Symmonds during Operation Midland, where he met Carl Beech and showed him photographs of children I was alleged to have murdered. These included Martin Allen, the boy who went missing in 1979 (coincidentally the year I became a Member of Parliament). This led to me receiving death threats from people who believed I murdered the young boy.
Then there is the invasive coverage of Sir Cliff Richard’s home search, which demonstrated lapses in journalistic integrity. The BBC colluded with South Yorkshire Police to fly a helicopter above Sir Cliff Richard’s Berkshire home while it was searched in connection to allegations of sexual abuse.
Sir Cliff was forced to sue the BBC after they refused to apologise. In July 2018, he won a High Court case against the broadcaster. The BBC was ordered to pay £210,000 in damages and later agreed to pay £850,000 to cover legal costs.
The recent exchange on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme between an antagonistic Amol Rajan, Nick Robinson, and a levelled GB News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos brought the issue of balance and neutrality into sharp focus. Rajan’s question, “You don’t really care about what Ofcom says, do you?” drew an assertive and defiant response from Frangopoulos, but it was accompanied by snobby, sneering sniggers from the BBC studio. Where was the balance and neutrality here? I genuinely held Rajan and Robinson in a much higher regard until then. I submitted my complaint to the BBC with regard to this exchange soon after.
In conclusion, the clash between GB News and the BBC highlights the complex terrain of modern media. It raises questions about the true commitment to free speech and ethical journalism in an increasingly polarised world. As we navigate these turbulent waters, it is worth remembering the age-old adage: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.” In an era where media outlets are quick to judge, perhaps a dose of humility and self-reflection is what is needed most.