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GB News: Ofcom says channel broke rules and warns over MPs presenting news

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg
Sir Jacob Rees-Mog hosts State of the Nation every Monday to Thursday evening on GB News

GB News has been warned about its use of politicians as presenters after media regulator Ofcom ruled that five episodes of programmes hosted by serving Tory MPs broke its rules.

Ofcom said shows hosted by Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther McVey and Philip Davies broke rules stating politicians should not usually front news coverage.

GB News said it was "deeply concerned" by the "chilling" decision.

Ofcom has told the channel it is now "on notice" over future breaches.

The regulator said repeated contraventions of the relevant part of its code could lead to a sanction, which could include a fine or - in the most serious cases - revoking a broadcasting licence.

The Ofcom code says a politician can't be a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in a news programme "unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified". They can, however, front current affairs shows.

Esther McVey
Esther McVey left GB News after she was promoted to the cabinet in November

Sir Jacob hosts State of the Nation every Monday to Thursday evening, while McVey and Davies, who are married, previously presented their own show on Fridays and Saturdays. That show came to an end when McVey was promoted to the cabinet.

The episodes in question were broadcast in May and June 2023, and included a mix of news and current affairs, Ofcom said.

  • The 9 May episode of Sir Jacob's show covered a breaking news story about a civil trial verdict involving Donald Trump

  • The 13 June edition of State of the Nation covered a stabbing in Nottingham

  • The 12 May episode of Friday Morning with Esther and Philip featured issues including a teenager who was being sentenced for terrorism offences

  • On 13 May, Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip included an interview with Howard Cox - the Reform UK Party's candidate for the London mayoral election - live from an anti-Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) demonstration

  • On 23 June, Friday Morning with Esther and Philip featured a report on a doctors' strike, and a live report from Downing Street about a meeting between the chancellor and mortgage lenders

During the programmes, the "host politicians acted as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters in sequences which clearly constituted news - including reporting breaking news events - without exceptional justification", according to Ofcom investigations.

The regulator concluded: "News was, therefore, not presented with due impartiality."

Its statement added: "Politicians have an inherently partial role in society, and news content presented by them is likely to be viewed by audiences in light of that perceived bias.

"In our view, the use of politicians to present the news risks undermining the integrity and credibility of regulated broadcast news."

'Raises serious questions'

In response, GB News said: "We are deeply concerned by the decisions Ofcom has made today. We will raise this directly with the regulator in the strongest possible terms.

"Ofcom is obliged by law to promote free speech and media plurality, and to ensure that alternative voices are heard." Its latest decisions "contravene those duties", the channel added.

It accused Ofcom of changing the test it used to decide what has broken the rules, "so that it is no longer 'Was it impartial?' but 'Could someone think it might not be?'"

It added: "This is a chilling development for all broadcasters, for freedom of speech, and for everyone in the United Kingdom.

"These decisions go against established precedent and raises serious questions about Ofcom's oversight over its own regulations.

"It appears that Ofcom is trying to extend the regulations, rather than enforcing definitions which have been settled for many years."

GB News added: "We are committed to continuing to feature serving politicians hosting programmes and will continue to do so - just as other Ofcom-regulated services have in the past and still do."

An Ofcom spokesperson said it had not changed its rules, but that "the approach to due impartiality may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, and the likely expectation of the audience".

Ofcom also said it had decided not to investigate a separate episode of Sir Jacob's State of the Nation, in which he was "used as an eyewitness, in situ news reporter during an unforeseen security incident at Buckingham Palace".