Laurence Fox and Dan Wootton
Ofcom has confirmed it will launch an investigation into Tuesday’s edition of Dan Wootton’s GB News show, during which Laurence Fox launched into a rant about a female journalist on air.
Wootton and Fox were met with a widespread backlash after the live broadcast, during which the actor and Reclaim party founder began a tirade against Ava Evans, the political correspondent for the digital news outlet JOE.
Among other disparaging comments, Fox said: “We’re passed the watershed, so I can say this. Show me a single self-respecting man who would like to climb into bed with that woman ever.”
Wootton did not intervene during Fox’s speech, only referring to Evans’ follow-up posts towards the end of the discussion for “a touch of balance”, before insisting that Santina is a “very beautiful woman”.
Laurence Fox just did a whole speech on GB News on why men apparently won’t shag me ? pic.twitter.com/XoQD0DUQVm
— Ava-Santina (@AvaSantina) September 26, 2023
After the show, Wootton apologised directly to Evans, and shared a follow-up post on X (formerly known as Twitter) on Wednesday morning, which read: “Having looked at the footage, I can see how inappropriate my reaction to his totally unacceptable remarks appears to be and want to be clear that I was in no way amused by the comments.”
Fox was suspended by GB News the following morning, after which he posted screenshots of texts allegedly sent by Wootton after the broadcast, in which the former Sun journalist appeared to laugh off the incident.
Wootton was then also suspended from the station, with his contract as a columnist with the Daily Mail being terminated on Thursday.
It’s now been revealed that TV watchdog Ofcom received around 7,300 complaints from viewers about Wootton’s show, which they are now investigating.
We have launched an investigation into GB News under our rules on offence, after receiving around 7,300 complaints about Tuesday's episode of Tonight with Dan Wootton.
Read more here ⬇️ https://t.co/7gmlveDK5E
— Ofcom (@Ofcom) September 28, 2023
A post on Ofcom’s website said: “We are investigating under Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code which states that in applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.”
Meanwhile, the media regulator’s chief executive, Dame Melanie Dawes, also shared a statement, which read: “Over the last few days there has been speculation and commentary about our role as the independent broadcast regulator. These are important issues and I wanted to be clear about our rules.
“Parliament sets objectives on how the broadcast sector should be regulated. We set and enforce rules to achieve these objectives.
“Contrary to some claims, these rules remain unchanged. They are designed to protect audiences from offensive and harmful material, and to uphold the integrity of broadcast news and current affairs programming, while always ensuring that freedom of expression is front and centre in every decision we take. This is highly valued by audiences and central to our democracy.
“The decisions we take, always based on facts and evidence once a programme has aired, are vital if we are to protect our vibrant media landscape. We continue to apply and enforce these rules without fear or favour.”
Since its launch in June 2021, GB News has already been found to have breached Ofcom rules on three different occasions.