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Jacob Rees-Mogg in the House of Commons in 2019
Impartiality Rules

Tory politicians' appearances on GB News broke British broadcasting rules five times - Ofcom

The UK’s Broadcasting Code outlines that politicians may not be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter.

THE UK’S BROADCASTER Regulator Ofcom has determined that appearances by several Conservative politicians on GB News programmes broke impartiality rules.

Politicians, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, acted as news readers, interviewers or reporters in five episodes of news and current affairs programmes in May and June 2023, Ofcom has concluded after an investigation.

The UK’s Broadcasting Code outlines that news must be reported with due accuracy and impartiality and that no politician may be used as a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in news programmes, “unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”.

“After careful consideration of the facts in each case –  including forensic analysis of the content and detailed representations from GB News – we found that two episodes of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation, two episodes of Friday Morning with Esther and Phil, and one episode of Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, broadcast during May and June 2023, failed to comply with Rules 5.1 and 5.3 of the Broadcasting Code,” the regulator announced today.

Jacob Rees -Mogg is a Conservative MP and former Leader of the House of Commons, Minister of State for Brexit and Secretary of State for Business.

Esther McVey and Philip Davies are a married couple and both sitting Conservative MPs. McVey was previously Secretary of State for Work and Minister of State for Housing and Planning.

“All five programmes in question contained a mix of news and current affairs content. We found that host politicians acted as newsreaders, news interviewers or news reporters in sequences which clearly constituted news – including reporting breaking news events – without exceptional justification. News was, therefore, not presented with due impartiality,” Ofcom said.

“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.”

Ofcom also looked into another episode of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation but said it did not raise issues that warranted an investigation. This particular episode, in which Rees-Mogg was used as an eye-witness “in-situ news reporter” during an unforseen security incident at Buckingham Palace was considered to constitute an exceptional justification as alllowed under the rules, Ofcom said.

During its investigations, the regulator gave “careful consideration of the facts in each case –  including forensic analysis of the content and detailed representations from GB News”, it said.

Ofcom has not imposed a statutory sanction on this occasion but warned that repeated breaches could result in sanctioning.

GB News launched in June 2021 and has become a popular platform for UK’s right-wing politicians.

Ofcom is also currently investigating whether a question and answer show with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak breached the impartiality rules after it received around 500 complaints.

GB News pushed back on Ofcom’s ruling against the five episodes, saying it was “deeply concerned”.

“Ofcom is obliged by law to promote free speech and media plurality, and to ensure that alternative voices are heard,” a spokesperson said. “Its latest decisions, in some cases a year after the programme aired, contravene those duties.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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