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Culture Secretary defends ‘fantastic’ GB News following Ofcom impartiality ruling

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has defended GB News claiming the channel “does a fantastic job” following yesterday’s Ofcom ruling that five of the channel’s shows had breached broadcasting rules.

The broadcast regulator upheld complaints about shows hosted by Frazer’s Conservative Party colleagues – Tory MPs Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Esther McVey and Phillip Davies – after they found five episodes of their shows on GB News breached broadcasting rules on impartiality.

Ofcom announced the five episodes broke set rules due to politicians “acting as news presenters.”

However, GB News had argued, ultimately unsuccessfully, that the shows were “current affairs” shows, which are not required to adhere to the same strict levels of impartiality as news. The broadcaster also claimed that Ofcom had made “arbitrary changes” to its definition of impartiality.

Speaking to Eamonn Holmes and Isabel Webster on their GB News Breakfast show this morning, Culture Secretary Frazer said: “I think GB News does a fantastic job. I’m in favour of media plurality. You have a lot of viewers who are very interested in the output that that you have, as indeed other channels do as well.

“GB News has decided to be regulated by Ofcom, it’s very clear that there’s a rule that doesn’t allow sitting MPs to present news, but does allow them to present current affairs programmes. That is, as I understand it, what presenters are doing at the moment in GB News.”

Quizzed directly by host Webster about GB News’ sense that the goalposts on impartiality had been moved, Frazer was a little more evasive. She said: “There were two decisions that Ofcom came to in relation to GB news. One was about impartiality and that’s a question for them. They are the regulator.

“The other was whether there was a breach of the broadcasting code because the broadcasting code says that a sitting MP cannot present news, live news that is happening, but they can present current affairs programmes, and that was the second part of the Ofcom ruling.”

Ofcom’s decision was centred around episodes broadcast in May and June 2023. The episodes were claimed to have included a mix of news and current affairs. Ofcom concluded: “News was, therefore, not presented with due impartiality.”

The regulator’s 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.”

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