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  1. Media Law
March 4, 2024

Dan Wootton/Laurence Fox ruling: Ofcom has ‘significant concerns’ about GB News

Ofcom said the incident suggested GB News had "inadequate" editorial controls in place.

By Bron Maher

Ofcom has said it has “significant concerns” about GB News‘ editorial control of its live output after ruling that former host Laurence Fox made “unambiguously misogynistic” comments on Dan Wootton Tonight about a female journalist in September.

The broadcast regulator on Monday morning upheld 8,867 complaints made about the remarks.

In the broadcast under complaint Fox described Joe.co.uk political correspondent Ava Evans as a “little woman” and “pathetic and embarrassing” and asked: “Who would want to shag that?”

Ofcom has now said the remarks “constituted a highly personal attack” on Evans and that they breached rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code, which holds that “material which may cause offence [should be] justified by the context”.

[Read more: GB News fires Laurence Fox and Calvin Robinson as Dan Wootton investigation continues]

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Ofcom requires GB News to ‘provide further detailed information about its compliance practices’

Ofcom said Fox’s comments “reduced [Evans’] contribution to a broadcast discussion on mental health – in her professional capacity as a political journalist – to a judgment on whether she, or women like her who publicly expressed their political opinions, were sexually desirable to men.

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“As such, we considered that Mr Fox’s comments were degrading and demeaning both to Ms Evans and women generally and were clearly and unambiguously misogynistic.”

Ofcom also criticised Dan Wootton, saying his “reaction and limited challenge in response… exacerbated [the potential for offence] by contributing to the narrative in which a woman’s value was judged by her physical appearance”.

The fact no apology was read out in the rest of the programme, the regulator added, “indicated that GB News’ editorial control of this live programme had been inadequate…

“In light of the circumstances of this case, we have significant concerns about GB News’ editorial control of its live output. We are requiring GB News to provide further detailed information about its compliance practices in this area for our consideration, and requesting it attends a meeting at our offices to discuss this.”

Opinion-led GB News is already under more than a dozen other investigations by Ofcom, mostly relating to due impartiality.

GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos said in September he had been “appalled” by the remarks. Fox and Wootton were immediately suspended following the incident, and Fox was fired days later.

Last year press regulator IPSO ruled that The Sun had breached Editors’ Code requirements around discrimination when it published a Jeremy Clarkson column in which the presenter described his “hatred” for Meghan Markle.

[Read more: IPSO says Jeremy Clarkson’s Meghan Markle Sun column was sexist and breached Editors’ Code]

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
  • Managing Director
  • President/Partner
  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
  • Director or equivalent
  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
  • Non-manager
  • Retired
  • Other
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