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October 23, 2023

GB News immigration discussion broke due impartiality rules, Ofcom says

GB News apologised to Ofcom and promised more staff training.

By Charlotte Tobitt

A discussion about immigration policy between Martin Daubney and Richard Tice on GB News broke due impartiality rules, Ofcom has found.

Ofcom said the programme, on 16 June, contained “limited alternative views” which were “dismissed” by the two former Brexit Party MEPs.

Tice is the leader of political party Reform UK, formerly the Brexit Party. He joined GB News as a presenter in September after leaving rival TalkTV. Daubney was deputy leader of the Laurence Fox-founded Reclaim Party and is also known as the former longtime editor of lads’ mag Loaded.

Daubney was guest presenting Fox’s usual programme. Separately Fox was this month fired by GB News after making misogynistic comments about a female journalist on-air.

Ofcom said that given the probable similarity of the views held by Daubney and Tice, GB News should have done more to ensure different viewpoints were heard during the programme.

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Ofcom said it “recognises that, in accordance with the right to freedom of expression, broadcasters have editorial freedom and can offer audiences innovative forms of discussion and debate.

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“However, in light of the likely similarity of the views of the participants in this programme on the major matter being discussed, the licensee should have taken additional steps to ensure that due impartiality was preserved.

“We expect GB News to take careful account of this decision in its compliance of future programming.”

What did Martin Daubney and Richard Tice say?

Daubney said at the start of the programme that the Government had “totally lost the plot on illegal immigration” and referenced “the illegals”.

He went on: “Some 9,346 have crossed the Channel illegally this year, including at least 1,500 this week and over 300 today. We have absolutely no idea who any of these people are. We now no longer know who walks among us. Of course, they’re not all bad apples. Some may genuinely be fleeing war zones, but they could have claimed asylum in France. Mind you, have you been to Paris recently?”

Daubney introduced Tice as “an old sparring partner of mine over in Brussels” and said “we stuck it to them” as Brexit Party MEPs.

Tice spoke about Reform UK’s policy to “stop the boats” and called the Government “feeble”. The discussion continued with them both sharing a similar point of view.

Attempting to provide another view, Daubney said: “OK, let’s just have a bit of balance on that. So, people would say, well, it’s all fine to say we’re going to declare you know a state of emergency, but the lawyers won’t stand for it. France won’t stand for it.”

But Ofcom said this was “rejected” by Tice and overall the alternative perspectives provided were “very limited”.

Three messages from viewers on the topic of “illegal immigration” read out by Daubney later in the programme largely agreed with the two broadcasters’ points of view. Ofcom said they did not represent “an appropriately wide range of significant views”.

GB News accepted that the programme failed to preserve due impartiality, saying it was not in line with the broadcaster’s “policy and practice”, and apologised to Ofcom, promising more staff training on the issues raised.

The broadcaster told Ofcom the intention had been for Daubney to subject Tice’s views to “close scrutiny” but accepted this had not been “wholly successful”.

Ofcom says Lee Anderson OK to interview Suella Braverman

Separately Ofcom has decided not to investigate an episode of Lee Anderson’s Real World on GB News in which the Conservative deputy chairman interviewed Home Secretary Suella Braverman about immigration and border control.

The regulator said it was “satisfied” this was a current affairs programme, rather than a news programme, meaning it was acceptable under its rules for a Conservative politician to be interviewing another Conservative politician.

The programme also contained an “appropriately wide range of significant views on the matter of immigration and border control”, Ofcom added, as both Anderson and another speaker read out statements challenging Braverman’s views, while a panel discussion following the interview included different political perspectives.

Ofcom continues to carry out 12 open investigations into GB News, with several relating to due impartiality. They include:

  • Jacob Rees Mogg’s State of the Nation, 9 May, rule 5.3
  • Friday Morning with Esther and Phil, 12 May, rule 5.3
  • Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, 13 May, rule 5.3 and 5.1 (“news… must be reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality”)
  • Jacob Rees Mogg’s State of the Nation, 13 May, rule 5.3
  • The “Don’t Kill Cash” campaign featured on The Live Desk, 7 July, rules 5.4 (programmes must exclude the licensee’s views “on matters of political and industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy” and rule 5.5 (requiring due impartiality on such matters).

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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.
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