Ofcom has backed Sky News’ right to use the strapline “Brexit Election” for its coverage ahead of next month’s snap poll on the grounds of freedom of expression, calling it a “reasonable editorial judgement”.
Labour complained to the regulator that the phrase, used in Sky News’ on-screen graphics and online coverage of the general election campaign, gives “undue and unfair weight” to the Conservative Party’s political agenda.
A Labour source said: “This does the Tories’ work for them, effectively ensuring their Brexit election slogan is on-screen and all over social media all day, every day.”
Ofcom told Labour it has considered the issue, which drew more than 120 complaints in total, and found no grounds to pursue it further against the due impartiality and elections sections of the Broadcasting Code.
The regulator considered Brexit to be an “important background contextual factor” that has shaped the debate in Parliament in the run-up to the election.
Furthermore, it said, the election result will determine what happens next with the UK’s relationship with the EU as the latest Article 50 extension will run out on 31 January.
In a letter to Labour, Ofcom content group director Kevin Bakhurst said: “Against this backdrop, we consider it a reasonable editorial judgement for Sky News to use the strapline ‘The Brexit Election’ to label its election programming.
“Further, we do not consider that the use of this strapline would in and of itself engage due impartiality considerations or indicate that Sky News is favouring any party or parties in the context of this particular election campaign.”
Bakhurst said Ofcom had taken into account that on-screen graphics and captions are a “common editorial technique” to make broadcast content more engaging for audiences.
He said that in general there is “no prohibition” on such straplines being used “consistent with the right to freedom of expression”, as long as they are compliant with the Broadcasting Code.
Picture: Sky News