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April 3, 2023updated 05 Apr 2023 3:39pm

TalkTV’s Nadine Dorries did not breach impartiality rules with Boris Johnson interview, Ofcom finds

Separately Ofcom will investigate GB News over two Tory MPs' interview with Jeremy Hunt.

By Charlotte Tobitt

TalkTV did not breach the Broadcasting Code by having ex-Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries interview her former boss and prime minister Boris Johnson, Ofcom has ruled.

However the broadcast regulator has now separately launched a standards investigation into GB News, which had sitting Conservative MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies interview Chancellor Jeremy Hunt days before his Spring Budget.

Dorries interviewed Johnson for the first episode of her hour-long Friday Night with Nadine programme on TalkTV on 3 February. The episode, airing at 8pm, averaged 52,000 viewers over the hour – TalkTV’s best performance in the slot to date and ahead of Sky News and GB News.

The pre-recorded interview was interspersed with a discussion led by Dorries with Times Radio political correspondent Charlotte Ivers, former Financial Times Whitehall editor Sebastian Payne and ex-Labour adviser Scarlett MccGwire.

Ofcom looked at the episode after receiving 40 complaints centred on TalkTV’s requirements for due impartiality but decided not to pursue them to a full investigation.

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It found that although Dorries provided “limited challenge” during the interview, for example by disagreeing on the Conservatives’ chances of winning the next general election, there was sufficient “analysis, challenge and context” with alternative viewpoints during the discussion segments.

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Sebastian Payne, Charlotte Ivers and Scarlett MccGwire on Friday Night with Nadine on TalkTV
Sebastian Payne, Charlotte Ivers and Scarlett MccGwire on Friday Night with Nadine on TalkTV. Picture: TalkTV screenshot

Ofcom also addressed the question of whether it was a news or current affairs programme, as sitting politicians are not permitted to present news programmes or conduct interviews “unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”.

The regulator concluded it was a current affairs programme because it was a long-form programme with a pre-recorded interview and in-studio analysis that “contained explanation and analysis of past and current events and issues, including material dealing with matters of political controversy and current public policy”.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Serving politicians are allowed to present current affairs programmes under our rules, providing they aren’t standing for election. But, when dealing with matters of political controversy or current public policy, broadcasters must take care to ensure a range of views are reflected.

“In our view, the combination of pre-recorded interview, in-depth studio analysis and panel discussion within this long-form programme was consistent with a current affairs format. At the time of broadcast, Ms Dorries was not standing in an election taking place, or about to take place.

“A range of alternative viewpoints, providing challenge and context to those of Mr Johnson, his Government and the Conservative Party more generally, were reflected in the studio panel discussions which were interspersed between each segment of the interview with the former Prime Minister.

“Given this, the programme did not raise issues under our rules preventing politicians from presenting news programmes, or those concerning due impartiality.”

Ofcom concluded that TalkTV met its requirements for due impartiality and the programme did not raise issues warranting investigation under the Broadcasting Code – but it said it “will not hesitate to investigate any other programming under the Code, should the facts of any particular case raise issues warranting investigation”.

It comes after Ofcom’s chief executive was questioned by MPs about Conservative politicians interviewing their colleagues, with the particular example of McVey and Davies interviewing the chancellor last month. Although Dame Melanie Dawes refused to be drawn in front of the DCMS Committee on whether their interview may have breached the Broadcasting Code, Ofcom revealed on Monday that the programme is now under investigation.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We are investigating whether this programme broke our rules requiring news and current affairs to be presented with due impartiality.

“Our investigation will look at the programme’s compliance with our rules on politicians presenting programmes, and whether it included an appropriately wide range of significant views relating to a matter of major political controversy or current public policy.”

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