View all newsletters
Sign up for our free email newsletters

Fighting for quality news media in the digital age.

Ofcom clears Channel 4 News of ‘left-wing bias’ over EHRC ‘toxic culture’ report

Ofcom said the report was on a "legitimate matter of public interest" and done with due impartiality.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Ofcom has decided not to investigate Channel 4 News over accusations of “left-wing bias” in its reporting of allegations of a “toxic culture” within the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) led by chair Baroness Falkner.

The broadcast regulator received 19 complaints, including one signed by 54 cross-bench members of the House of Lords, over a report led by investigations editor Cathy Newman that aired on 23 May. But it ruled that the programme was duly impartial and contained reporting on a “legitimate matter of public interest”.

Newman reported that Falkner was under investigation over complaints about alleged discriminatory conduct, and presented what was introduced in the programme as “concerning evidence of a toxic culture inside the Commission with claims of bullying, harassment and discrimination, along with a wave of resignations”.

One of the complaints reported was that Falkner allegedly referred to a trans woman “in disparaging terms as ‘a bloke in lipstick’” at a board meeting – although her allies have since said this remark was taken out of context and was intended to explain the prejudice facing trans people – and the programme heard from an anonymised staff member saying the Commission was not taking “an impartial or objective approach to the issue of trans rights”.

Channel 4 News was subsequently accused of “left-wing bias” and taking a stance of “guilty before proven innocent”, while the 54 peers who jointly complained called the report “unbalanced and prejudiced”.

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
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Ofcom summarised the accusations as the programme having displayed bias in its account of complaints made against Falkner in its allegations that the EHRC was not acting independently of the government and in its coverage of the proposed changes to the Equality Act 2010 that would define people’s sex as their biological sex at birth.

Content from our partners
Cannes Lions: The world's best creativity all in one place
L'Equipe signs content syndication deal with The Content Exchange
Journalism can be relentless: But overworking could be fatal

The broadcaster said in the aftermath that it stood by its reporting.

Ofcom has now announced that it has decided not to formally investigate the programme and said it had unusually published its reasoning why because it “involved matters of public interest relating to the issue of due impartiality in news”.

Assessing the complaints under the due impartiality section of the Broadcasting Code, Ofcom found the programme had included enough “alternative perspectives” on events: the programme featured several statements from the EHRC, a statement from Baroness Falkner, and presenters outlining the views of both Baroness Falkner’s supporters and women’s groups who are supportive of proposed changes to the Equality Act 2010.

Ofcom continued: “We also had regard to the likely expectation of the audience of the programme. We considered that they would expect a news report on this issue to: provide a range of perspectives; to give Baroness Falkner and the EHRC an opportunity to respond to the claims made in the programme; and to accurately report the current status of the independent investigation into the allegations made against them.

“We also took into consideration the broadcaster’s and audience’s rights to freedom of expression. It is an editorial matter for the broadcaster to choose which stories they include in a news programme, and we considered it was a legitimate matter of public interest for Channel 4 News to include a report on allegations made by former staff members of the EHRC, provided that the report was presented with due impartiality and was compliant with the Code.”

Topics in this article : ,

Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

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
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
Thank you

Thanks for subscribing.

Websites in our network