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July 3, 2023updated 15 Aug 2023 11:11am

Ofcom opens new GB News and TalkTV standards investigations

The regulator will ask audiences how they feel about politicians presenting current affairs programmes.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Broadcast regulator Ofcom has opened new standards investigations into programmes presented by politicians on GB News and TalkTV.

Ofcom also said it is going to conduct new audience research to find out how people feel about current affairs programmes being presented by sitting politicians, with findings to be published later this year.

Ofcom GB News investigation

One of the new investigations focuses on an episode of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of the Nation on GB News, hosted by the Conservative MP for North East Somerset at 8pm on Tuesday 9 May.

Some 40 people complained about Rees-Mogg reading out breaking news about the verdict in a civil trial against former US president Donald Trump.

Rees-Mogg said: “We said we’d bring some updates about the Donald Trump civil case. The jury, deliberating in the rape trial of Donald Trump, has found the former US president not guilty of the rape charges made against him. The civil lawsuit was brought by writer E Jean Carroll who accused Mr Trump of raping her in a Manhattan apartment store in the 1990s. The verdict was returned as not guilty on rape charges; however, it did find that he sexually abused her. The ex-president was also found to have defamed Ms Carroll in a Truth Social post in 2022.

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“The jury has awarded Ms Carroll $20,000 in punitive damages for battery claims against Mr Trump along with $2.7m in compensatory damages for defamation by Mr Trump. The total amount of damages awarded to Ms Carroll is $5m, so that’s about £4m.”

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The ex-Business Secretary and Brexit Minister then introduced a panel segment with ex-UKIP leader and fellow GB News presenter Nigel Farage as well as Trump supporter and former Republican governor candidate in Arizona Kari Lake.

Ofcom has previously said that in general serving politicians cannot act as newsreaders, interviewers or reporters in a news programme – but can present programmes classed as current affairs, even on a “news” channel.

The regulator said it had received 40 complaints about the segment, explaining: “Our investigation will look at the programme’s compliance with our rules which prevent politicians from acting as newsreaders in any news programmes, unless exceptionally, it is editorially justified.”

Ofcom TalkTV investigation and audience research

The second new Ofcom investigation will look into whether a TalkTV programme hosted by former SNP leader Alex Salmond broke rules “requiring news and current affairs to be presented with due impartiality” in a discussion about the SNP that drew two complaints to the regulator.

Salmond was covering ex-Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice’s slot. (This article previously said, citing Ofcom, that Tice was part of the investigation but in fact he was not on-air that day.)

Ofcom’s research into how audiences feel about politicians presenting current affairs programmes is designed to make sure the rules stay “relevant and effective”, it explained.

The current rules were first introduced in 2005 and Ofcom said audiences attitudes should be gauged given “the rise in the number of current affairs programmes presented by sitting politicians and recent public interest in this issue”.

An Ofcom investigation is ongoing into a GB News programme presented by sitting Conservative MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies in which they interviewed Chancellor Jeremy Hunt days before his Spring Budget.

However TalkTV was previously cleared after Conservative MP Nadine Dorries interviewed her former boss and prime minister Boris Johnson during her first programme for the channel in February.

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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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