BBC admits ‘biased’ Newsnight attack on GB News DID breach editorial standards

BBC Newsnight and Tim Davie

BBC admits ‘biased’ Newsnight attack on GB News DID breach editorial standards

Getty Images/BBC Newsnight
Oliver Trapnell

By Oliver Trapnell

Published: 27/10/2023

- 08:17

Updated: 27/10/2023

- 08:41

GB News understands the BBC has been told to ‘urgently consider’ changes to its complaints processes after the 'attack'

The BBC has admitted to launching a “biased” attack on GB News and said its Newsnight programme breached its own editorial standards.

The programme, which focused on comments made by Laurence Fox on Dan Wootton Tonight, received multiple complaints from outraged members of the public who claimed the debate was one-sided.

Shipley MP Philip Davies told GB News that many of his constituents had come to him about the show, leading him to file an official complaint to the BBC.

After one month of waiting, the BBC have finally responded to the MP with an admittance that they breached impartiality rules but stopped short of an apology.

WATCH HERE: BBC Newsnight's discussion on GB News

According to Davies, Ofcom is yet to confirm they have launched an investigation.

“The BBC Newsnight programme about GB News was totally biased and completely unacceptable,” Davies told GB News.

“A number of my constituents contacted me to complain.

“I complained on their behalf to the BBC and it has taken precisely one month to get their final response with a mealy-mouthed, grudging acceptance that the programme was indeed in breach of rules of impartiality, although it is disappointing that their final decision spent more time seeking to justify their actions than apologising.”

“I have therefore referred the matter to Ofcom and asked them to investigate this clear breach in their rules on due impartiality.

“I await their confirmation that they are launching an investigation.

“It is unacceptable that the BBC spend as long as possible dealing with these complaints - abusing the privileged position they have that anyone with a complaint about the BBC have to go to them first before being able to pursue the issue with Ofcom.

“By dragging out the process I suspect they hope people will be too weary to then pursue the matter with Ofcom.

“I am pleased Ofcom have acknowledged to me that the way the BBC have dealt with complaints leaves a great deal to be desired, and I very much hope Ofcom will ensure the BBC Newsnight programme about GB News is thoroughly investigated with a robust conclusion.”


Philip Davies

According to Davies, the BBC is yet to confirm they have launched an investigation


The BBC Newsnight programme came in the wake of claims made by Fox about political journalist Ava Evans which GB News described as “totally unacceptable”.

GB News subsequently ended its contract with Fox on 4 October.

The BBC discussion saw two participants, Caroline Nokes and Adam Boulton, calling for The People’s Channel to lose its ability to broadcast.

“I think it should be taken off air”, Nokes said, despite having made nine appearances on the channel in the past.

“It was entirely predictable that Laurence Fox was going to come out with a statement that was offensive.”


In recent weeks, the BBC’s complaints process has been called into question as audience members have found the process 'difficult to navigate'


In recent weeks, the BBC’s complaints process has been called into question as audience members have found the process “difficult to navigate”.

In an email seen by GB News, Ofcom wrote: “Since the new Charter and Agreement came into being, in June 2022, Ofcom published its review of BBC regulation How Ofcom Regulates the BBC.

“Here, we said it is vital that the BBC has an effective and easy to use complaints process, and that it is open about how it addresses audience concerns.

“In research we commissioned as part of our review, we asked audiences about their experiences and perceptions of the BBC’s complaints process.

“In general, they were not opposed to the current system. However, respondents were not clear about the BBC’s process and were concerned about the time taken to respond, as well as the tone and detail of the responses.

“Overall, our research indicated that the low number of complaints being escalated to Ofcom may be a result of frustration as opposed to satisfaction with how the BBC has dealt with audience concerns.

“We made clear that the BBC had to therefore urgently consider what changes are required to its processes to make them simpler and clearer for audiences to navigate.

“As a result of our June 2022 review, the BBC has introduced various changes to its complaints processes and we will be carrying out further work to monitor the effectiveness of those changes in due course.”

BBC NewsnightNo pro-GB News voice was offered during Newsnight's debate BBC

In response to complaints made about the Newsnight coverage, the BBC wrote on their website: “We received complaints from people who felt our coverage of the fallout following Laurence Fox’s comments on GB News was biased against the channel.

“We do of course always strive to achieve a fair range of views in any discussion.

“On this occasion the Newsnight team did invite GB News to take part in the programme, something that Victoria Derbyshire made clear on air.

“The production team also contacted several people who had previously worked on GB News or who might otherwise be likely to defend the channel. Unfortunately, none was available to appear on the programme.

“Each of the three guests on the panel was well qualified to give their views on a discussion that was wider than simply GB News itself but which covered broader questions about the UK's broadcasting regulatory environment.

“And in the absence of anyone representing GB News, Victoria Derbyshire did challenge Adam Boulton on the fact that he spoke as someone who is part of the established media and therefore might have a vested interest in criticising the channel.

“However we do understand that you might feel the item was therefore unbalanced, considering the way the discussion unfolded on air, and are happy to accept that in this case this item could have worked better if we had managed to find someone to robustly defend the channel.”

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