‘I’m Labour to my core. Ofcom’s ruling against GB News is troubling and difficult to stack up' - Bill Rammell

‘I’m Labour to my core. Ofcom’s ruling against GB News is troubling and difficult to stack up' - Bill Rammell

GB News is hitting back at Ofcom's ruling over the People's Forum programme in February

GB News
Bill Rammell

By Bill Rammell

Published: 23/05/2024

- 05:00

Former Labour Minister Bill Rammell backs GB News over Ofcom ruling

So, Ofcom is considering a statutory sanction against GB News over breaching regulations by allowing Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to be interviewed on air without sufficient challenge to his views.

Am I wrong to be troubled and baffled by this ruling?

I appear regularly on GB News as an interviewee and a panellist.

I did it most recently supporting and defending the BBC from attacks from the right.

I've been appearing for six months. And I'll be honest as someone on the centre left and Labour to my core, I started out a sceptic.

But what I have found is that there is balance on GB News.

I get every opportunity to express my views and challenge the Tories and the right. Others on the left do it too.

And my experience is that everyday presenters and panellists spend much time bashing and criticising this Conservative Government.

Rishi Sunak answers unseen questions from an independently selected audience in the People's Forum in February

Rishi Sunak answered unseen questions from an independently selected audience in the People's Forum


So, a ruling against GB News by Ofcom for pro-Tory bias is difficult to stack up.

The ruling itself was about a studio audience discussion with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. It was very similar in format to those I've seen with party leaders on Sky, BBC, and Channel 4 during election campaigns.

Have a look for yourself on GB News' X feed. It was clearly intended to be part of a series with the leaders of all major parties in General Election year.

But Ofcom ruled that GB News failed to challenge Sunak's arguments, provide alternative points of view, and generally failed to ensure an appropriately wide range of significant views.

As a result, Ofcom said the PM had a “mostly uncontested platform” to promote the policies and performance of his Government in a period preceding General Election.

But neither the producers nor Sunak saw the questions from the audience in advance.

And if you look at Ofcom's impartiality rules it says that Due impartiality is “an important qualification to the concept of impartiality”.

It says Due means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the program.

So, in Ofcom's rules, it makes explicitly clear that Due impartiality does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view or that every argument or every facet of every argument has to be represented. And it explicitly refers to due impartiality over time.

So, I'm really struggling to see how an independently sourced panel of undecided voters violates Ofcom's rules.

There were numerous voters trenchantly criticising Rishi Sunak and his Government.

And follow up programs with other party leaders would meet the Due impartiality over time test.

So, there are legitimate questions for Ofcom.

Is it being swayed and under pressure because of the volume of complaints to it against GB News? 547 in this case.


Rishi Sunak answers audience questions in GB News People's Forum programme in February

Neither GB News nor Rishi Sunak had seen the audience questions beforehand


Many people across the political spectrum are complaining against GB News, and that should not of itself compel Ofcom to rule.

As a strong believer in free speech and open debate and an opponent of what you might call cancel culture that concerns me.

And as the legal academic Andrew Tettenborn has argued, Ofcom now serves two very different functions.

Most of its duties are actually technocratic and concerned with the Government's policy-based agenda. Handing out wireless frequencies, regulating phone companies etc.

This doesn't sit easily with the delicate social-political function of regulating broadcasts for undesirable content. Have the managerial instincts of the former infected the latter?

All in all, I fear Ofcom has erred.

My advice to GB News is to defend your decisions, continue with left participants to provide balance, maybe add some more left presenters, and remove sitting Tory MPs and leaders of parties as presenters during the General Election campaign itself.

And as Winston Churchill said: “Keep buggering on.”

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