Ofcom to probe GB News over Laurence Fox controversy

UK media regulator Ofcom has launched an investigation into controversial news channel GB News’ show Dan Wootton Tonight, an episode of which featured a contribution from another GB News presenter, Laurence Fox, that has been widely condemned.


Dame Melanie Dawes

Fox insulted journalist Ava Evans on the Tuesday night episode of the show, asking what “self-respecting man” would “climb into bed” with the journalist, among other misogynistic comments.

The regulator received 7,300 complaints from viewers about the show, and GB News subsequently suspended both Fox and Wootton.

Ofcom said that it was investigating GB News under Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code which states that in applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context.

Ofcom has been on the receiving end of some criticism over its handling of cases around impartiality and offence, particularly in relation to GB News.

“Over the last few days there has been speculation and commentary about our role as the independent broadcast regulator. These are important issues and I wanted to be clear about our rules. Parliament sets objectives on how the broadcast sector should be regulated. We set and enforce rules to achieve these objectives,” said Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom’s CEO, in a statement in response.

“Contrary to some claims, these rules remain unchanged. They are designed to protect audiences from offensive and harmful material, and to uphold the integrity of broadcast news and current affairs programming, while always ensuring that freedom of expression is front and centre in every decision we take. This is highly valued by audiences and central to our democracy. The decisions we take, always based on facts and evidence once a programme has aired , are vital if we are to protect our vibrant media landscape. We continue to apply and enforce these rules without fear or favour.”

GB News has been subject to multiple investigations by Ofcom. Most recently, the watchdog found the channel in breach of its impartiality rules following an interview with Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP on Saturday Morning with Esther and Phil, aired earlier this year, when the Conservative chancellor of the Exchequer was interviewed by two sitting Conservative MPs.

This week Dawes said there was no rule to prevent GB News using Conservative MP Lee Anderson to interview Home Secretary Suella Braverman, but added the regulator would consider complaints about the programme after it aired.

Tags: GB News, Ofcom, UK

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