Ofcom: GB News ‘misogynistic’ broadcast broke rules

Ofcom’s HQ (Source: Ofcom)

Controversial right-wing UK news channel GB News broke Ofcom’s rules on giving offence in relation to a programme where ex-presenter Laurence Fox made misogynistic comments about a female journalist, the regulator has ruled.

An Ofcom investigation into the Dan Wootton Tonight programme has now concluded that the channel broke broadcasting rules to protect viewers from offensive content.

The ruling relates to comments made by Fox targeting female political journalist Ava Evans, which led to 8,867 complaints to Ofcom. Viewers expressed concerns that his remarks were sexist, misogynistic and offensive.

Ofcom said that “in line with the legal right to freedom of expression”, broadcasters were “free to include potentially offensive material in their programmes” under its rules.

However, it said this content must by justified and put into context.

“We found that Mr Fox’s comments constituted a highly personal attack on Ms Evans and were potentially highly offensive to viewers. They reduced her contribution to a broadcast discussion on mental health – in her professional capacity as a political journalist – to a judgment on whether she, or women like her who publicly expressed their political opinions, were sexually desirable to men,” said the watchdog.

“As such, we considered that Mr Fox’s comments were degrading and demeaning both to Ms Evans and women generally and were clearly and unambiguously misogynistic.”

Ofcom criticized Wootton’s reaction and “limited challenge in response” as failing to mitigate the “potential for offence”.

Inadequate editorial control

The regulator said that GB News’ editorial control of the live programme had been inadequate and concluded that Rule 2.3 of the Broadcasting Code had indeed been breached.

“In light of the circumstances of this case, we have significant concerns about GB News’ editorial control of its live output. We are requiring GB News to provide further detailed information about its compliance practices in this area for our consideration, and requesting it attends a meeting at our offices to discuss this,” Ofcom said.

Ofcom has been subject to widespread criticism that it was unduly lenient in another case regarding GB News, after failing to take action over presenter Neil Oliver’s claims that COVID vaccinations were responsible for causing what he described as “turbo cancer”.

In that case, Ofcom again cited “freedom of expression” in maintaining that its rules allowed “broadcasters to cover controversial themes and topics”.

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