New channel GB News will have the right to offend under Ofcom ‘due impartiality’ rules.
Andrew Neil is launching a new TV channel, GB News, this year, while Rupert Murdoch is also launching a TV platform with News UK.
While GB News promises to offer ‘free, fair and impartial’ coverage, reports in The Guardian and the Evening Standard claimed that it will adopt a Fox News style approach and will be partisan and right-wing.
According to Adam Baxter, the head of standards and audience protection at media regulator Ofcom, ‘offensive content can be broadcast as long as the broadcaster provides sufficient context.’
Baxter told iNews: ‘Both [new channels] are seeking to come from a right-of-centre perspective and there’s nothing in the code that prohibits a broadcasters coming from a particular perspective.
‘But both the new services have been awarded a licence by Ofcom and have been keen to stress their commitment to due impartiality.’
As per Ofcom’s rules, impartiality means not favouring one side over another, while ‘due’ means adequate or appropriate to the subject and nature of the programme.
Due impartiality does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view, or that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented.
Baxter stated that GB News can air shocking and offensive content and interview people with extreme views, but that the presenter would have to ‘pose critical questions, challenge or rebut’ a guest if alternative viewpoints are not being offered via a guest with a different viewpoint or in another programme.
Former BBC journalist Andrew Neil will front a programme on GB News which will feature a segment called Wokewatch, while other signings to the channel include The Sun executive editor Dan Wootton, Guido Fawkes’ Tom Harwood, The Apprentice star Michelle Dewberry and Sky News’s Colin Brazier.
It was suspected by many that GB News could also snap up an opinionated presenter who has very recently become available.
The 55-year-old said he ‘didn’t believe a word’ of what Meghan said in her and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, during which she said that she was refused help from palace officials while she experienced suicidal thoughts.
Piers said that his absence from our screens was a ‘temporary hibernation’, and Andrew confirmed that he would be interested in having Piers as a member of the GB News team.
He said: ‘Piers would be a huge asset to GB News and we’ll definitely look at that . . . we haven’t started any negotiations yet but we would certainly be delighted to talk to him if he’s up for it.’
‘Any network worth its salt could find a role for a broadcaster of his calibre.’
What is Ofcom and what does it cover?
Ofcom is the regulator for the communications services that we use and rely on each day.
The watchdog makes sure people get the best from their broadband, home phone and mobile services, as well as keeping an eye on TV and radio.
Ofcom deals with most content on television, radio and video-on-demand services, including the BBC. However, if your complaint is about something you saw or heard in a BBC programme, you may need to complain to the BBC first.
Its rules for television and radio programmes are set out in the Broadcasting Code.
The rules in the Broadcasting Code also apply to the BBC iPlayer.
This Broadcasting Code is the rule book that broadcasters have to follow and it covers a number of areas, including; protecting the under-18s, protecting audiences from harmful and/or offensive material and ensuring that news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.
Audiences can complain to Ofcom if they believe a breach of the Broadcasting Code has been made.
Every time Ofcom receives a complaint from a viewer or listener, they assess it to see if it needs further investigation.
If Ofcom decide to investigate, they will include the case in a list of new investigations, published in the Broadcast and On Demand Bulletin.
An investigation is a formal process which can take some time depending on the complexity of the issues involved.
Ofcom can also launch investigations in the absence of a complaint from a viewer or listener.