GB News launched two weeks ago (Picture: GB News)
One Ofcom boss has said he has seen nothing ‘problematic’ on GB News since its launch almost two weeks ago.
The new news channel has sparked controversy in its first fortnight with an anti-lockdown segment, debates about ‘woke’ culture and guests including Laurence Fox and Lady Colin Campbell.
Dan Wootton’s inaugural show was hit with 373 Ofcom complaints after he claimed lockdown should be ‘wiped from the public health playbook forever’ and urged the public to ‘fight back against this madness’.
However, Ofcom’s group director of content and media policy Kevin Bakhurst said that he has seen ‘nothing that would worry me as a regulator’.
According to the Times, Bakhurst said at a media event that everything he had seen so far on GB News looked ‘accurate’ and that it had achieved ‘due impartiality’.
He said: ‘From what I’ve seen so far, and I was watching it through my news background but also through my regulator’s eye now, overall there’s nothing that leaps out at me as thinking “that’s problematic”.’
Bakhurst, who was formerly the controller of BBC News and the managing director of news and current affairs at the Irish national public service broadcaster RTÉ before joining Ofcom in 2016, noted that he is not part of the ‘formal monitoring’ of GB News by Ofcom.
Dan Wootton’s inaugural show received complaints (Picture: Gemma Gravett/GB News)
Prior to GB News’s launch, there were concerns that the channel would be a British version of Fox News, which was denied by chairman and presenter Andrew Neil.
GB News was targeted by Stop Funding Hate, with the campaign calling for brands to boycott the channel.
This led to brands including Ikea, Kopparberg and Nivea suspending their advertisements with GB News pending review of the channel’s content, although some brands have reversed their decisions.
The channel has also been plagued by technical difficulties, particularly with sound issues, since its launch, and has been the target of prank phone calls.
However, it has been popular with viewers, with Andrew Neil’s evening show outperforming rivals BBC News and Sky News every night during his first week.
Bakhurst said he had seen nothing problematic on the channel (Picture: GB News)
Neil has, however, announced that he is already taking a break from the channel to ‘replenish his batteries’.
He announced on his show: ‘That’s it for me for the next few weeks. I’ll be back before the summer is out and popping up before then when you least expect it, so stay tuned.
‘I’m simply taking a break to replenish my batteries after the rigours of the launch. Plus I have other business matters to attend to.
‘I’ll be back before the summer is out brimming with ideas for the channel and my own show. I will also be in close contact with management and the board through my break. And even ready to appear should news events demand it.’
The 72-year-old also admitted that GB News had a ‘bit of a rocky start’, saying: ‘We’re a start-up. They’re always a bit rocky, these start-ups, but we are up and running as you can see. We get better every day and there’s clearly an appetite for what we’re doing.
‘In under two short weeks we’ve already built a loyal audience, which has beaten all of our expectations. It’s often bigger than the other news channels and it’s growing. So on behalf of GB News, I say to all of our viewers, thank you. We won’t let you down and you ain’t seen nothing yet.’
The channel also features shows from Kirsty Gallacher, Michelle Dewberry and Colin Brazier.
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.