The real reason Ofcom has gone after GB News

I don’t envy the people who run Ofcom. On the one hand, they’re under enormous political pressure to sanction GB News, which, in the eyes of its establishment critics, is a contaminated river of far-right propaganda that’s polluting the ‘delicate and important broadcast ecology of this country’ (Adam Boulton). But on the other, they want to preserve their status as the keepers of the ring and cannot be seen to be holding GB News to a higher standard than other broadcasters. That makes their lives complicated because, in reality, the channel’s politics are far closer to the Telegraph than they are to Fox News, and it’s no more partisan than

Is Russia Today finished?

As the British authorities debate whether to ban the propaganda channel of a savage imperialist power, Russia Today is making a decent first of banning itself. Workers have been walking out for a week. The invasion was too much even for staffers who had spent years demeaning themselves by licking the boots of a dictatorship. Even if Sky and YouTube had not effectively closed the channel by pulling it from their platforms, RT would have faced extreme difficulty in continuing to broadcast from London, one ex-staffer told me. About half his former colleagues had quit, including large numbers of production staff the Russians needed to keep the channel on air. One had

Clive Myrie, the BBC and the trouble with Ofcom

Ofcom’s tight grip on current affairs broadcasts has been likened by some observers to a choking collar. Clive Myrie, one of the BBC’s most decent and best educated correspondents, disagrees. But Myrie’s robust defence of Ofcom’s role, which he put forward in the inaugural Harold Evans Memorial Lecture this week, should trouble anyone concerned with preserving free speech on air. Myrie took a simple line: to compare the US and UK broadcasting landscapes. In the US there is not, and under the First Amendment probably could not be, any regulation of how news is presented. The result is overbearing influence exercised by presenters on channels such as CNN or Fox; a ‘trust deficit’ as regards

The existential threat facing the BBC

Less impartial than Channel 5. That will be the headline generated by Ofcom’s latest annual report on the BBC. In fact, what the regulator’s research finds is that, over the last two years, the percentage of BBC viewers who deem the Corporation’s output ‘impartial’ has fallen from 61 to 58 per cent, while Channel 5 has driven up confidence in its impartiality from 57 to 61 per cent. Indeed, Auntie is still ‘the most-used news source in the UK’ and 70 per cent of regular viewers still say it is ‘accurate and trustworthy’. Nor does Ofcom find the Corporation’s news service breached the Broadcasting Code’s requirements for due impartiality or

Impartiality and the battle for broadcast

Two big kites were launched by the Sunday Times that could, should they fly, redraw the broadcasting landscape. ‘BBC critics set for top jobs in broadcasting’ its front-page headline announced. The Prime Minister, it suggested, has offered Lord Charles Moore the chairmanship of the BBC and Paul Dacre, the chairmanship of the media regulator Ofcom. Both are former editors of newspapers of the right and neither has much love for what the BBC has become. For some, it is simply an obscene Tory stitch-up. The former Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, was perhaps the most succinct: ‘No process. No joke. This is what an oligarchy looks like.’ Well, ‘Up to a point,

Paul Dacre and Boris Johnson: ‘the Boston strangler’ and the ‘alley cat’

Paul Dacre, the former editor of the Daily Mail, has reportedly been asked by the Prime Minister to chair the broadcasting regulator Ofcom. This is the same Paul Dacre who, when put in charge of the Press Complaints Commission, Boris Johnson compared to ‘putting the Boston Strangler in charge of the code of practice for door-to-door salesmen’. The same Paul Dacre who, when Boris Johnson was elected Tory leader, said that ‘the party of family values has chosen as leader a man of whom to say he has the morals of an alley cat would be to libel the feline species’. To Mr Steerpike, this doesn’t seem like the best

Are Hong Kong students safe in British universities?

There are far more Chinese students in British universities than there are from the entire Commonwealth. Many universities have been accused of indulging the Chinese regime in return for the students and the money. Now that Beijing has imposed its draconian security law upon Hong Kong, will Hong Kong students in British universities be safe to return in October? Beijing now seeks to control them. What assurances can British universities give Hong Kong students that it will protect them from intimidation from fellow students acting on the orders of the Chinese embassy in London? The new law claims the right to punish Hong Kong people for offences committed anywhere in

Who watches the broadcast watchdog?

At the beginning of April, I became so frustrated by the supine coverage of the government’s response to the coronavirus crisis, particularly on radio and television, that I decided to start a blog called Lockdown Sceptics. The idea was to create a platform for people who wanted to challenge the official narrative. In addition to publishing original material by Covid dissidents, many of them eminent scientists, I include links to critical papers and articles, and write daily updates commenting on the news. One of the things that puzzles the contributors is why the coverage on broadcast media has been so hopelessly one-sided. The BBC, in particular, seems to have become

Ofcom shouldn’t be allowed to censor ‘harmful’ opinions

In my capacity as the general secretary of the Free Speech Union, I wrote to the chief executive of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes, on 24 April to complain about its reprimand of Eamonn Holmes. According to the regulator, the breakfast television presenter had said something that ‘could have undermined people’s trust in the views being expressed by the authorities on the Coronavirus and the advice of mainstream sources of public health information’. Holmes’s sin, in Ofcom’s eyes, was to say on ITV’s This Morning that any theory running counter to the official government line – such as the one linking 5G masts and Covid-19 – deserved to be discussed in