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TV channel News UK breached impartiality rules by broadcasting an interview with UK chancellor Jeremy Hunt hosted by two other Conservative MPs, according to the UK’s media regulator.

Ofcom said on Monday the network, which is backed by hedge fund boss Paul Marshall and is known for hiring right-leaning politicians and commentators as presenters, had breached broadcasting rules for the third time since its launch in June 2021.

The decision reflects growing concerns about media impartiality amid a rising trend of politicians presenting news and current affairs programmes, with Ofcom targeting Rupert Murdoch-owned GB News and Talk TV for breaches The allegations are investigated separately.

In its ruling, the watchdog found that a plan tabled in March by two sitting Conservative MPs, Esther McVey and Philip Davis, “overwhelmingly reflected” the views of the party.

The program features pre-recorded interviews between the two hosts and Hunt, focusing on the government’s approach to economic and fiscal policy ahead of the spring budget.

However, given that the program is considered current affairs rather than news, Ofcom said News UK did not breach rules against politicians being presenters. The regulator received 45 complaints from viewers raising concerns about impartiality.

Ofcom is investigating six further potential breaches of impartiality at GB News. The cases include other projects proposed by McVeigh and Davis, as well as two projects chaired by former Conservative cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Under UK regulations, broadcasters are free to decide how their programs are edited, discuss and analyze controversial issues and take positions on them.

However, in political controversies and public policy issues, important perspectives must be broadly included and valued.

Ofcom found that the plan put forward by McVeigh and Davis in March made only “very limited” reference to the wider views of UK economic and fiscal policy. But it did not consider the breaches to be serious enough, or repeated intentionally or recklessly, to warrant the imposition of statutory sanctions.

The watchdog is about to complete a study to measure current audience attitudes towards programs featuring politicians as presenters.

GB News said it was “disappointed” by Ofcom’s ruling, adding: “We believe the regulator’s definition of ‘due impartiality’ is inaccurate. We take compliance seriously and we believe our schemes accept this a little.”

Angelos Frangopoulos, chief executive of GB News, told the Financial Times this year that he wanted to make the network a “mainstream” choice for news and denied that it was right-wing.

The loss-making media group has struggled to attract advertising and was hit by a campaign to encourage advertisers to boycott the rollout – a move that Conservative supporters claimed discriminated against consumers based on political views.

In May, Ofcom condemned British news channels for airing comments by Naomi Wolf that the Covid-19 vaccine rollout amounted to “mass murder”.


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