GB News hate speech – fine by Ofcom?
I don’t usually stray into sharing personal politics here, but just last night, a GB News presenter suggested gay men indulging in a fetish should be killed. I figured it was time to break my rule.
After video footage showed hundreds of human pups at a meetup in Berlin, presenter Adam Brooks stated: “We need to put them all down”. When challenged during a follow-on discussion by a viewer whether he favoured a ‘mass execution’, his response was simple: “Of them idiots, yeah”.
The obvious response is to complain to Ofcom – the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. However, as a gay man living in the UK, I have little faith the regulator will take action.
Ofcom has found GB News breached broadcasting rules four times since its launch in June 2021. Six further investigations remain open into the channel’s compliance with impartiality rules:
The breaches by GB News are not minor infractions. They involve serious allegations of spreading misinformation and failing to uphold due impartiality rules. One notable instance involved an episode of the Mark Steyn programme aired on October 4, 2022. Dr Naomi Wolf made alarming claims about the Covid-19 vaccine, likening its rollout to “mass murder”. She compared it to the actions of “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany”. Four hundred twenty-two complainants deemed these comments “dangerous” and “misinformation”.
Ofcom’s investigation concluded that GB News had failed to protect its audience from potentially harmful content adequately. Despite this, the broadcaster continues to operate, raising questions about Ofcom’s enforcement mechanisms.
For me, GB News is a platform for hate speech, racism, and homophobia. Its supporters see it as a much-needed alternative to mainstream media, offering otherwise marginalised viewpoints. Offering hate speech, racism, and homophobia. Since Kellyanne Conway introduced the Orwellian phrase “alternative facts”, misinformation has become more blatant and normalised.
Ofcom can impose sanctions on broadcasters who seriously, deliberately, repeatedly or recklessly breach their requirements. These sanctions can range from financial penalties to revoking a licence. In August 2022, Ofcom fined Up and Coming TV Limited £40,000 for antisemitic hate speech.
Yet, despite continually airing content that dehumanises already vulnerable populations. Ofcom’s light-touch approach sends the message that the regulator is indifferent to the actual harms caused by the normalisation and proliferation of extreme views on channels like GB News.
Curb hate speech
While it’s essential to curb hate speech, there’s also the risk of stifling free speech. Striking a balance between the two is akin to walking a tightrope. And yet, while GB News prides itself on bringing a wider range of opinion to Britain’s media landscape, its track record suggests otherwise.
GB News presenter Eamonn Holmes recently claimed transgender children should not be listened to by teachers at school. During a discussion about children’s commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza warned that teachers needed more guidance on trans issues in schools. Holmes noted, ‘If I was a teacher and some kid came to me and said, “I’m identifying as a bunny rabbit or a cat or whatever”, I think I would just say the following word, “Detention!” That would be it.’
GB News called Rishi Sunak’s mockery of Ed Davey’s calls for more “compassion” and “maturity” in the debate over gender recognition, hilarious. Is it any wonder Holmes follows suit?
Room for improvement
Ofcom’s inaction has been particularly damaging to minority groups disproportionately targeted by hate speech. For example, a report by the charity Stonewall found that 61% of LGBTQ+ people in the UK have heard homophobic abuse on TV or radio in the past year.
While Ofcom plays a crucial role in regulating the UK’s communications industries, there is room for improvement in its enforcement mechanisms. GB News is a stark reminder of the potential harm when broadcasters can repeatedly breach broadcasting rules without facing significant consequences. As media consumers, we must remain vigilant and hold broadcasters and regulators accountable for their actions.
On 9 March, Press Gazette reported that GB News had made losses ten times greater than its revenue for its first year on air.