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Nigel Farage can host GB News show during election, says Ofcom | GB News

Nigel Farage will be allowed to present his nightly GB News programme throughout the general election campaign, Ofcom has confirmed, after the media regulator said there was no clear consensus among the British public to stop politicians presenting shows on news channels.

The founder of the Reform UK party, which has the backing of 10% of voters in opinion polls, will be allowed to keep broadcasting until polling day providing he does not stand as a parliamentary candidate.

Cristina Nicolotti Squires, the Ofcom executive responsible for broadcast regulation, said: “If [GB News] want to take that risk, that decision, to put a politician like Farage presenting a programme during a general election campaign the bar is going to have to be really hard in terms of due impartiality. Then we’ll have to decide whether the programme has been duly impartial. And we’ll act really swiftly.”

She was speaking as Ofcom confirmed GB News and other channels can continue to pay serving MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Lee Anderson to work as presenters. The regulator concluded that the British public was “instinctively uncomfortable” with politicians hosting current affairs programmes but there was “no clear consensus for an outright ban”.

Instead, the media regulator will explicitly require that GB News ensures serving politicians do not adopt the style and mannerisms of an unbiased newsreader, interviewer, or reporter – such as reading out a list of headlines directly to the audience. Serving MPs will still have to be taken off air during the general election campaign.

The regulator has faced growing criticism over how it applies its rules to GB News and whether the channel is being treated more leniently than traditional broadcasters.

Andrew Neil, who helped found GB News before quitting shortly after its launch, told the House of Lords on Tuesday he was amazed politicians sitting in the Houses of Parliament could present political TV programmes. He said: “I just find that incredible and I think on these areas Ofcom needs to find a backbone and quick.”

Last month, GB News was found to have repeatedly breached impartiality rules by paying Conservative MPs hundreds of thousands of pounds to serve as news presenters and interview the prime minister, Rishi Sunak. Rather than impose sanctions on GB News, the regulator instead put the channel “on notice” and warned it against further breaches. GB News has broken broadcasting rules on 12 occasions in the past 18 months, with a further eight investigations in progress.

When Ofcom last ruled against GB News, the broadcaster called it a “chilling development for all broadcasters”, but Nicolotti Squires said the channel was engaging with the process. She said: “They’ve put in place robust procedures on compliance, they know that we come down on them when they break the rules, and they don’t want to break the rules any more.”

British broadcasting rules heavily restrict politicians’ ability to present news programming but allow serving MPs to host current affairs output.

As a result, Rees-Mogg cannot present a news bulletin on GB News but he can host a current affairs discussion about the same stories immediately afterwards. The problem is there is no clear legal definition of what counts as “news” and “current affairs”.

Ofcom’s research, published on Wednesday, found audiences also struggle to draw the line. Viewers often rely on visual cues – such as whether a presenter is sitting behind a desk or on a sofa – to work out if they are watching highly regulated news programming, or less highly regulated current affairs discussions.

The public “felt personally well equipped to identify if a presenter might be trying to mislead them”, according to a focus group conducted by researchers at Ipsos. Some people suggested a cigarette-style health warning remained on screen whenever a politician was presenting.

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