GB News breaches Ofcom rules for the first time with Mark Steyn programme on the Covid-19 vaccine
This is the first time the news channel has breached Ofcom rules since it launched in 2021 with Ofcom confirming an additional investigation into an episode of Mark Steyn which aired in October 2022 remains ongoing
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GB News was first launched back in 2021, with many people finding some of their content and presenters controversial. However, today marks the first time the channel has officially been ruled to have breached Ofcom rules. Steyn recently resigned from the show.
Ofcom have always been clear that under their rules, broadcasters can freely transmit programmes which may be deemed controversial, and ones that challenge stats or evidence produced by official sources or governments.
But their investigation found that the episode in question ‘fell short’ of their standards. The episode challenged narratives surrounding the Covid-19 vaccination with Ofcom saying, “it presented a materially misleading interpretation of official data without sufficient challenge or counterweight, risking harm to viewers.”
Ofcom said the programme in question “incorrectly claimed that official UKHSA data provided definitive evidence of a causal link between receiving a third Covid-19 vaccine and higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates”.
“This was materially misleading because the way the data was presented to viewers during the programme did not take account of the significant differences in age or health of people in the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups studied”, their ruling states.
“We also took into account the definitive way in which the misleading interpretation of the data was presented, and the absence of adequate counterweight or genuine challenge. The programme also failed to reflect that the UKHSA reports made clear that the raw data contained within them should not be used to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the vaccine.
“Given these misleading claims were broadcast as part of a factual programme on a news and current affairs service and may have resulted in viewers making important decisions about their own health, we concluded that the programme was potentially harmful and materially misleading, in breach of Rule 2.2 of the Broadcasting Code.”
In response to the investigation, GB News said in their submission that the programme’s “purpose is unmistakably to challenge the status quo and question official narratives” and that it did not materially mislead the audience in this case and did not breach Rule 2.2 of the Code.
According to Ofcom, GB News Ltd said the programme “reported on this matter seriously and responsibly”, with “careful and detailed examination of official figures about the effects of Covid in England and the outcomes of different groups with varying vaccination status” included.