The broadcasting regulator Ofcom has announced that it will review its rules regarding politicians presenting news programmes, following hundreds of complaints. In an article for The Telegraph, Ofcom’s chief executive Melanie Dawes stated that the new roles of politicians as TV or radio presenters have sparked a vigorous debate, and it is the regulator’s duty to ensure that its rules remain effective. To gain an understanding of audience attitudes towards these programmes, Ofcom has launched new research which will be released later this year.
Ofcom’s announcement comes after it opened investigations into two news programmes presented by political figures. Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg’s GB News show and a programme on Talk TV hosted by Alex Salmond, the leader of the Alba Party, are both under investigation. Ofcom’s rules state that politicians cannot be used as newsreaders, interviewers, or reporters in any news programmes, unless it is editorially justified and their political allegiance must be made clear to the audience.
However, outside of news programmes, serving politicians or political candidates are allowed to host or appear on TV or radio shows, as long as they are not standing in an upcoming election. In these non-news programmes, politicians must ensure that a range of views is reflected. During election and referendum periods, political candidates are not allowed to present any TV or radio programme, even if it does not discuss politics or current affairs. They are, however, allowed to appear in non-political programmes that were planned or scheduled prior to the election or referendum period.
Dawes highlighted the rise of politicians as presenters as an area that has sparked vigorous debate and may stretch the principle of due impartiality. She stated that outside of news programmes, presenters have always been allowed to express their own views on controversial political matters as long as other viewpoints are reflected. Dawes emphasized that Ofcom conducts reviews of its code when necessary and the recent rise in the number of current affairs programmes presented by politicians has prompted a new research project to understand audience attitudes towards these programmes.
As part of its investigations, Ofcom is reviewing an episode of Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg’s State of The Nation show on GB News, during which he read a breaking news story about former US President Donald Trump. The regulator received 40 complaints objecting to Rees-Mogg acting as a newsreader. Ofcom is also investigating an episode of Talk TV’s Richard Tice, presented by Alex Salmond, following two complaints about the programme’s impartiality during a discussion on the Scottish National Party’s impact on independence. Additionally, Ofcom is still investigating an episode of GB News’ Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip, hosted by serving MPs Esther McVey and Philip Davies.
In conclusion, Ofcom is taking action to review its rules concerning politicians as news programme presenters in response to hundreds of complaints. The regulator is committed to ensuring due impartiality in news programmes and will release its findings on audience attitudes towards these programmes in the future. Investigations into specific programmes hosted by political figures are ongoing, and Ofcom is determined to maintain its standards of impartiality and fairness.