Ofcom announced on Monday that it is investigating both GB News and Talk TV over programmes presented by politicians. Specific episodes led by Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Alex Salmond are being investigated. The regulator is also asking for general feedback about sitting politicians as part of research to be released later this year.
The first episode under investigation was one presented by Sir Jacob on 9 May. The episode dealt with the breaking news of the verdict in Donald Trump’s civil trial. The former president was found liable for sexually assaulting writer E Jean Carroll. Ofcom said it received 40 complaints about the programme.
The Talk TV investigation refers to an episode on 2 April. Alex Salmond, leader of the Alba Party in Scotland was covering for Richard Tice. Two complaints were received regarding a conversation about the SNP, the party Salmond used to lead.
Furthermore, “Saturday Morning with Esther and Philip” on GB News remains under investigation. The show is presented by Esther Mcvery and Philip Davies, both sitting Conservative MPs (and a married couple). These are far from the only times Ofcom has been interested in the upstart right-wing news channel. Shows from former presenter Mark Steyn that covered Covid vaccines have also led to investigation and action. The outlet’s defence? There is an “important contextual difference between GB News and other more traditional channels”. Essentially, nobody really expects the facts from us anyway.
There have been rules around MPs presenting programmes since 2005. However, the issue has become more prominent in recent years. We are a long way from Diane Abbott sharing a sofa with Michael Portillo. The debate around MPs having second jobs is always fraught, but it does seem particularly odd that sitting MPs can have regularly presenting gigs. This is not the same as a one-off appearance on “Have I Got News For You”.