The change of guard at Ofcom has sparked speculation about a potential overhaul of broadcasting regulations in the UK. Media consultant Ben Fenton has suggested adopting a similar approach to the US Fairness Doctrine, which aimed to ensure balance in broadcasting. However, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, maintains that its decisions are consistent, evidence-based, and uphold freedom of expression.
GB News Faces Challenges Ahead as Ofcom Prepares for Battle
GB News, the UK news channel that will soon celebrate its third birthday, is facing challenges as Ofcom, the broadcasting regulator, gears up for a potential battle. The change in leadership at Ofcom has sparked speculation about a revamp of broadcasting regulations in the country. Media consultant Ben Fenton has proposed a similar approach to the US Fairness Doctrine, which aimed to ensure balance in broadcasting. However, Ofcom has stated that it treats all broadcasters equally and fairly, making decisions based on evidence and taking into account freedom of expression.
The potential overhaul of broadcasting regulations comes at a crucial time for the UK, as the country gears up for an election. The approach to broadcasting regulation is likely to come under scrutiny, and GB News, in particular, is feeling the pressure to mature as a channel. After facing an initial boycott that significantly impacted advertising revenues, GB News has managed to improve its relationships with agencies. The channel has also strengthened ties with Havas, a media giant controlled by French billionaire Yannick Bollore. GB News secured a £60m cash injection last year from backers Sir Paul Marshall and Dubai investment firm The Legatum Group. However, the channel’s rapid cash burn necessitates the need for further funds next year, making potential fines from the regulator even more unappealing.
GB News has already taken steps to demonstrate its commitment to regulatory responsibilities. In a message to editors and senior producers, the channel’s editorial director, Michael Booker, outlined a new “compliance checklist” that must be completed before each broadcast. Additionally, GB News is considering a more radical plan to shift some of its controversial presenters to streaming platforms, as Ofcom’s oversight of online material is believed to be less stringent than that of traditional television.
As tensions rise and a new boss takes the helm, both GB News and Ofcom face a reckoning. The future of the channel and the broadcasting regulations in the UK hang in the balance. GB News must navigate the challenges ahead, including the need to raise further funds, while ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Meanwhile, Ofcom must carefully consider the potential overhaul of broadcasting regulations and strike a balance between freedom of expression and the need for balance in broadcasting. The outcome of this battle will shape the future of broadcasting in the UK.