GB News 'risked harm to viewers' with 'misleading' COVID coverage
Ofcom ruled that the channel breached its broadcasting rules with a 2022 episode of the Mark Steyn programme.
Ofcom has ruled that GB News broke its broadcasting rules with a 2022 episode of the Mark Steyn programme, in which the presenter made claims about the COVID-19 vaccine which have been deemed to be misleading.
In its ruling, Ofcom said that Steyn claimed official UKHSA data provided evidence that the third COVID-19 booster vaccine caused higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates, and that the coverage "risk[ed] harm to viewers".
The regulator stated: "Ofcom has emphasised that broadcasters are free to transmit programmes which may be considered controversial and challenging and to question statistics or other evidence produced by governments or other official sources.
"It is clearly in the public interest to scrutinise information of this nature, provided programming is compliant with the Code, specifically that the portrayals of factual matters are not materially misleading."
The ruling continued: "However, in this case, Ofcom considered that this programme incorrectly claimed that official UKHSA data provided definitive evidence that there was a causal link between receiving the third COVID-19 booster vaccine and higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates.
More like this
"This was misleading because the programme failed to reflect that the reports made clear that the raw data contained within them should not be used to draw conclusions about vaccine efficacy, due to the biases inherent in those in the vaccinated and unvaccinated populations.
"Given the content was 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 found that the programme was materially misleading and in breach of Rule 2.2 of the Code."
A GB News spokesperson said the channel was “disappointed” by the investigation's outcome.
“Our role in media is to ask tough questions, point out inconsistencies in government policy, and hold public bodies to account when the facts justify it. Mark Steyn’s programme did exactly that," the spokesperson said.
“We support his right to challenge the status quo by examining the small but evident risks of the third COVID booster. As news stories in the last week have highlighted, it was prescient to question whether the government was candid with all the facts.
“It is an important story in the public interest. Mr Steyn looked at evidence from the government’s own health data. He drew a reasonable conclusion from the facts.
"However, he drew only one conclusion. We accept that the data offered several valid interpretations, and he should have made this clear. Had he done so, the story would have remained within the wide freedoms that Ofcom’s Broadcast Code allows.”
- Love Island 'misogyny and bullying' tops list Ofcom complaints in 2022
- John Cleese to front GB News show as he praises "free speech channel"
This is the first time GB News has been found to be in breach of Ofcom's rules since the channel started broadcasting in June 2021.
Steyn left his role at the channel in February of this year following a dispute over contract terms.
Visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to find out what's on.
Try Radio Times magazine today and get 12 issues for only £1 with delivery to your home – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.