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May 21 22 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter

So yesterday, I came across this petition to "Remove GB News' Broadcast Licence".

I & many others have legitimate concerns about this "news" channel (which I'll come on to), so without really thinking about it, I quickly signed & RTd it.

I now regret that.

Here's why: Image
The brief text accompanying the petition says "@Ofcom refuse to regulate this nonsense news channel that spreads lies, misinformation & conspiracy. Stop the damage to the UK's media by ending this station preying on the simple & scared."

Allow me address each of these claims:
CLAIM 1: "@Ofcom refuse to regulate this nonsense news channel".

This is patently untrue: GB News has been investigated on at least four separate occasions by Ofcom, two of which resulted in Ofcom ruling broadcast rules HAVE been breached by the channel.…
CLAIM 2: GB News is "a nonsense news channel that spreads lies, misinformation & conspiracy."

Putting to one side the claim it's 'nonsense', @Ofcom has confirmed in its latest breach that GB News has indeed broadcast "unopposed" dangerous 'conspiracy theories & misinformation':
The first breach was made in April last year, when presenter Mark Steyn "made “dangerous” & “fatally flawed conclusions” about the third Covid-19 vaccine.

This was #misinformation - 'false or inaccurate information, especially that which is deliberately intended to deceive.'
The latest breach found a guest, Naomi Wolf, had "repeatedly compared the vaccine rollout to “mass murder” that was comparable to the actions of “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany”, which went unchallenged by the GB News presenter.

It's worth looking at why this breached the rules:
@Ofcom said in its ruling: “It is important to stress that in line with the right to freedom of expression broadcasters are free to transmit programmes that include controversial and challenging views, including about Covid-19 vaccines or conspiracy theories.”
“However, alongside this editorial freedom, the Broadcasting Code imposes a clear requirement that if such content has the potential to be harmful, the broadcaster must ensure that its audience is adequately protected.”
“GB News fell short of this requirement by allowing Naomi Wolf to promote *a serious conspiracy theory* without challenge or context – for example through other contributions in the programme or by the presenter, who appeared to support many of her comments.”
“There was also no scrutiny of the evidence she claimed to hold to support her claims. We also took into account that the programme presented Naomi Wolf as a figure of authority, with particular knowledge and expertise in the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines.”
So it's important to know that TV channels - even ones with "News" in their name - CAN lawfully & legitimately broadcast lies, misinformation, & "serious conspiracy theories" - as long as they are sufficiently challenged & contextualised.
CLAIM 3: GB News 'damages the UK's media'.

We're now into quite subjective territory, with a claim which is hard, if not impossible, to conclusively prove - a claim which has for more than a century been levelled at sections of the UK "news" media, sometimes by Senior Tories. Image
For evidence we could look at the harm caused in the US by the polarising & misleading narratives of, say, Fox News, or we could summarise the numerous conspiracy theories GB News discusses. But this isn't conclusive "proof" that 'GB News harms the UK's media'.
CLAIM 4: GB News is a "station preying on the simple & scared."

Even if this condescending assertion were accurate, it would certainly not be exclusive to GB News. Furthermore, no doubt there are intelligent people who are not easily characterised as 'scared', who watch GB News.
There IS concern about some of the content of GB News, about its real purpose, about how Govt MPs are able to deliver what are effectively Party Political Broadcasts, & especially about its funding (for details of its funding, please read this 👇 thread:)
However, the MAIN reasons I deleted the petition, & now regret posting it, is because it fuels harmful polarisation, & it feeds the Right's framing of the Left as 'intolerant, condescending, & obsessed with shutting down or cancelling the free speech of those we disagree with'.
There ARE, clearly, serious risks, threats & dangers posed to UK society & democracy by those who spread divisive fearmongering conspiracy theories, by those who demonise & scapegoat the vulnerable, & those who would push a 1930s style populist nationalist authoritarian rhetoric.
GB News is awash with this dangerous populist nationalist framing & rhetoric. However, it now permeates ALL "news" media & circulates freely online, not least as it is used by Govt Ministers, newspaper journalists & columnists, 'shock jocks', & #TuftonSt free-market think tanks.
Imho, the solution is not to try & "cancel" either the people or platforms pushing conspiracy theories & populist nationalist rhetoric, but to push for much better regulation, to seek transparency in funding, & to lobby for a Public Inquiry into UK "news" media content & funding.
Balanced & accurate news, accompanied by sufficient context, & free from Govt, corporate, or foreign interference, is essential for democracy.

Imho, we need a Royal Commission, #Leveson2, or a Public inquiry into news media funding, content, & ownership.

"Media reform is not a pipe dream. It is not far-fetched. A small number of practical measures can produce big changes, & they are not changes that will strangle press freedom but ones that greatly enhance the ability of honest journalists to do their job." - @BrianCathcart
"Much more than that, it can unlock rational debate and evidence-based policy-making across the whole field of government, freeing politicians of all parties from the tyranny of hysterical headlines. So tell Starmer to back media reform." - @BrianCathcart…

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