GB News faces Ofcom investigation over host’s Covid booster claims
Mark Steyn’s misleading claim that jab was killing Britons was based on ‘inaccurate reading’ of report, says Full Fact
GB News is being investigated by the media regulator Ofcom after one of its hosts made misleading claims about the side-effects of Covid booster vaccines.
The presenter Mark Steyn wrongly alleged that having the extra dose was killing Britons and alleged there was a media silence on the issue.
The independent factchecking website Full Fact said his claim, made in a broadcast on 21 April, was based “on an inaccurate reading of a vaccine surveillance report, which specifically includes a caveat warning that the data can’t be used to determine vaccine effectiveness”.
They said this data source had repeatedly been used to draw the wrong conclusions by opponents of vaccination programmes.
Steyn is based outside the UK and often broadcasts from his home in Canada. This month the longstanding vaccine sceptic presented an hour-long “Victims of the Vax” special for GB News in which he interviewed people who blamed the death of family members on Covid jabs. In a sign of the nervousness around broadcasting such content in the UK, GB News linked to official NHS resources on the vaccine in its uploads of the show.
The channel has regularly provided a platform to individuals critical of the scientific response to Covid, with one host promoting the benefits of the antiparasitic drug ivermectin.
Ahead of GB News’ launch last year there had been questions about how Ofcom would regulate a television news channel that was overtly political in its outlook. British broadcasting law requires a commitment to “due impartiality”, which means that an audience must be exposed to alternate points of view. However, a channel can still take a strong editorial line – and does not have to give equal airtime to both sides of a debate.
At first GB News regularly booked left-leaning guests for discussions to ensure they could meet this due impartiality standard. But staff at the station said they did this less once they realised Ofcom was not going to press on the issue.
Although GB News has attracted a steady stream of Ofcom complaints about its output, very few have progressed to the stage of formal investigations and the channel has yet to be found in breach of the broadcasting code. Instead, presenters prefer to regularly mention Ofcom on air as a bogeyman that is coming for the channel.
Ofcom has so far only investigated two other GB News broadcasts: one, into an episode of To The Point hosted by Patrick Christys & Mercy Muroki, has been resolved without sanction, while a second investigation into swearing by anti-vaccine activists on a 23 August episode of Nigel Farage’s Talking Pints – where the former Ukip leader drank with the former darts player Bobby George – is being investigated as a potential breach of general standards.
After a disastrous launch, GB News has gradually built up its ratings and now consistently outperforms Piers Morgan’s talkTV, which has a substantially larger budget – although both channels are happy to break 100,000 viewers for a programme.
GB News has been contacted for comment.