Ofcom will not investigate complaints over Dan Wootton's GB News show

image source, Getty Images
image captionWootton left his roles as executive editor and columnist at The Sun to join GB News

Media watchdog Ofcom has said it will not formally investigate comments made on Dan Wootton's GB News show about the effectiveness of lockdown rules.

Wootton called for restrictions to end and encouraged viewers to push back against "doomsday scientists" on the channel's opening night, 13 June.

His comments prompted 390 complaints.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said: "Our rules allow for rigorous debate around the response to coronavirus... consistent with the right to free expression."

Wootton had likened the UK to China, and said the government had been "controlling every damn aspect of our lives" during the opening monologue of his first programme on the new channel.

'Crude measure'

"Lockdowns are a crude measure," the former executive editor of The Sun told viewers, arguing that they caused more harm than good.

image source, PA Media
image captionAndrew Neil (seen here on TV screen) is having a break from GB News following its launch last month

His guests also included Independent journalist Benjamin Butterworth, who Wootton introduced as "the wokest man in Britain".

Ofcom said: "In our view, this programme included a range of different viewpoints, including on the merits and effectiveness of lockdown restrictions, and guests were able to challenge views they disagreed with."

GB News, whose chairman is former BBC presenter Andrew Neil, has vowed to fight cancel culture and reflect voices not heard in the media.

But it has faced criticism from campaigners such as the group Stop Funding Hate, who say its launch brings highly partisan Fox News-style programming to the UK.

Neil, the BBC's former political presenter, has dismissed the Fox News comparisons as "nonsense".

Christmas video

Meanwhile, channel That's TV has been found in breach of three of Ofcom's broadcasting codes based around violence on screen and the watershed, suitability for children and potential to cause offence.

The channel featured a range of Christmas-themed programmes last year including The Best Christmas Ad-Free, which contained an uninterrupted sequence of Christmas-music videos.

Ofcom received one complaint about the inclusion of a music video that accompanied the song Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a broadcast on Christmas Eve at 2300 GMT.

The music video contained real-life video footage and imagery of the aftermath of war, including footage of an adult holding what appeared to be the body of a dead child wrapped in fabric and a deceased child in an open coffin.

The channel confirmed that the music video was broadcast 17 times during episodes of The Best Christmas Ad-Free between 24 and 28 December 2020 and that 11 of these broadcasts occurred before the watershed.

On each occasion, it was shown in between music videos of other well-known Christmas songs such as Walking in the Air and All I Want For Christmas Is You.

In mitigation, That's TV explained that it held two music videos for the song Happy Xmas (War is Over) in its archive - one that was released in 1992 (which was intended to be included in the programme), and a second version produced in 2003 which contained images of the aftermath of war.

It said it had only approved the 1992 version for broadcast but, due to human error, the 2003 video was accidentally inserted into the schedule instead.

Following the incident, it has reviewed its procedures to minimise any risk of a similar occurrence.

While Ofcom acknowledged human error was to blame, its report noted that "these errors were not identified by the licensee over the 17 instances the video was played over a four day period".

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