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Positioning itself as supporting free speech and anti-censorship, something that has several times been brought into question – though it is at least more so than other news outlets, GB News is currently wrestling with the UK’s media regulator Ofcom over what many see as the hand of censorship encroaching on the realm of free expression after a controversy instigated over 7,300 objections.
The issue arises from the Tuesday broadcast of the Dan Wootton Tonight show, during which presenter Laurence Fox made comments about journalist Ava Evans, triggering a backlash and subsequent suspensions for both Wootton and Fox.
Fox drew criticism for his comments to journalist Ava Evans, inciting a scandal that set off the avalanche of complaints from those that want to see the channel shut down.
This ordeal led not just to an internal investigation by GB News but also caught the attention of Ofcom, who decided to initiate a formal inquisition into the incident.
Ofcom’s referral to broadcasting’s rule 2.3 was clarified in their official statement. The said rule mandates broadcasters to ensure content that might cause offense is substantially justified by context. Herein lies the crux of the issue and one that sparks debate across various platforms – the definition and restriction of offensive content, considered by many as a threat to free speech.
Dame Melanie Dawes, who heads Ofcom, ruled the balance between the protection of audiences from potentially offensive and harmful material and upholding the integrity of current affairs programmes. She acknowledged free speech and the necessity of taking decisions following a controversial airing to “protect our vibrant media landscape.”
In an additional blow to Wootton, MailOnline severed ties with him as a columnist. The sequence of events were confirmed by a spokesperson for DMG Media saying that Wootton’s freelance column, already on pause, had been terminated, terminating his contract as well.
Reclaim The Net is a free speech and online privacy organization that defends our individual liberty by pushing back against big tech and media gatekeepers. Much of their work focuses on exposing digital tyrants and promoting free speech and privacy-friendly alternative online services. Visit reclaimthenet.org