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Ex News Presenter’s Career ‘Killed’ by Ofcom Decisions, Court Hears

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Last year, the UK communications watchdog sanctioned GB News for the second time for breaching broadcasting rules.

Ofcom rulings against two episodes of a GB News show, presented by a now former employee Mark Steyn, have “killed his career,” the UK High Court has heard.

The communications regulator ruled that Mr. Steyn’s programme had breached the Ofcom broadcasting code on two occasions, in April and October 2022.

The programme was found to present a misleading interpretation of data by the UK Health Security Agency on COVID-19 vaccines and fail to protect viewers from “potentially harmful content.”

The latest Ofcom ruling came in May 2023, and since then Mr. Steyn has taken legal action against the regulator.

Speaking to the court on Tuesday, Jonathan Price, who represents Mr. Steyn, said Ofcom’s rulings have killed the broadcaster’s career.

“The rulings … killed his career in the UK, and given rise to what he describes as crude defamation … recycled through the London papers as if they had the force of criminal convictions,” Mr. Price said.

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He added that the GB News show “did not adopt an anti-vax approach” but instead “strongly criticised the purely binary position” on COVID-19 vaccines and featured guests who “questioned and challenged the official narrative.”

‘Potential Harm’

Barristers, representing Ofcom, claim it was free to make its decisions to protect the public from potential harm.

Jessica Boyd, KC, representing Ofcom, said that both decisions by the regulator were correct.

Ofcom concluded that the “programmes could cause potential harm to the rights of viewers by distorting their understanding of issues which were likely to have a significant bearing on their health decisions in the context of a continuing pandemic,” she said.

Ms. Boyd also told the court that Ofcom didn’t seek to prevent Mr. Steyn or his guests on the show from “ventilating controversial views about important public health issues.”

Mr. Steyn is free to challenge the reliability of official medical advice, “including in inflammatory or provocative terms,” as long as he complies with the Ofcom code, the barrister added.

In the show that aired on Oct. 4, 2022, Mr. Steyn interviewed author Naomi Wolf.

During the interview, Ms. Wolf made claims about the COVID-19 vaccine, including that its rollout amounted to “mass murder” and was comparable to the actions of “doctors in pre-Nazi Germany.”

Ofcom received 422 complaints that alleged these comments were “dangerous” and included “misinformation” that went “unopposed.” The regulator then requested to meet with GB News to discuss its approach to compliance.

Reacting to Ofcom’s decision, Ms. Wolf said she was “appalled” and rejected the regulator’s findings. She stood by her claims and said Mr. Steyn was “a hero.”

‘Clarity and Coherence’

Ms. Wolf and Mr. Steyn, who no longer works for GB News and travelled from the United States, attended the hearing on Tuesday.

Mr. Steyn quit GB News in February 2023 amid a dispute over contract terms he claimed could have made him personally liable for Ofcom fines.

The following month, Ofcom said in its ruling that it had received four complaints about comments made by Mr. Steyn. The complainants said that the presenter’s comments drew “dangerous” and “fatally flawed conclusions” from UKHSA statistics.

“Specifically, the programme incorrectly claimed that official UKHSA data provided definitive evidence of a causal link between receiving a third COVID-19 vaccine and higher infection, hospitalisation and death rates,” Ofcom said.

Mr. Steyn seeks to quash the Ofcom decisions. His legal team claim that the regulator’s rulings lack “clarity and coherence” and risk an “obvious potential chilling effect.”

The rulings over the Mark Steyn programme said that the two cases represented the first breaches of Ofcom broadcasting rules against GB News since its launch in June 2021.

In May 2023, complaints against the channel represented 1.6 percent of all broadcast complaints made to Ofcom at the time.

PA Media contributed to this report. 

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