The Culture Secretary has defended fellow Tory MPs who host shows on GB News amid controversy over “inappropriate” comments towards a female journalist.
A string of sitting Conservative parliamentarians have regular slots on the channel, which is under fire after Laurence Fox made a series of remarks about Joe political correspondent Ava Evans during an episode of Dan Wootton Tonight, including asking: “Who would want to shag that?”
UK media regular Ofcom confirmed it has received “a number of complaints” about Tuesday night’s comments by Fox, who has been formally suspended by GB News.
Lucy Frazer, who at first declined to condemn Fox’s remarks but later described them as “unacceptable”, said colleagues should be allowed to host shows.
GB News employs Conservative Party deputy chairman Lee Anderson, former Cabinet minister Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Esther McVey and Philip Davies.
Asked whether that is right, Culture Secretary Ms Frazer told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “Well, yes, because there is a broadcasting code which identifies the rules of broadcasting and that does allow presenters who are MPs to take part in current affairs programmes.
“There are specific issues that have been taken to Ofcom in relation to particular programmes and I know that Ofcom is coming to conclusions on those particular issues.”
She dodged a question on whether Mr Anderson should consider axing his £100,000-a-year GB News show, saying: “I think I’ve made my position clear that those comments were inappropriate and unacceptable.
“And I’m pleased that the channel has apologised and I know that Ofcom will be looking into this.”
Earlier on the morning broadcast round, Ms Frazer was more equivocal when asked whether Fox’s behaviour was unacceptable.
“Well as Culture Secretary, you will know that I’m generally in favour of the free press,” she told Times Radio in response, adding that its was a matter for Ofcom.
Labour’s shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire said on X: “Last night’s woman hating on air has hit a new low.
“Should we (women) have to tell a broadcaster that on-air woman-hate is not OK?”
GB News has been found to have breached Ofcom rules three times since it launched in 2021.
The watchdog has several further investigations open into GB News’s compliance with due impartiality rules.
Pressed on whether the channel should be shut down if it continues to break the code, Ms Frazer said: “I know that there are a number of issues in a range of broadcasters at the moment and I don’t think all those broadcasters should be shut down because there are issues.”
Ofcom rules bar serving politicians from acting as newsreaders, interviewers or reporters unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified. They are allowed to host discussions about current affairs.
Mr Davies, who fronts a GB News show with wife Ms McVey, said in a statement to the PA News agency: “Laurence Fox’s disgraceful remarks were completely unacceptable, unjustifiable and indefensible.”