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Labour Has Met Ofcom Over Handling Of MPs Hosting Their Own Shows

MPs Lee Anderson and Jacob Rees-Mogg on GB News (Alamy)

3 min read

MPs hosting their own TV and radio shows presents “quite a challenge” for shadow culture secretary Thangam Debbonaire, as she reveals she has already met with Ofcom to discuss how impartiality rules can be upheld.

Several high profile politicians host their own shows, including the Conservatives’ Jacob Rees-Mogg and Reform’s Lee Anderson on GB News. Labour’s David Lammy has recently stood down from his long-running radio show on LBC.

While the Ofcom code says a politician cannot be a newsreader, interviewer or reporter in a news programme “unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified”, MPs are allowed to host current affairs shows.

However, Ofcom recently found five episodes of programmes hosted by Tory MPs on GB News to have broken its impartiality rules, and warned that repeated contraventions could lead to fines or its broadcasting licence being revoked.  

In an interview with The House magazine, Thangam Debbonaire said it was, “quite a challenge for me to see how we resolve having politicians of a particular party with entire programmes on a station that’s called news, when we have news regulation that is quite strict about impartiality and political impartiality and balance”.

She added that she had “already met with Ofcom” to discuss whether it had the tools it needed to decide whether politicians had acted with impartiality.

In April, Ofcom announced it had launched an investigation into a programme hosted by Lammy on LBC after receiving 51 complaints over a show that aired on 29 March. Labour’s foreign secretary had hosted a Sunday morning show on LBC since 2022.

However, Debbonaire insisted that, “what David’s done with the show is use it as a means of communicating”.

“Ofcom will have to regulate any and all news outlets for how they put that content together and whether or not it complies with impartiality,” she said.

Debbonaire also confirmed Labour’s plans to bring forward legislation that will protect freelancers in creative industries from late payments. This forms part of Debbonaire’s commitment to ensure a freelance career in the arts remains viable in the arts and creative industries.

“It’s often very big organisations across all sorts of sectors who will just sit on freelancers’ bills, because they know they can," she said.

“Being a musician, being a filmmaker, being a writer, waiting three, four months to be paid means you can’t pay your bills. We are going to legislate for late payments; we think it’s just not okay.

“Freelancers aren’t going to be able to afford to take them to court or have means to do that, so having really clear laws is really helpful.”

Debbonaire appeared to backtrack on reports that Labour would consider calls to make the TV licence free for people on benefits, explaining that it is “not something I’m looking at, at the moment”.

“It will be really unhelpful for the BBC if I started laying out different funding options at this point”, she added. “I think it’s really important that we recognise the BBC has to be funded. It has to be funded in a consistent way that they can rely on.

“We’ll also have charter renewal under the next Labour government if we win the next general election. There’s a lot of work to do there. But that’s not something I’m looking at, at the moment, no.”

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