Discover more from The Knight Report by Stephen Knight
Mark Steyn, Ofcom and GB News' conspiracist crank problem
GB News has been found in breach of Ofcom broadcasting rules yet again
I didn’t join the hysterical chorus of screeching in 2020 when it was announced that Gb News would launch in the UK. Before a single second had even been broadcast from GB News HQ, many activists were demanding it was killed before it had even been born.
A few years on and GB News is a bit of a mixed bag. I love the idea of an alternate news channel getting stuck into the issues that other platforms ignore—and I have praised GB News for doing precisely this on occasion.
Regardless, I’m a big boy and I should be able to decide what I hear or see for myself, thank you very much. Unfortunately, I cannot deny there appears to be a surplus of conspiratorial cranks on GB News—formerly and presently.
Comedian Abi Roberts was a regular contributor for a while. GB News let her go last year, thankfully. Nowadays she can be found ranting on Twitter about stolen US elections and how the vaccine rollout is ‘global democide’. This is when she isn’t exploiting the deaths of innocent children to further her conspiracy theories about vaccine deaths.
Then we have Calvin Robinson. I had him on my show a while back where he made a fair amount of sense on identity politics. However, he exhibits the worst of what identity politics has to offer if you speak negatively about his faith. It was rather amusing to see him start banging on about ‘disablist’ language because a newspaper had quoted someone describing evangelicals as “nutty”. When I pointed out this quote was a fair description, and regardless, newspapers aren’t beholden to Christian blasphemy laws—he blocked me.
Calvin has also implied that a campaign to fit defibrillators in schools was related to vaccine induced heart injuries in children. What Calvin didn’t acknowledge is that this very campaign was started in 2011 by Mark King because his 12 year old son died during a school swimming race. It's worth noting that 270 children die per year at school in the UK due to cardiac arrest. And these are pre-Covid vaccine figures. But committed anti-vaxxers like to pretend everyone died peacefully in their sleep, aged 98 before the vaccine was rolled out.
As though that’s not bad enough, Robinson also floated the conspiracy theory that pharmaceutical companies were creating vaccines to intentionally cause heart issues. Why? For ‘economic’ reasons—namely so that they could sell you drugs needed to treat said heart issues.
Dominique Samuels has also spent a fair amount of time on social media making wild claims about vaccine harms and promoting the embarrassing, conspiratorial bullshit fest that is the ‘Died Suddenly’ film.
Then there is Neil Oliver who appears to be no stranger to being fact checked on the false vaccine claims he’s broadcast.
These were the voices trusted by GB News to inform us of what was really going on during a global pandemic—and all they achieved was to spread misinformation and create an unjustified level of fear towards Covid vaccines.
This brings me to Mark Steyn, who it was announced today has been found guilty of breaching Ofcom’s broadcasting rules for the second time. Steyn invited notorious conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf on to his show to repeatedly claim the vaccine rollout was “mass murder”. This all went unchallenged as Steyn nodded along. This is the same Naomi Wolf that pushes conspiracies about time travelling iPhone particles that steal you data. No, I’m not kidding.
Steyn parted ways with GB News when it was reported he would be liable to pay any future Ofcom fines that resulted from his output.
Do not misconstrue this latest ruling from Ofcom. News broadcasters are completely within their right to broadcast conversation on controversial and challenging views. As Ofcom reiterate in their statement:
It is important to stress that in line with the right to freedom of expression - broadcasters are free to transmit programmes that include controversial and challenging views, including about Covid-19 vaccines or conspiracy theories. However, alongside this editorial freedom, the Broadcasting Code imposes a clear requirement that if such content has the potential to be harmful, the broadcaster must ensure that its audience is adequately protected.
Our investigation concluded that GB News fell short of this requirement by allowing Naomi Wolf to promote a serious conspiracy theory without challenge or context - for example through other contributions in the programme or by the presenter, who appeared to support many of her comments. There was also no scrutiny of the evidence she claimed to hold to support her claims.
There will be those that are so far in the conspiracy rabbit hole that they’ll assume the Ofcom decision is simply more evidence that “they” are censoring any discussion on ‘vaccine harms’.
Well, fortunately, we have a cast-iron example that demonstrates that this paranoia is misplaced. Very recently, GB News provided a platform for Andrew Bridgen to rattle off a whole host of conspiracy theories and claims about vaccine harm. The difference? The show’s host, Andrew Doyle not only challenged Bridgen’s claims in real-time, but provided an opposing voice in the form of Fraser Myers. This falls perfectly in line with Ofcom’s broadcasting standards, yet still allows someone like Bridgen to speak their mind on ‘vaccine harms’. You can read my thoughts on Bridgen/Myers debate here.
I really like Andrew Doyle. He’s a pal. And to my mind, his show ‘Free Speech Nation’ is easily the best thing on GB News. He does what he does well precisely because he was (and remains) a critical thinker long before getting the GB News gig.
GB News needs more people like Andrew Doyle, and fewer conspiratorial contrarians. That is if they wish to survive as a news platform. I criticise GB News here, not as one of their hysterical critics—desiring nothing more than to see them go down in flames—but because I genuinely want them to be better. Because I understand that credible competition in this space is for the genuine public good.