Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg joins GB News
More politicians presenting television programmes is a popular idea with a UK public concerned that free speech is under attack, a new survey shows.
The findings emerge as media regulator Ofcom confirms it is investigating the trend as a growing number of politicians work as hosts on TV news channels.
As many as 2,119 people were asked if current and retired MPs of all parties should be allowed to present opinion and interview programmes.
Almost half – 43 percent – said they did, according to an independent poll commissioned by GB News.
Current Ofcom guidelines state presenters should be required to put forward other opposing views.
READ MORE: Tory MPs targeted in new Ofcom probe into GB News’s politician presenters
However, if that requirement is removed, support for politicians hosting shows fell slightly to 41 percent with 36 percent opposing the idea.
The margin was even wider when the public was asked about supporting MPs hosting shows where they were “challenged and debated by other guests”.
Half – 49 percent – agreed this was a good thing and only 21 percent disagreed.
The polling also showed there is widespread agreement that free speech is under threat and needs to be defended.
The poll saw 63 percent agree with the statement “free speech in the United Kingdom is in decline” – just 14 percent disagreeing.
And 73 percent of Britons feel it is important to defend freedom of speech, even if that speech “might cause offence to some people”. Just seven percent disagreed with this statement.
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Rising numbers of serving politicians are now presenting programmes on TV news channels.
Sir Jacob-Rees Mogg, Lee Anderson, Philip Davies and Esther McVey, all currently serving Conservative MPs, currently front programmes on GB News.
Several other broadcasters also provide platforms to serving or former politicians.
Labour’s David Lammy, who serves as the Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, regularly hosts a programme on LBC.
Meanwhile on TalkTV, former Cabinet Minister Nadine Dorries presents a show. Former Tory party Chairman Jake Berry – still a serving MP – regularly fronts programmes too.
Ofcom recently announced it will ask researchers to seek the public’s views on the trend.
In December, the regulator stated that politicians are allowed to front current affairs shows outside election periods but are not allowed to present ‘news’.
The difference between the two is poorly defined, however, and as the rules on politicians presenting programmes date back to 2005, Ofcom now considers it necessary to revisit them in light of the trend.
Ofcom said: “The rules around politicians presenting programmes were first introduced in 2005.
“Given the rise in the number of current affairs programmes presented by sitting politicians and recent public interest in this issue, we are conducting new research to gauge current audience attitudes towards these programmes.
“To ensure our broadcasting rules remain relevant and effective, it’s important for us to understand first-hand what people think and feel about the TV and radio content they consume, and how perspectives might change over time.”
The research will explore whether its current definition of news and current affairs programming remains fit for purpose and look at the balance of political views in peak-time slots and during any election period hiatus.
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