One of GB News’s leading presenters has quit after the channel tried to make him personally responsible for paying fines issued by the media regulator Ofcom.
Mark Steyn, who presented the station’s 8pm peak-time slot, is already subject to two investigations by the media regulator after he used his show to cast doubt on the safety of Covid vaccines.
The presenter’s departure has led some viewers of GB News – which has given airtime to conspiracy theorists warning of a globalist elite takeover – to suggest the channel has itself sold out to shadowy globalist forces.
Steyn, who has been off-air since last year after suffering two heart attacks, told fans on his personal website that the station bosses initially insisted he could not return unless a defibrillator was fitted in the studio.
He said this was fixed with a call to “Defibrillators R Us”, only for Angelos Frangopoulos, GB News’s chief executive, to demand Steyn agree to personally cover the costs of dealing with Ofcom and paying any fines for breaches of the broadcasting code. This is a highly unusual situation given the fines are the legal responsibility of the broadcast licence holder, not the individual presenter.
Steyn, who was employed on a freelance basis, said his response was that “you may be a homicidal maniac intent on bringing on a third fatal heart attack but you’ll have to do better than this”.
The presenter said he used to call GB News’s in-house compliance officer “Ofcom’s bitch” when they argued about what he was allowed to say on air.
“Well Ofcom’s bitch has had his revenge now,” said Steyn in his video.
Steyn said the proposal would be untenable. “I’m on the hook for Ofcom fines but I don’t have any say in our defence against an Ofcom complaint – that’s all done by GB News. Ofcom’s bitch, as I call the compliance officer, will be making the weedy defence to Ofcom and then I’m the one who has to pay the £40,000 fine,” he added.
Although Ofcom has the ability to regulate the content of broadcast television and radio channels, it has no control over online streams – meaning Steyn is able to broadcast whatever he wants online to a potentially bigger audience without any intervention.
The contractual terms offered to Steyn suggest GB News bosses are concerned about the impending judgment in the Ofcom investigations – which could scare away some of its remaining advertisers. Earlier this year all staff were put on mandatory Ofcom training.
Bosses are also warning of a tough financial environment, with the channel now financially supported by Sir Paul Marshall, the Brexiter hedge fund tycoon who also backs Unherd, and Legatum, the Dubai-based investment company founded by the New Zealand billionaire Christopher Chandler.
On Monday Frangopoulos told staff that the channel would be “pivoting sharply towards financial sustainability and profit”, meaning cuts to the number of freelance shifts, reductions in taxi bills and cuts to the amount of money paid to guests. Despite the tough trading conditions, they have still signed up new presenters including Jacob Rees-Mogg and John Cleese.
The channel said: “GB News takes Ofcom compliance extremely seriously. All our presenters are expected to comply fully with the broadcast code and there are no exceptions. This does not impinge on our ability to ask tough questions, express strong opinions and debate the issues that matter to the people of Britain.”