MEDIA watchdog Ofcom has been accused of “ignoring” complaints about climate change denial on GB News.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has said it has been repeatedly ignored by the watchdog over complaints about disinformation over climate change in the media.

Tom Hardy, a member of XR’s media team, told the Byline Times that misinformation over the climate crisis has been ignored by the broadcasting watchdog.

The climate activist wrote to Ofcom with regard to a Julia Hartley-Brewer radio segment on TalkRadio where the host allegedly denied scientific evidence and disparaged guests with differing views.

It comes after GB News host Neil Oliver suggested weather maps were “woke”, saying: “Weather maps are among the most blatant and inexcusable fearmongering deployed so far” for identifying areas as red when temperatures are high.

In one Ofcom complaint, Hardy said: “On the 23rd of April [2021], during an interview with Leo Murphy of the climate change charity Possible, Julia Hartley-Brewer categorically stated that climate science is ‘disputed’; that ‘computer models have all been proven wrong’ and that ‘every single climate prediction has not come true’.

“This is dishonest, misleading reporting and can easily be rebutted by any credible peer reviewed source.”

What happened to the complaint?

Hardy says that he received no acknowledgment of his complaint and wrote to Ofcom in protest, saying: “My complaint that the show was materially misleading was rejected.

“I would like to know the rationale for this decision given that it clearly breached guidelines which say: ‘In consideration of whether an issue… has been broadly settled, broadcasters should consider relevant factors’.

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“These may include as appropriate independent reports commissioned by, for example, the UK Parliament and whether the issue has already been scientifically established…

“An example of an issue which Ofcom considered to be broadly settled is the scientific principles behind the theory of Anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.

“When Hartley-Brewer made the statements of denial, they were not ruminative but categorical and in direct opposition to Ofcom’s guidance notes.”

More frustration

Hardy’s frustration was made even greater because of Ofcom’s hardline response to a programme called Loveworld.

The religious satellite channel was fined £25,000 for breaking broadcasting rules during episodes of Full Disclosure in which it was found to have made unevidenced and misleading statements about the Covid pandemic and vaccines without providing adequate balance.

Hardy says he feels the same thing happens with climate denialism on outlets such as GB News.

Dan Wootton complaint

In 2021, Hardy lodged a complaint about GB News host Dan Wootton (below) allegedly inciting violence against Insulate Britain activists.

Wootton invited Sherrilyn Speid, who had driven her car into a trio of female climate activists on the M25, onto his show.

Speid was later banned from driving after pleading guilty to dangerous driving over the October 2021 incident.

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In the interview prior to being charged, Wootton asked her: “How tempted were you, Sherrilyn, to go a little bit harder into those women?”

Hardy said he eventually “found evidence that my complaint had been rejected”.

It’s not the first time Wootton has been called out for a lack of balance regarding climate change on his show.

As journalist Alan Rusbridger wrote for Prospect: “Wootton introduced an item on a climate change protester by asking whether it was ‘just another example of eco-terrorists perpetuating the most expensive and devastating lie in history?’

"His guest … launched into a diatribe about climate warnings using the words ‘hoax and a scam’. Governments, he said, were crying wolf. It was ‘project fear, fear porn … pushing the climate terror.’”

What have Ofcom said?

A spokesperson for Ofcom told Byline Times the regulator has been “in correspondence” with Extinction Rebellion’s media team about climate misinformation.

The spokesperson said: “We explained that, in relation to news programming, Parliament has given Ofcom duties under the Communications Act 2003 to set standards so that broadcast news is presented with due impartiality and reported with due accuracy.

“We also set higher due impartiality standards when broadcasters are dealing with matters of political controversy and current public policy.

“Non-news programming must also not materially mislead the audience.”

However, the spokesperson also added: “In setting and enforcing these standards, we also need to take into account the importance of freedom of expression.”

Ofcom has pointed XR to its guidance on Section 5 (Due Impartiality) of the Broadcasting Code.

“This recognises that the scientific principles behind Anthropogenic Global Warming are broadly settled, and not an issue of political or industrial controversy. We do though distinguish between the scientific principles, and discussions of the public policy responses to climate change. Coverage of the latter is a matter for editorial judgement, within the standards set out in the Broadcasting Code”, they said.

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On the 2021 complaint into Julia Hartley-Brewer’s show, the regulator said that it did not pursue it after Ofcom “took into account that the basis of this discussion was around predictive, and not actual, data models".

“Ms Hartley-Brewer’s comments, which in our view sought not to question the existence of climate change, but its magnitude, received strong challenge from guest Leo Murray which ensured viewers received an alternative viewpoint,” they added.

And on allegations of ignoring complaints, the spokesperson said: “As per our normal published procedures, we do not engage with individual complainants on the outcome of their complaint, but transparently publish them on our website in our fortnightly bulletin.”

GB News has been contacted for comment.