A LEGAL letter has been sent to Ofcom claiming that their “two-tier approach” to due impartiality in broadcasts is “unlawful” – and calling for a judicial review.

Professor Julian Petley, from Brunel University London, has issued the letter to the media regulator in the wake of comments made by its chair, Melanie Dawes.

Speaking in February, Dawes had argued that it was “appropriate” for large broadcasters like the BBC to be held to different standards than smaller broadcasters like GB News.

Dawes said: “The standard for someone for like the BBC which reaches, still, 70% of the TV viewing audience for news is a different one from that of a channel that has an audience of maybe 4 or 5% of the viewing public: we expect different things and I think that’s appropriate.”

However, in his legal letter issued alongside Good Law Project, Petley argues that this has never been the case before and that, in treating small broadcasters differently to large ones, Ofcom seems to have made an unlawful change.

The professor pointed to a 2019 ruling from the watchdog against Russian channel RT – which he said had an audience share of 0.03%.

At the time, Ofcom found RT had breached the broadcasting code in multiple places, going on: “The extent of a channel’s audience cannot sensibly dictate the gravity of the breach, not least because the due impartiality regime could easily be circumvented and undermined if smaller broadcasters were allowed an effective exemption from generally applied standards.”

READ MORE: Michael Gove defends GB News owner over 'anti-Muslim' tweets

In his legal letter, Petley asks Ofcom to confirm that Dawes’s claim that small broadcasters are held to different standards “forms no part of its policy, is not regarded by Ofcom as correct in law, and has not been the basis of any of its decisions in relation to possible breaches by broadcasters of the due impartiality provisions of the Broadcasting Code”.

You can read the professor’s full legal letter to Ofcom here.

GB News has breached the Broadcasting Code 12 times since it launched less than three years ago and has never faced a formal sanction, Good Law Project said. Eight other investigations are currently ongoing.

Petley said: “For three years GB News has been offering Tory MPs a pulpit from which to express their views without serious challenge. Ofcom has ruled against GB News 12 times, but somehow the channel has never faced a formal sanction.

READ MORE: Ofcom finds five GB News shows fronted by Tory MPs broke broadcast rules

“Impartiality in the media is a cornerstone of democracy with established rules that help make sure the public can see and hear competing opinions. This applies to all broadcasters, and Ofcom has to step up to the plate and stop GB News from making a mockery of its own code and the law.”

Jennine Walker, Good Law Project’s legal manager, said: “People cannot properly play their part as citizens of a democratic country if they are fed bias and propaganda. This is why the news has to be presented with due impartiality.

“The law set by Parliament is clear, and it is the same for all broadcasters. A two-tier system is simply wrong in law and Ofcom must reflect this.”

Good Law Project is also looking to raise funds for any legal action, with a fundraiser here.

An Ofcom spokesperson said: “We have received a letter and will be responding.”