Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

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The chief executive of Ofcom has acknowledged there are “real issues around misogyny” in public discourse, following the Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox broadcast earlier this week.

Speaking to Sophy Ridge on the Politics Hub, Dame Melanie Dawes was asked about the comments made by Fox on Wootton’s show on Tuesday night. Wootton has been suspended by GB News and sacked by the MailOnline.

Dame Melanie said: “We received a number of complaints and we’re investigating it under our rules for offence, so that’s hot off the press and work continues.”

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She explained that the regulator needs to be measured before investigating – and not “shoot from the hip” but take issues like freedom of expression and the whole of a programme into account.

“I think the public doesn’t want a regulator that just gives a knee-jerk response,” she said.

Speaking about the Wootton and Fox case, where the latter spoke about how he would not want to have sex with a female journalist he disagreed with, Dame Melanie said: “There’s been a real concern, and I don’t want to comment particularly on the show because it is now subject to a live investigation, but I think we know that there are issues around misogyny more widely in our public discourse. “

The dame added that women “are much more likely to get a hard time on social media” than men.

In a statement earlier today, the regulator said: “We have launched an investigation into GB News under our rules on offence, after receiving around 7,300 complaints about Tuesday’s episode of Tonight with Dan Wootton.”

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Dame Melanie told Sophy that Ofcom now has nine open investigations into GB News, as well as a number “that have already concluded”.

“So we do have a lot of engagement with GB News right now, but as I said we welcome diversity of different programming, and I believe the rules are flexible and allow different perspectives to be able to be brought to bear.”

The head of the regulator believes Ofcom is getting “quite a lot right across our system” – and that it is good the rules have not really changed in the past 20 years.

“I think that’s a really good thing to have that stability,” she said, “but what has changed is our media landscape.”

She indicated that Ofcom was unable to police how clips are used on social media – saying “it’s Ofcom’s job to look at programmes once they’ve been aired in the round and see whether – if you’re talking about impartiality – whether that’s been preserved across a programme as a whole.”

Wootton was suspended by GB News on Wednesday, after a row over comments made by actor-turned-political-activist Fox, who had been a fellow presenter for the channel.

Fox was taken off air following the remarks he made on air about female PoliticsJOE journalist Ava Evans, which have been described as “unacceptable, unjustifiable and indefensible”.

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One of his comments included asking: “Who would want to shag that?”

A spokesperson for DMG Media, the parent company of MailOnline, said: “Following events this week, DMG Media can confirm that Dan Wootton’s freelance column with MailOnline – which had already been paused – has now been terminated, along with his contract.”

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