Politicians Hosting TV Shows: U.K. Media Regulator Ofcom Clarifies Rules

Following a slew of serving U.K. politicians nabbing high-profile TV jobs, media regulator Ofcom has clarified the rules around such a career move.

The regulatory body has confirmed that politicians are allowed to present TV and radio shows but cautioned “there are some exceptions.”

In particular, because of Ofcom’s rules about impartiality, it dictates that serving politicians are not allowed to participate in any news programs as an anchor, interviewer or reporter “unless, exceptionally, it is editorially justified.” If it is the case a justification can be made, the audience must still be alerted to the politician’s political allegiance.

That leaves the political class free to host pretty much anything outside of news, including current affairs shows, although Ofcom warns: “they must make sure a range of views are reflected in their programme.” The only caveat is if they’re standing in an election or about to, in which case they’re not allowed to present any TV or radio shows, including those that don’t discuss politics or current affairs (unless said appearance was scheduled before an election period).

The guidance comes following no fewer than three Conservative politicians taking on TV roles in recent months in addition to their duties as members of Parliament (MPs). Last week it was revealed that controversial former culture secretary Nadine Dorries had bagged a Friday night talk show on News U.K.-owned TalkTV, with her first guest being her former boss (and former Prime Minister) Boris Johnson.

Just a day earlier another MP, Jacob Rees Mogg, was announced as a presenter on conservative network GB News, where he has been given his own current affairs show, which is due film with live audiences across the country, similar to the BBC’s “Question Time.”

Meanwhile Rees Mogg’s colleague Matt Hancock, who was forced to resign as health secretary during COVID after video footage of him emerged canoodling with a colleague in breach of his own lockdown rules, recently appeared as a contestant on ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!”

Although no longer part of the government’s inner circle since Johnson was ousted last summer, Dorries, Rees Mogg and Hancock remain elected MPs.

And while their new gigs don’t breach Ofcom’s guidelines, Dorries and Hancock have been accused of breaching parliamentary rules by failing to seek clearance from the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments before taking on the jobs. No action has been taken against either politician, however, with the committee’s chair, Eric Pickles, saying to do so would be “disproportionate.”

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