UK regulator threatens to sanction GB News for breaking impartiality rules

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Omnom, a restaurant and community centre, in London

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's media regulator Ofcom warned television channel GB News it could face sanctions after it found a broadcast featuring Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in February broke impartiality rules.

Founded in 2021, the right-leaning TV channel has cast itself as a disruptor. It employs a number of lawmakers from the governing Conservative party and has financial backing from hedge fund millionaire Paul Marshall.

Over 500 people complained about an hour-long live question and answer session with Sunak which was broadcast on Feb. 12.

Ofcom said on Monday the programme breached impartiality rules by not presenting a sufficiently wide range of viewpoints.

The regulator said it considered the rule break to be "serious" and noted GB News had already breached rules twice.

It will now consider a statutory sanction against GB News and make a decision on what action to take within 60 working days. Punishments could include a fine, making GB News broadcast a correction or even suspending or revoking its licence.

GB News said Ofcom's decision was "an alarming development" aimed at stopping the public questioning politicians directly.

"The regulator's threat to punish a news organisation with sanctions for enabling people to challenge their own prime minister strikes at the heart of democracy," GB News said in a statement published on its website.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Christina Fincher)