Veteran conservative presenter Mark Steyn has quit the populist-oriented GB News over alleged demands that he personally pays for any broadcasting fines for discussing sensitive topics, as he has frequently done, particularly on the safety of coronavirus vaccines.
On Monday, Canadian commentator Mark Steyn, who previously served as a frequent fill-in host for late American conservative talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh and Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, announced that he has resigned from his GB News programme.
Steyn, who has been absent from his show since last year after suffering two heart attacks, said that in the wake of his health problems, the upstart news network had come back to him with a revised contract in which he would personally be on the hook for fines from Britain’s national broadcasting regulator Ofcom as opposed to the typical situation in which licence holders, such as GB News, are responsible for fines for violations of the broadcasting code.
“I’m on the hook for Ofcom fines but I don’t have any say in our defence against an Ofcom complaint – that’s all done by GB News. Ofcom’s bitch, as I call the compliance officer, will be making the weedy defence to Ofcom and then I’m the one who has to pay the £40,000 fine,” he said.
The Canadian conservative blasted what he called the “habitual liar who runs the joint”, GB News Chief Executive Angelos Frangopoulos, saying: “I’ve had two heart attacks so I laugh at stress, I scoff at stress, you don’t stress me out, you may be a homicidal maniac intent on bringing upon a third, fatal heart attack, but you will have to better than this.”
The demand for Steyn to foot the bill for potential Ofcom fines has been widely interpreted as GB News attempting to protect itself from potential regulatory backlash over his coverage of hot-button political issues such as the scourge of predominantly Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs preying on young white girls or the highlighting of potential side effects and injuries from coronavirus vaccines.
Commenting on his abrupt departure from the network, the Conservative Woman publication lamented: “It is a terrible loss for us all and not just all at TCW, but for the country. It is a tragedy for free speech that his style of fearless, moral and uncompromising broadcasting has been brought to an abrupt end.
“For a year he threw light on dark, he ridiculed the shameless, for a year he raised our hopes that sanity, reason and truth might prevail.”
While many have criticised GB News over the scandal, Steyn’s one-time colleague at the network and star of Breitbart News’ film My Son Hunter, Laurence Fox argued that the blame should be levied on the restrictions on free speech in Britain imposed by the government and the broadcasting regulator Ofcom itself, rather than GB News.
“I have been following Mark for years and I believe him to be one of the finest, driest and wittiest journalists on air. I think his contribution to the channel is immense and his talent incomparable. I am also surprised by the level of anger directed at the channel itself, rather than the state censorship vehicle to which he seems to have fallen foul of Ofcom,” Fox wrote.
The actor-turned-political-presenter continued: “GB news is working within a state-regulated market, because that is how the China-style suppression of free speech works in this country if you wish to broadcast live television. Only an act of parliament can change that. Legislation much needed in my view.”
However, it is likely that the power and scope of Ofcom will only expand in the coming years, with the neo-liberal Conservative Party government set to grant the regulator with policing authority over so-called disinformation or supposed hate speech on social media, with the ability to fine tech firms up to 10 per cent of their global revenue for failing to censor their platforms more than they already do.
Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka