Zac Goldsmith criticises Ofcom for rejecting complaint

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith has criticised media regulator Ofcom after it rejected his complaint over Channel 4 News reports about him.

The programme raised questions over whether Goldsmith, who seized Richmond Park from the Liberal Democrats in the general election, declared in full the money spent on his campaign for the poll.

The multimillionaire MP was involved in a live on-air spat with Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow after the programme broadcast allegations about his spending.

Goldsmith complained that he was treated unfairly in the programmes, on July 15 and July 16 last year, but Ofcom rejected his complaint.

Today the Channel 4 News presenter said in a message on the Twitter micro-blogging network after the ruling: “Ofcom find against Zac Goldsmith on every single count of his complaint against myself and C4 News. Is an apology in the post from the MP?”

Goldsmith said in a statement: “Despite eight months of deliberation, Ofcom has entirely missed the point of my complaint.

“Given some of its recent judgments, I assume I am not alone in being puzzled by its workings. What matters is that Channel 4’s allegations about my general election campaign expenditure were dismissed by the Electoral Commission.”

Ofcom found that: “Goldsmith was given an appropriate and timely opportunity to respond to the allegations set out in the July 15 programme.

“Further, as the programme included Goldsmith’s agent’s response and a response from the Conservative Party, as well as his own interview with Sky News, the broadcast fairly presented his response to the allegations.”

It added: “The programme did not imply that Goldsmith had chosen not to be interviewed by Channel 4.”

Material facts relating to his opportunity to respond were presented fairly in both programmes, it said.

The Electoral Commission announced last December that Goldsmith would not be reported to police over allegations related to his election spending.

The Commission said it was concerned about the way the Conservative MP’s team filled out spending returns for his successful bid to win the Richmond Park seat in the May general election.

Goldsmith may have under-reported his spending in the final weeks before polling day – the so-called “short campaign” – by at least £1,185, which would have resulted in an overspend of £966 during this period, said the Commission.

But it found that even if this were the case, his overall spending came in well under the £39,856 total permitted during the short and long campaigns.

Jim Gray, editor of Channel 4 News said in a statement today: “We have always maintained that our investigation into Mr Goldsmith’s election spending, and our dealings with him throughout have been absolutely fair and balanced – so it is pleasing to see Ofcom’s research into his complaints reach the same conclusions.

“When you commit to asking awkward questions you accept that your findings may provoke criticism – so we welcome Ofcom’s thorough handling of the complaints, and their vindication of our journalism. At the centre of all of this remain important questions about the clarity and enforcement of campaign spending limits.”

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