Ofcom has rejected a complaint from the Conservative Party about the Channel 4 News climate debate, which used an ice sculpture to represent Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he refused to take part.
The broadcast regulator received 124 complaints about the hour-long leaders’ debate that aired on Thursday last week without the Tory or Brexit Party leaders, including one from Johnson’s chief spinner Lee Cain.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove attempted to join the debate, turning up at the ITN studios in London prior to it going live at 7pm in a last ditch effort that was shared on social media, but was turned away.
Channel 4 said the Labour, Lib Dem, SNP, Green and Plaid Cymru leaders refused the Tory cabinet minister and that the programme had always been billed as a leaders’ debate.
Ofcom said that despite the lack of a Conservative voice, Channel 4’s “use of editorial techniques ensured the [party’s] viewpoint on climate and environmental issues was adequately reflected and given due weight”.
The regulator’s Election Committee said it also took into account the fact that the ice sculpture, which showed an image of the globe with the party’s branding, “was not a representation of the Prime Minister personally”.
It added: “… little editorial focus was given to it, either visually or in references made by the presenter or debate participants.”
Ofcom said the programme therefore did not raise issues warranting further investigation under due impartiality and election rules.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was also represented by an ice sculpture on the programme after rejecting an invitation to take part.
Channel 4 said the ice sculptures represented “the emergency on planet earth”.
These two ice sculptures – which represent the emergency on planet earth – will take the place of Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage tonight after they declined our invitation to attend a party leaders' #ClimateDebate
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) November 28, 2019
The stunt was the latest in an increasingly bitter dispute between Channel 4 and Johnson who has repeatedly snubbed it this year.
A Channel 4 spokesperson said: “We welcome the Ofcom Election Committee’s conclusion that the Channel 4 News Climate Debate did not raise issues warranting investigation under the Broadcasting Code.
“We’re pleased that the committee noted in the decision that Channel 4 had given due weight to the viewpoint of the Conservative Party on climate change and environmental policy.”
Picture: Channel 4 News/Youtube