Ofcom dismisses Sky News 'Tory bias' complaint from Labour

PUBLISHED: 13:53 21 November 2019 | UPDATED: 13:55 21 November 2019

The Sky News branding for the general election. Photograph: Sky.

The Sky News branding for the general election. Photograph: Sky.

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The regulator for broadcasters has dismissed a complaint lodged by the Labour Party over Sky News' use of 'The Brexit Election' branding on-air.

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After claiming that the strapline gives the Tories an unfair advantage in the election by pandering to their agenda, Ofcom has now declared Sky News has the "freedom of expression" to use the phrase.

Labour said the news channel's branding represented "unnecessary and slanted editorialising".

In a letter to the broadcaster watchdog, Labour said: "We are requesting that Ofcom investigates Sky News for its corporate branding of the general election as 'The Brexit Election'.

"We believe it gives undue and unfair weight to the Conservative Party's political agenda because it frames the election in terms chosen by Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party, which is using Brexit in its campaign slogan.

"It is also, of course, the name being used by one of the political parties contesting seats in the election, which is seeking to form an electoral alliance with the Conservatives.

"If Sky had chosen the entirely reasonable branding of The Change Election, that could be argued to favour the Labour Party, which is using 'It's Time For Real Change'."

However after looking into the issue, Ofcom has declared the wording does not give a bias towards the Conservative Party.

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A spokesperson for the regulator said: "We considered that Brexit is an important background contextual factor which has been instrumental in shaping the debate within parliament in the weeks and months leading up to the general election," it said in a statement.

READ MORE: Study demonstrates newspapers' bias in favour of Tories during the election campaignREAD MORE: Labour claims Sky News is showing Tory bias with its election branding

"In addition, given that the current extension to the Article 50 process runs out on 31 January 2020, the issue of what happens next in terms of the UK's relationship with the EU will be determined by the election result and the make-up of the next parliament.

"Against this backdrop, we consider it a reasonable editorial judgment for Sky News to use the strapline 'The Brexit Election' to label its election programming.

"Further, we do not consider that the use of this strapline would in and of itself engage due impartiality considerations or indicate that Sky News is favouring any party or parties in the context of this particular election campaign."

A representative for Labour said Ofcom's decision was a "bewildering" one.

"It means Sky journalists will have to continue to report on an election about a wide range of issues under the banner of a single issue," they said.

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