GB News’ ‘Don’t Kill Cash’ campaign has fallen foul of Ofcom after the UK broadcasting and telecommunications authority received a ‘number of complaints’.
The campaign, launched by the right-leaning news outlet in June 2023, focused around a petition calling for the UK government to protect the status of cash as a form of legal tender and payment until at least 2050.
A total of 310,072 people have signed the petition so far (as of 5 January 2023). The campaign argued that ‘vulnerable people are being left behind’ as the UK progresses towards a more cashless society.
The campaign explains: “More than five million adults still rely on cash in the UK and it’s used in six billion transactions every year, but there are strong vested interests pushing for it to be permanently replaced by debit and credit cards and other electronic payments.
“These cost you more in the long-run and enable third parties to track you and your spending.”
As with many countries, cashless adoption in the UK was accelerated significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to some concerns, with a September 2023 study showing that 71% of the public worry that elderly friends and family will be “cut off from society”.
However, ‘Don’t Kill Cash’ has clearly been poorly received by other segments of the UK general public, with Ofcom citing ‘a number of complaints’ leading to the opening of six investigations.
The UK Broadcasting Code, specifically Rules 5.4 and 5.5, require outlets to “exclude all expressions of the views and opinions of the person providing the service on matters of political or industrial controversy or current public policy”.
Ofcom emphasised that the investigation sought to determine whether GB News had complied with impartiality rules, and not probe the ‘merits of the campaign itself’.
However, the regulator concluded that the GB News-branded campaign was promoted by the outlet at a time of political sensitivity around cashless payments in the UK.
This was due to the campaign launching four days after the Financial Services and Markets Bill was given Royal Assent on 29 June 2023. As GB News’ campaign called for legislative change, this ‘represents an attempt to influence government policy’.
The outlet has therefore been found to have breached Rule 5.4 and Rule 5.5 of the Broadcasting Code, and GB News has been cautioned to “take careful account of this decision in its future programming”.
Ofcom’s statement explained: “Our investigation also found that, by promoting the GB News-branded campaign, the views and opinions of GB News Ltd – the person providing the service – on the matter of whether to mandate the acceptance of cash were expressed.
“Factors we took into account included that: GB News clearly endorsed the campaign; the QR code and messaging shown on-screen encouraged viewers to sign a GB News petition calling for legislative change; and the campaign was promoted across GB News programming.
“We also found that the programme failed to preserve due impartiality in its coverage of this matter, with only limited references to different perspectives.”