Ofcom’s bizarre ruling for James O’Brien is a boon to smear campaigns and conspiracy theorists


Energy and Environment
Energy and Environment
Having taken nearly 500 days to conduct a 90 day complaints process, Britain’s media regulator OFCOM ruled that it was not a breach of the Broadcasters Code for LBC presenter James O’Brien to make untrue statements about the IEA.

O’Brien dedicated a part of two of his shows to fringe conspiracy theories, without researching alternative views or giving the IEA a right to reply. In fact he made it clear no such right would be offered given his own political bias against the organisation. He had further previously no-platformed another think tank spokesperson live on air to underline this point. These are clear breaches of the Broadcasters Code, at least under a reasonable person test.

When compelled to give a grudging right to reply by his employer, long after the items had been broadcast he issued a partial retraction. The IEA decided to test whether this was adequate, and whether concerns of bias in Ofcom among other regulators (at the time), would be proven well founded. IEA authors tend to the view that both Ofcom and the Broadcasters Code are unnecessary, but if they exist those rules should be applied even-handedly.

Ofcom’s response to this was to ignore both the evidence of no-platforming and failure to seek comment from the IEA, to focus instead on whether the conspiracy theory broadcast might have been reasonable, based solely on evidence gathered by the conspiracy theorist. This included a regulatory sanction applied to the IEA at the time, which was later overturned, in part due to evidence of political bias and incompetence on the part of the regulator. It included ignoring another regulator’s ruling in favour of the IEA that found no merit in the exact same conspiracy theory being peddled.

At one level the IEA welcomes the ruling. The defence of freedom of expression for a broadcaster’s right to be biased and incompetent will ensure a livelier media landscape, if not a more accurate one. O’Brien and his fellow no platform campaigners can now have no reasonable complaint that Britain’s media rules require perfect balance, or indeed basic competence. If a broadcaster intends to make a point based on something they read on twitter, without checking the facts with the target, that’s entirely permitted by Ofcom.

That is at one level a win for the free society, albeit a nuisance for the IEA to deal once again with an incompetent state regulator fanning the delusions of conspiracy theorists peddling smear campaigns.

For those interested in the case, you can find the key documents here:

49 thoughts on “Ofcom’s bizarre ruling for James O’Brien is a boon to smear campaigns and conspiracy theorists”

  1. Posted 09/08/2021 at 21:47 | Permalink

    So where does your funding come from?

  2. Posted 09/08/2021 at 21:58 | Permalink

    You lost, get over it 😉 Never heard such sour grapes from a bad loser in my life.
    And all of the things you are whining about were dealt with in depth in the OFCOM judgement, which I’d urge people to read. It really does rip your arguments to shreds, and supports claims that you really are a dubious political lobby group for the hard right.
    Who funds you by the way? If you were transparent about that people could make a fair assessment of you. While you don’t it’s reasonable to assume the worst, and to link your opposition to action on climate change is ultimately linked to receipt of funding somewhere from fossil fuel interests.
    Publish your accounts and reveal your funders if you’d like to clear that up 🙂

  3. Posted 09/08/2021 at 22:11 | Permalink

    Who does fund you and why do they do it?

  4. Posted 09/08/2021 at 22:12 | Permalink

    You refuse to disclose who funds you. Why not just say who does, so we can judge your impartiality?

  5. Posted 09/08/2021 at 22:25 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

  6. Posted 09/08/2021 at 22:38 | Permalink

    This is contradictory bollocks. And it IS bollocks.
    You’re a dangerous fringe organisation.

  7. Posted 09/08/2021 at 22:43 | Permalink

    When are the Charity Commission going to investigate this cabal of dark money?
    Why is there no transparency from the libertarian halls of Tufton Street and why is all your “research” so biased and leaning towards the far-right?

  8. Posted 10/08/2021 at 00:26 | Permalink

    Who funds you though? It’s a very simple question. #Herberts.

  9. Posted 10/08/2021 at 00:47 | Permalink

    Talking of facts – who does fund you? I think that is the basis here. Knowing your backers this transparency will help everyone decide. At the moment you appear to be secretive and claim charity (?) status. More openness please that’s what free open democracies thrive on.

  10. Posted 10/08/2021 at 00:56 | Permalink

    Utter rubbish. Just release details of your funders if there’s no problem. You are a right wing capitalist think tank given way more credibility than you ever should have. The Tax Payers Alliance is the same model. None of you advocate for ordinary people, you advocate for the rich. James was absolutely correct and you know full well he would have had you on the show. He has anyone one. You loved to use his joke as a way of pretending you had no invite. In reality you know you couldn’t go on the show as everything he said was right. I hope your Brexit is helping your ‘free market’ – well, of course it’s all about helping big businesses and trampling over SME’s. Not sure how you sleep at night.

  11. Posted 10/08/2021 at 03:01 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

  12. Posted 10/08/2021 at 06:06 | Permalink

    No facts.

    Just transparent word salad.

    Shameful, pitiful leeches on our society.

    Thank goodness the views that you “tend to” are so painfully flawed, the system will quash you.

  13. Posted 10/08/2021 at 06:14 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

  14. Posted 10/08/2021 at 06:34 | Permalink

    And yet you still haven’t addressed the central point he made… Who funds you?

  15. Posted 10/08/2021 at 07:32 | Permalink

    A Herbert wrote this, right?

  16. Posted 10/08/2021 at 07:48 | Permalink

    ….. so who funds you then?

  17. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:03 | Permalink

    Mr O’Brien clearly gave you a right of reply as long as you declared who funds you. You are not transparent so it is unclear who have vested interests when trying to influence government policy.

  18. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:21 | Permalink

    Don’t try to gaslight us.

  19. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:22 | Permalink

    You’re hilarious. Even in your FAQs you hide behind insult rather than being honest about where your funding comes from. You are a disgrace to broadcasting and a disgrace to this nation. You have enjoyed unfettered access to public discourse for far too long, being a mouthpiece for those who fund you who prefer to remain anonymous. Here’s a thing – if you want to direct public discourse, only do so when the public can genuinely see what groups fund you so the public can genuinely make a decision on what you say. There is no point you arguing for NHS privatisation if, for instance, your funded by people who will make money from that. Be honest. Though that’s probably asking a bit much of your organisation.

  20. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:25 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

  21. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:32 | Permalink

    You lost, shame!

  22. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:33 | Permalink

    Either tell us who funds you, or shut up.

  23. Posted 10/08/2021 at 08:52 | Permalink

    As Corporal Jones once observed, “They don’t like it up ‘em”.

    So having lost an exhaustive enquiry into your nefarious affairs – and they have been ruled to be so – perhaps you’d help clear the air and publish a full list of members and funders.

    You won’t of course, because you are too craven. Too much to hide. Too dishonest.

  24. Posted 10/08/2021 at 09:01 | Permalink

    In order to show that there is a ‘conspiracy theory’ to which Mr O’Brien and others subscribe, it would strengthen your case infinitely if you cited some facts or evidence in your favour. That you have chosen not to speaks volumes.

  25. Posted 10/08/2021 at 09:05 | Permalink

    Surprising though agreeable that the state regulator did its job properly.

  26. Posted 10/08/2021 at 09:15 | Permalink

    You are ignoring the two big issues:
    1. As a charity you have to be non-party political: noone is forcing you to be a charity. You could simply forgo charitable status & publish your political starting points
    2. To earn trust & a public platform you need to be clear about your funders: just publish them. Why not?
    Think Nolan principles: most apply here – selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty, leadership

  27. Posted 10/08/2021 at 10:04 | Permalink

    So who funds you then?

  28. Posted 10/08/2021 at 10:08 | Permalink

    So who DOES fund the IEA? I’m still waiting to hear!

  29. Posted 10/08/2021 at 10:56 | Permalink

    So – who funds you?

  30. Posted 10/08/2021 at 11:44 | Permalink

    It’s funny how you keep climbing on your high horse while completely ignoring the central question that would do more than anything else to establish your credibility: “Who funds you?” It’s shocking that anybody gives you any platform on any subject without this being disclosed!
    I hope this country comes to its senses and mandates “charities” like you to either release this information or close shop. The current situation is completely untenable. You’ve done enough damage!

  31. Posted 10/08/2021 at 12:10 | Permalink

    Certainly looks like there is 1 question a lot of people would like answered. I assume it will not be forthcoming.

  32. Posted 10/08/2021 at 12:22 | Permalink

    Could you please draw a Venn diagram showing the intersection of groups representing your funders and that of Tory party donors? That way, at least you could claim you have the proxy backing of government.

  33. Posted 10/08/2021 at 13:04 | Permalink

    Not sure if anyone’s asked this, but who does actually fund you then?

  34. Posted 10/08/2021 at 13:35 | Permalink

    Why is the funding for the IEA hidden from the public?
    The IEA charitable status to tax dodge is a scam anyhow.
    Charities are for the public cause, the vulnerable, the poor.
    Not some puppet piece for plutocrats and their herberts in the Bullingdon club.

  35. Posted 10/08/2021 at 13:43 | Permalink

    I wonder if Dodgy Dave has anything to do with your charity!!!

  36. Posted 10/08/2021 at 14:41 | Permalink

    Do you have any lobbying jobs going? I need a few quid.

  37. Posted 10/08/2021 at 15:24 | Permalink

    All easily rebuked by telling the public who funds you.

  38. Posted 10/08/2021 at 18:14 | Permalink

    Where does your funding come from?

  39. Posted 10/08/2021 at 18:43 | Permalink

    Who funds you? Democracy relies on accountability.

  40. Posted 11/08/2021 at 00:18 | Permalink

    Sounds to me as if, having been found at fault, you blame the judge for not agreeing with your incorrect interpretation of the rules, and then restate your failed case.

    Perhaps you need extra undisclosed funding to sharpen up your act.

  41. Posted 11/08/2021 at 01:21 | Permalink

    Hissing and whining like a found out bully. Not a good look

    So, who DOES fund you?

  42. Posted 11/08/2021 at 10:10 | Permalink

    So tiresomely predictable leftist liberal establishment national organisation (supposedly impartial) rules in favour of tiresomely predictable leftist liberal establishment MSM organisation. Who would have guessed it?! I suggest you wake up a bit, (if you still can’t see the long march through virtually our entire national public life and all its arms and legs you never will) as it’s long since time somebody somewhere got even a semblance of a grip on these wretched imbeciles. I’d start using your influence a bit more wisely and forcefully.

    Regardless, the leftists can continue to snivel and sneer through their various establishment lies and wheezes but, thank heavens, the people were asked directly once what they thought and they gave a resounding boot in the baws to that lot and their long held plans by freeing us from the vile, corrupt, hated, warped, incompetent, hopeless EU. Wasn’t a moment too soon and has ruined the weirdos hopes, dreams and ambitions thank the Good Lord! They hate us for it and they hate you for it. You and us the people can take immense, almost immeasurable, pride, satisfaction and joy from that!

  43. Posted 11/08/2021 at 14:29 | Permalink

    Greetings IEA. You know there is an easy,transparent and essentially free market way of dealing with this. Just be open about who funds you . You’re more than welcome to these thoughts which were generated by my thinktank. Which is entirely funded by me, by the way.

  44. Posted 12/08/2021 at 01:46 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

    You ghouls have done so much damage to the UK.

    One day you will face justice.

  45. Posted 12/08/2021 at 15:28 | Permalink

    A man is known by the company he keeps… Let us know who are yours and we will then make our own judgment. Until then, shut up and go back to your dark chambers from where you design your twisted plots.

  46. Posted 13/08/2021 at 08:59 | Permalink

    IEA: Coud you set up an algorithm which reviews every post, looks for the words ‘you’, ‘who’ and ‘funds’, and then deletes those posts?

    I just like to see debate abt your ideas rather than this endless repitition of the same question.

  47. Posted 31/10/2022 at 06:24 | Permalink

    Who funds you?

  48. Posted 31/10/2022 at 07:40 | Permalink

    Who does fund the IEA? Please tell?

  49. Posted 31/10/2022 at 12:00 | Permalink

    Where does your money come from? Easy to answer, unless you are somehow scared of the subsequent outcomes.

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