Monday, 18 November 2019

High Court ~ permission refused to review ITV over Johnson / Corbyn TV debate

The High Court (Davis LJ and Warby J) has refused permission for the Liberal Democrat Party and the Scottish National Party to judicially review the decision of ITV Broadcasting Ltd to hold a televised TV debate, on Tuesday 19 November, between just two political party leaders - Boris Johnson (Prime Minister and Leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party) and Jeremy Corbyn (Leader of the Labour Party.  Mr Corbyn was also Leader of the Opposition in the 2017-19 Parliament.

The court's decision
may be read at  the Judiciary website and full reasons will follow.  It was held that:

(1)  In the present context, ITV has not been exercising a public function, in the sense
known to law, and accordingly is not amenable to judicial review; and (as a linked

(2) Having regard to the statutory scheme, the remedy available to the Liberal
Democrats and the SNP is by lodging a complaint with OFCOM, the specialist
regulatory body designated by statute to deal with complaints of such a kind. 

Although the court had ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter, the judges nonetheless noted:

(3) The decision to schedule [the debate] in this format was a matter for the
editorial judgment of ITV, which cannot be said to have displayed a want of due
impartiality for the purposes of the Broadcasting Code: especially in the light of
subsequent planned interviews, further debate and other programmes, which are
properly to be regarded as a series of “linked” programmes. No arguable breach of
the Broadcasting Code is shown. 

(4) The editorial judgment was, in public law terms, a judgment properly and
reasonably open to ITV. It did not take into account irrelevant or immaterial
factors or fail to take into account relevant or material factors; and the decision
cannot be regarded as irrational or perverse. That the Liberal Democrat Party and
the Scottish National Party strongly and sincerely disagree with that editorial
judgment gives rise to no valid objection in law.

(5) Article 3 of the 1st Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights has no
application in the context of the present case.

Viewed overall, these claims were not realistically arguable.


Complaints to Ofcom

Ofcom - Broadcasting Code

Ofcom is required under the Communications Act 2003 (as amended) ("the Act") and the Broadcasting Act 1996 (as amended) ("the 1996 Act") to draw up a code for television and radio, covering standards in programmes, sponsorship, product placement in television programmes, fairness and privacy. This Code is to be known as the Ofcom Broadcasting Code ("the Code").
Find out more about the legislative background to the Code.  Section 6 of the Code deals specifically with elections and referendums.

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