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Mon 6 December 2021

The controversial new platform has been backed by two Tory grandees, reports Sam Bright

Two Conservative Lords – who formerly served as treasurers of the Conservative Party – own shares in the controversial new TV network GB News.

As revealed by journalist Henry Dyer, Lord Michael Spencer of Alresford is listed as a shareholder in All Perspectives Limited – the firm that owns GB News.

Byline Times can further reveal that Lord Michael Farmer similarly hold shares in All Perspectives Limited.

Each has a shareholding in the company worth more than £50,000, thus requiring a declaration in their register of interests.

The treasurer is one of the most senior positions in the Conservative Party – responsible for party fundraising. Lord Spencer held the role from 2007 to 2010; and Lord Farmer from 2011 to 2015.

Both men are prolific Conservative donors, with Lord Farmer having donated £530,000 to the party since the beginning of 2019. His son, George, was one of the founding figures in Turning Point UK – the controversial off-shoot of the pro-Donald Trump American student activist organisation.

Lord Spencer is the chairman of the right-wing think-tank, the Centre for Policy Studies. Until very recently, he sat on its board alongside Richard Sharp – a Conservative Party donor who has now been appointed as the chairman of the BBC.

Despite not having launched yet, GB News has already attracted scrutiny both for its ethos and ownership.

As revealed by Byline Times, the parties with significant control of All Perspectives Limited are all based or owned outside the UK – three in the United Arab Emirates; and one in America via its parent company. Half of the company’s directors also do not live in the UK – including former BBC presenter Andrew Neil, who is the face of the network and lives in France.

This is particularly ironic given that GB News has couched its image on notions of patriotism – claiming that it will provide an alternative to other television networks that allegedly attempt to discredit Britain.

Broadcasters in the UK are governed by relatively strict impartiality rules – compared to newspapers – with Ofcom guidelines stating that “due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy and matters relating to current public policy must be preserved”.

It is unclear how GB News will conform to these requirements. For example, as revealed by Byline Times, one of the founders of GB News has suggested that the platform may campaign against MPs, Lords and officials who opposed Brexit.

Having senior Conservative figures as part owners in GB News will not dispel any impartiality concerns.

GB News is set to launch on 13 June. Byline Times contacted Lord Michael Farmer, Lord Michael Spencer and GB News for comment.

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