Ofcom rejects Tories' complaint over Boris Johnson ice sculpture on Channel 4 climate debate
3 December 2019, 12:00 | Updated: 3 December 2019, 12:07
Ofcom has rejected a complaint from the Conservative Party over a melting ice sculpture which replaced Boris Johnson during a Channel 4 climate change debate.
The Tories lodged their complaint after an ice sculpture of the world with “Conservatives” written on it was placed on the Prime Minister’s podium when he decided not to attend.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was also replaced with one of the sculptures during the televised Emergency On Planet Earth debate last week.
Despite the Tories complaining, Ofcom said Channel 4 had “editorial freedom” in determining the debate’s format and said it “ensured that the Conservative’s viewpoint on climate and environmental issues was adequately reflected.”
An Ofcom statement said: "Ofcom's Election Committee has considered a complaint from the Conservative Party about The Channel 4 News Climate Debate.
"Broadcasters have editorial freedom in determining the format of any election debate.
“Depending on the circumstances, they may choose to proceed without having agreed the participation of a particular political party or politician, providing they take steps to ensure the programme complies with our due impartiality and elections rules.
"In this case, the Election Committee concluded that, across the one-hour debate and a subsequent news programme, Channel 4's use of editorial techniques ensured that the Conservative's viewpoint on climate and environmental issues was adequately reflected and given due weight."
Ofcom said the sculpture was not supposed to "personally" represent Mr Johnson and that little editorial focus was given to the object throughout the debate.
The statement added: "The Committee therefore considered that this programme, including the use of the ice sculpture, did not raise issues warranting further investigation under our due impartiality and elections rules."
In their original complaint to Ofcom Election Committee chairman Tim Suter, the Tories said they offered Channel 4 the former environment secretary Michael Gove to be the party’s representative for the debate.
“Channel 4 News has refused to accept this representative, and stated that they intend to ’empty chair’ the Conservative Party if the Prime Minister does not attend,” the letter said.
“This effectively seeks to deprive the Conservative Party of any representation and attendance at the Channel 4 News debate.
“It has even been reported that Channel 4 has commissioned an ice sculpture of the Prime Minister to represent the Conservative Party.
“Were this the case, this would represent a significant breach of the Code through such a provocative partisan stunt, which would itself constitute making a political opinion in its own right.”
Mr Gove turned up at the television studio with the Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson before the debate was due to kick off.
A Channel 4 spokesman said: "We welcome the Ofcom Election Committee's conclusion that the Channel 4 News Climate Debate did not raise issues warranting investigation under the Broadcasting Code.
"We're pleased that the Committee noted in the decision that Channel 4 had given due weight to the viewpoint of the Conservative Party on climate change and environmental policy."