A complaint from the Conservatives over a melting ice sculpture used to represent Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a Channel 4 climate debate has been rejected, regulator Ofcom said.

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 party complained that the broadcaster failed to allow the former environment secretary Michael Gove to be its representative for the debate, which saw party leaders face questions over how they would tackle climate change.​

The regulator’s statement said: “Ofcom’s Election Committee has considered a complaint from the Conservative Party about The Channel 4 News Climate Debate.

The ice sculpture standing in as Boris Johnson during the debate (PA)

“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.”

An ice sculpture of the world with “Conservatives” written on it was placed on a podium in place of the Prime Minister, while another was used for Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who also snubbed the event.

An ice sculpture is put in place for Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the studio before the start of the Channel 4 News’ General Election climate debate. (PA)

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.”

The complaint came as Conservative sources were reported as saying that if the party wins the coming election, it will reassess Channel 4’s public service broadcasting licence. 

However, education secretary Gavin Williamson said the party have “no plans” to change the channel’s public service broadcasting role.

When the Prime Minister did not join the debate he was again accused of “running scared”, and instead Mr Gove turned up and asked if he could stand in for Mr Johnson, before being turned away because he is not a party leader.

Before the debate started, the editor of Channel 4 News, Ben de Pear, tweeted a picture of Mr Gove and the Prime Minister’s father Stanley Johnson, who were both at the studio.


After the programme, Mr de Pear said: “It was very kind of Michael Gove to offer himself to appear on Channel 4 News this evening, and we always welcome him on the programme.

“However, as we made clear to him repeatedly, because he is not the leader of the Conservative Party, his participation was not required at tonight’s #climatedebate – which was strictly for party leaders only.”

A letter from the Conservatives, addressed to Ofcom election committee chairman Tim Suter, said it offered Channel 4 the former environment secretary Mr 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.”



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