The campaign group behind the GB News advertising boycott is called in to see a government regulator and will be “watched” over allegations that it violated company laws by engaging in “political activity”.
Directors of Stop Funding Hate, which is registered as a community interest company (CIC), are called to a meeting with regulator CIC over allegations that it has participated in a political campaign.
The move comes after ten Tory MPs called for an investigation into the group, which they say advocates a “culture of cancellation” by pressuring companies to remove ads from the new broadcaster and several newspapers in the UK. sensation.
A CIC is a type of cabinet intended to “benefit the community”. The structure is designed to make it easier for groups to attract charitable donations, but CICs should not be set up “for political purposes” and any political activity “should be closely linked to non-political community interest activities that are not to be found in the community. ‘they are supposed to get through. outside.”
Responding to the MPs’ complaint, Louise Smyth, CIC’s regulator, said the company’s activities did not violate existing regulations.
But she added: âGiven the concerns you have raised on behalf of your constituents under the above regulations, I will contact the directors of Stop Funding Hate and request a meeting to further discuss this matter.
“I will seek reassurance that the company will continue to operate in the spirit of the original CIC vision.”
Ms Smyth added: “I take any violation of CIC regulations seriously. Due to the concerns you have raised, I have asked my team to monitor the situation and in the event of any violation of CIC law, I do not. ‘will not hesitate to act accordingly. “
“An affront to democracy”
Brendan Clarke-Smith, one of the signatories of the letter to Ms Smyth, and a member of the Conservative MPs common sense group said: âIt is a relief that the regulator has recognized our concerns and asked for a meeting with the directors of Stop Funding Hate to discuss further.
“The actions of this group and its attacks on free speech are not only an affront to democracy, but have undermined the confidence that many people might have had in community-based companies – most of which do so. so important work.
âMinisters should now work to strengthen existing regulations to ensure that in the future these marginalized groups are not able to exploit loopholes in this cynical manner. “
In letters to Ms. Smith and Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, last month, Conservative backbenchers said Stop Funding Hate “exploits the prestige of CIC status and privileged access for CIC has many taxpayer money grants. , for overtly political means. “
In June, it emerged that the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust had donated Â£ 50,000 to Stop Funding Hate.
The association said the sum was a “restricted grant” for a project “to encourage responsible media through a code of ethical advertising”, adding that it takes “great care in the granting of our grants and that we perform detailed due diligence and monitoring. “
The official guidelines state that a CIC may “engage in political activities if its engagement can reasonably be regarded as incidental to activities which a reasonable person might consider to be carried out for the benefit of the community and which are not themselves. same accessories to political activities. For example, a CIC that uses a community center for activities that benefit the local population, may be able to lobby the local government for a grant to improve the facilities available in the building.
Stop Funding Hate describes itself as a “community campaign” of which “the community of supporters includes people from across British society, united in a common commitment to overcome hatred and fight all forms of discrimination”. Its aim is to “make hate unprofitable”.
But, in their letters, MPs said: âRather than standing up for one group in society, Stop Funding Hate does exactly the opposite of what CICs are allowed to do. They proactively defend one group in society, namely the hundreds of thousands of people who listen to GB News every day, and the 60 percent of the population who don’t want to see brands commit to canceling. the culture of boycotting TV channels. “