Hogan Lovells secures High Court win for ITV against Liberal Democrats and SNP

LONDON, 22 November 2019 – The first televised debate of the General Election campaign went ahead this week after Hogan Lovells secured a significant Court win for ITV Broadcasting in two cases brought by The Liberal Democrat Party and The Scottish National Party.

The cases challenged the broadcaster’s decision to include a head-to-head debate between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in its special General Election coverage.

The Liberal Democrat Party and The Scottish National Party argued that the decision was “unlawful” because it breached impartiality requirements under the Broadcasting Code.

Reaching a swift decision, the High Court ruled in favour of ITV Broadcasting, Hogan Lovells’ client, on the grounds that, as a commercial broadcaster, it was not exercising a public function and therefore not subject to judicial review.

The Court rejected the Parties' complaints, holding that the format of the debate was an editorial matter for the broadcaster — and one that was "properly and reasonably open to ITV".

Presiding over the Court, Lord Justice Davis said: "The clear conclusion of both members of this court is that, viewed overall, these claims are not realistically arguable."

Leading ITV’s defence was Charles Brasted, partner and Head of Public Law and Policy at Hogan Lovells. He said: “We are delighted with the successful outcome for ITV. The Court made clear that there was no basis for disputing that ITV's editorial judgement was reasonable. Importantly, this case also provides legal clarity that such decisions are simply not matters for the Court. That is an important precedent for the broadcasting sector as a whole."

Kyla Mullins, General Counsel at ITV, said: “We were delighted by this result, delivered by what can only be described as a truly exceptional team of Charles Brasted and Kieron Beale QC.”

ITV was represented in Court by Kieron Beal QC (Blackstone Chambers) and Charles Brasted. The Hogan Lovells team advising ITV also included Andrew Eaton, Louis Biggs, Julia Marlow, Harry Balfour-Lynn, Telha Arshad and Megan Smith.

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