TV watchdog Ofcom has rejected a complaint from the Conservative party over Channel 4's decision to empty chair Boris Johnson during its climate change leaders' debate and replace the absent Prime Minister with an ice sculpture.

The Tories complained the broadcaster should have allowed former environment secretary Michael Gove to stand in for the Prime Minister, despite Channel 4 repeatedly saying that the debate was for party leaders only. Both Mr Johnson and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage were replaced with the sculpture on the night.

The regulator rejected the Tories' complaint, while the Election Committee deemed the prop was "not a representation of the Prime Minister personally" and "little editorial focus was given to it" during the show.

Ofcom pointed out that "broadcasters have editorial freedom in determining the format of any election debate".

It also concluded that the channel had "adequately reflected and given due weight" to the Conservative Party's climate policies despite Mr Johnson not turning up.

A statement said: "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.

"The committee also took into account that the globe ice sculpture was not a representation of the Prime Minister personally, and little editorial focus was given to it, either visually or in references made by the presenter or debate participants.

"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."

Prime Minister Mr Johnson was invited to take part in the leaders' debate on climate change but refused to do so.

Instead Mr Gove turned up at the television studio - with the Prime Minister's father Stanley Johnson and a camera crew - before the debate was due to kick off, on Thursday.

He as not permitted to take to the stage because he is not a party leader and complained that the Tories were being blocked out of the debate.

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.

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."

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