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GB News

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But GB News was playing for real; breakfast time is the battleground on which any new station must fight for ratings and we were assured it would be appointment television. Truthfully the only less palatable appointment I can imagine would be a root canal. Regardless of where you sat on the political spectrum this was unutterably awful; boring, repetitive and cheapskate.
—Judith Woods and Chris Bennion[1]

GB News is a British television news channel which launched on 13 June 2021.

In its presenter roster and announced features such as "Wokewatch", it appears set to lean heavily into culture wars and attack anything liberal or politically correct, and has been dubbed "anti-woke" by British media.[2] It promises to conform to British television rules on impartiality but there is widespread suspicion that it intends to offer some partisan right-wing programming.[3]

It was originally supposed to have been launching in competition with a similar, Rupert Murdoch-backed news TV channel, called News UK, but plans for that seem to have been delayed or cancelled.[4]

Note: the phrase GB (for Great Britain) traditionally refers to the island divided into Scotland, England, and Wales, but not to Northern Ireland, which is geographically part of Ireland but politically part of the UK (United Kingdom).[5] Nonetheless, GB News appears to be aiming to provide the full range of UK coverage.

Ownership and management[edit]

GB News was founded by Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider, businessmen who have close links to John C. Malone'sWikipedia Liberty media empire (which in the UK also owns Virgin Media and 9.9% of ITV); Cole is a director of and on the board of Liberty Global.[6] The libertarian Malone is known for his support of right wing causes, including Donald Trump, to whom he donated in 2017, and the Cato Institute, whose board he has served on.[7][8]

Those investing money include:

  • Discovery, the TV group with links to Malone and Liberty.[9]
  • LegatumWikipedia, a private equity firm based in Dubai.[9] It has links to Legatum Institute, a right-wing think-tank based in Mayfair, London, which was a prominent advocate for a hard Brexit.[10]
  • Paul MarshallWikipedia, a hedge fund manager who formerly had links to the Lib Dems (in the right-wing, Orange Book faction), but supported Brexit and donated to Michael Gove's Conservative party leadership bid.[11][9] He also created right-wing opinion website UnHerd.[10]
  • Michael FarmerWikipedia, a commodities dealer and hedge fund manager who became a Tory peer and former Conservative party treasurer.[9]
  • Michael SpencerWikipedia, a City trader and another former Tory treasurer.[9]

Executives include the CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, formerly of Sky News Australia, and John McAndrew of the local Sky News.[6] McAndrew, the director of programming, had a long career in mainstream TV reporting including for Sky News and Euronews, but quit GB News in July 2021 after reported differences over editorial direction.[12]

It is headquartered in Paddington, London.[3]

According to Byline Times, "all of GB News' major shareholders are based outside of the UK".[13] It's unclear how its international ownership and London HQ square with promises to report on the whole of the UK and focus on British people's interests.[14]

Presenters[edit]

  • Andrew NeilWikipedia. The central figure on-screen, until recently a BBC presenter, and formerly editor of the Sunday Times and editor-in-chief of The European (RIP) and The Scotsman. He is reported to be presenting a nightly news program, with trolling segments entitled Wokewatch and Mediawatch.[3] Despite claims to be standing up for Britishness, Neil's primary residence is in France.[9][10]
  • Colin BrazierWikipedia, former Sky News presenter.[3]
  • Michelle DewberryWikipedia, former contestant on TV program The Apprentice.[3]
  • Andrew DoyleWikipedia, best known as satirical character Titania McGrath, is presenting a show.[14]
  • Simon McCoyWikipedia, former BBC newsreader with apparently a cult following for his sense of humour; he presents features including a token "good news" story.[15]
  • Neil OliverWikipedia, TV historian.[3] He has attracted controversy for his defence of historian David Starkey who has made a series of dubious comments about black people and British history that could be taken as racist, as well as Oliver's own opposition to Black Lives Matter protests.[16][17]
  • Gloria De PieroWikipedia, former Labour MP.[3]
  • Alastair StewartWikipedia, veteran newscaster with a long history on ITV.[3]
  • Alan SugarWikipedia, British businessman, TV presenter, and member of the House of Lords, who presented a show answering viewers' questions from a tent in his garden; The Guardian's TV reviewer noted that he "had nothing to declare but his ignorance".[14]
  • Dan WoottonWikipedia, former Sun showbiz editor.[3]
  • Guto HarriWikipedia, a journalist who later became Boris Johnson's spokesman as mayor of London and worked for Rupert Murdoch's News UK (owner of the Times and the Sun). He was taken off air on 16 July 2021 after expressing opposition to the racist abuse of black English footballers; he "took the knee" in solidarity and was vilified by viewers.[12]
  • Nigel Farage[18][19]

It has reportedly tried and failed to hire Nick FerrariWikipedia, a broadcaster and journalist best known for his controversial show on LBC radio in London on which he has interviewed many senior politicians.[14]

Two weeks after the channel launched, Neil announced he would step down from the main evening bulletin and be replaced by Colin Brazier.[20]

Themes[edit]

Anti-lockdown[edit]

Several presenters were critical of the lockdown against COVID-19, including Dan Wootton accusing Britain of being a "bio-security state copying China".[14] Wootton claimed lockdowns "have caused far more deaths and devastation than the government has ever admitted", although opinion polls show the British public generally supports lockdowns.[21]

Defence of people who have sex with underage girls[edit]

Lady Colin Campbell (a posh British woman who has made a career as an expert on posh people) appeared on the channel to discuss Prince Andrew and his friendship with sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. She sophistically argued that Epstein wasn't a paedophile but an ephebophile and claimed that Andrew was scapegoated to protect other clients with friends in higher places (higher than Buckingham Palace).[22]

Opposition to wokeness and political correctness[edit]

It has from the start made its (partly imaginary) enemy the forces of wokeness, formerly known as political correctness, with features such as Neil's Wokewatch.[10] had a focus on the idea that the police are more occupied in arresting people on Twitter and policing language than they are in tackling other crime.[23] One example is the criticism of sportspeople "taking the knee" as a protest against racism; this is part of a wider attempt to paint Black Lives Matter as dangerous extremists, but ignores the generally positive public sentiment towards Black Lives Matter.[13] This reached a new crisis in July 2021 after England's association football team lost the European Cup final and several black players were subject to racial abuse. Some on the station, notably Guto Harri, supported the players, but after Harri "took the knee" in solidarity, he was abused online by viewers and the station denounced his action as "unacceptable", with Harri being taken off air in response to the uproar from racist viewers.[12]

Climate change "skepticism"[edit]

Although it doesn't seem to have launched into all-out climate change denialism, GB News has suggested that the COVID lockdown was the result of secret environmentalist conspiracy by the British government to try and reduce emissions.[23] This ties in with a common right-wing conspiracy theory that environmentalism is all about the government imposing arbitrary controls on the population, because that's what evil big government does.

Criticism[edit]

Stop Funding Hate[edit]

Anti-racism group Stop Funding Hate (no relation of Hope not Hate) has been campaigning to try and stop companies advertising with GB News, after previous campaigns against newspapers publishing lies about immigrants and refugees.[24]

TV critics[edit]

The Guardian was critical of the quality of the programs, noting that its supposed commitment to covering all Britain's regions was limited to some PR puffery about regional airports. Their critic judged that it lacked the personnel to generate sufficient controversy to attract viewers, as well as being frequently rather dull.[14]

In contrast, the Daily Telegraph praised its first night, despite noting that the "sound was often out of sync, one presenter suffered a microphone failure, Sir Alan Sugar disappeared one word into his interview and the sets looked as if they had been hastily cobbled together", calling the opening segment "vaguely North Korean", and criticising Wootton's lack of authority and trustworthiness. That was night one; the breakfast show was "unutterably awful; boring, repetitive and cheapskate."[1]

Its first night ratings peaked at 336,000, a lot more than other rolling news channels, but much lower than the main channels and their news broadcasts.[9] 52% of viewers were aged 65 or over, and 82% were from the ABC1 socio-economic groups (white-collar and professional).[9]

However, after only a few weeks by the end of June, the viewing figures have completely fallen off with the average viewership reaching 25 000, which in television circles is virtually zero.

Not to be confused with...[edit]

Henry Bolton of UKIP founded an online thing called GB TV, but it has only put 3 videos online; this has nothing to do with GB News.[6]

See Also[edit]

  • Fox News Which they deny being the British version of

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Judith Woods and Chris Bennion, GB News launch, review: message comes through loud and clear – but the breakfast show bombs. Archived from The Telegraph, 14 June 2021.
  2. GB News: Runners and riders to become faces of new ‘anti-woke’ TV channel, from Dan Wootton to Rosie Wright, i News, April 27, 2021
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 GB News in-depth briefing: International expansion and DAB radio launch planned, Press Gazette
  4. Rupert Murdoch's News UK TV channel given approval to launch, The Guardian, 1 Dec 2020
  5. What’s the Difference Between Great Britain and the United Kingdom?, John M Cunningham, Britannica online
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Owner of Andrew Neil’s GB News in Awkward Conflict of Interest, Byline Times, 28 September 2020
  7. Here are Colorado's biggest donors to Trump's inauguration, BizJournals, 19 April 2017
  8. About Us, Cable Center
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 GB News launch gains more viewers than BBC or Sky news channels, The Guardian, 14 June 2021
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Andrew Neil: GB News, my war on woke and the problem with Piers Morgan, Evening Standard, 8 June 2021
  11. A Millionaire Who Funded Brexit Made a Killing as Carillion Crashed, Vice, 24 Jan 2018
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 GB News in crisis as exec quits and presenter is pulled for ‘taking the knee’, The Guardian, 16 July 2021
  13. 13.0 13.1 When Truth Matters More: The Case for Scrutinising GB News, Sam Bright, Byline Times, 14 June 2021
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 GB News review – Andrew Neil’s alternative BBC? Utterly deadly stuff, Stuart Jeffries, The Guardian, 13 June 2021
  15. GB News: What’s on ‘anti-woke TV’? Full launch schedule and presenters for Andrew Neil’s new channel, i News, June 13, 2021
  16. Neil Oliver declares love for 'racist' historian David Starkey, The National, 2 July 2020
  17. BBC's Neil Oliver interview on racist statues draws criticism, The National, 13 June 2020
  18. GB News turns to Nigel Farage as its saviour after ratings freefall The Guardian 17 July 2021
  19. Struggling channel GB News hires Nigel Farage to host show Associated Press News 17 July 2021
  20. GB News boss Andrew Neil takes leave from channel just two weeks after launch, The Mirror, 24 Jun 2021
  21. Susanna Reid questions GB News’ stance after show brands lockdowns a ‘crude measure’, The Metro, 14 June 2021
  22. ‘Epstein Wasn’t a Pedophile:’ How British Fox News Copycat’s Launch Turned Into a Disaster, The Daily Beast, 16 June 2021
  23. 23.0 23.1 GB News is no joke, despite the risible start, Nesrine Malik, The Guardian, 21 June 2021
  24. Andrew Neil sets out anti 'woke' vision for GB News as channel faces campaign for advertising boycott, Press Gazette, 8 Feb 2021