GB News: The controversy that led to the ‘disruptive’ UK news channel


The news channel was criticized for its impartiality and called for an advertising boycott

Despite not officially launching until Sunday, June 13, GB News has already garnered its fair share of headlines since the news channel’s announcement last year.

The channel’s plans have been hit by accusations of impartiality, as well as mockery from Twitter users over the claim that President Andrew Neil is an “outsider” and a call for advertising partners to boycott.

Neil, who will also host a nightly news program with interviews, said in a Sunday Express column that the channel would be a “huge television shake-up.”

He wrote: “GB News is the new challenger of the established order, a disruptor and an upstart.

“I do this because I believe the leadership of the current affairs debate in Britain is increasingly alert and out of touch with the majority of its population.

“I believe our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern and too bourgeois.”

Neil’s evening show will contain segments called “Wokewatch” and “Mediawatch”.

Other presenters include Sky News reporter Colin Brazier, Telegraph columnist and former Channel 4 News business correspondent Liam Halligan, and Guido Fawkes senior reporter Tom Harwood.

The Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry will also host an evening show on the channel. Dewberry ran as an independent pro-Brexit candidate in 2017 and for the Brexit Party in 2019 in Hull.

The channel will begin broadcasting on Sunday at 8 p.m. with a special called “Welcome to GB News” and will be available to watch on Freeview, YouView, Sky, Virgin Media and Freesat.

GB News will also offer a streaming and on-demand service, but details have not yet been announced.

Anti-impartiality

Several news outlets have expressed the view that GB News is leading the “Foxification” of UK media, referring to Murdoch-owned news channel Fox News.

In her column in the Guardian in January, Marina Hyde said there would never have been a Trump presidency without Fox News.

She went to compare the American channel to the news GB News and News UK.

She wrote: “Imagine being the country that has seen the last four years unfold in the United States, with its bloodlines so easily traceable to Fox’s sensibility, and still thinks: let’s have a little of that.”

Hyde also called the two British news channels “anti-impartiality channels”.

In a letter to the Guardian in response to Hyde’s column, GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos called the claim “false” and “baseless”.

He wrote: “GB News will be resolutely independent. This is our point. Our investors know it, our journalists will know it and our viewers too. We aim to serve UK communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream TV media, especially outside London.

“We are proud to add plurality to British media by investing in journalism that will be as diverse and broad-minded as the British people themselves.

“We are absolutely committed to fulfilling our mission of reporting the news in the most accurate and balanced way possible.”

Frangopoulos also referred to Ofcom broadcast watchdog impartiality rules, which he said “do not allow a biased news station in this country.”

Article 5 of the Ofcom Broadcasting Code requires that programs have “due impartiality” but also states that this “does not mean that an equal distribution of time must be given to each point of view, or that each argument and every facet of every argument be represented.

The code would therefore allow a channel to employ journalists who all have the same political leanings, provided they invite guests to represent the opposite point of view.

Advertising boycott

Following media criticism of GB News, the company faced action from the online Stop Funding Hate campaign in February this year.

Hundreds of tweets were sent to brands urging them not to advertise with the channel, with the hashtag #DontFundGBNews.

Neil responded to the campaign in a tweet, saying, “The awakened warriors trying to trigger an advertising boycott of GB News, a channel that hasn’t even started airing, are hilarious.

Stop Funding Hate ran campaigns against the Daily Mail, The Sun and the Express, which led to meetings with the militant group.

The self-proclaimed “foreigner”

On May 30, The Independent published a profile of Andrew Neil with the headline “Andrew Neil: The Outsider Who Vowed To Tackle The TV Establishment.”

The article went on to say that Neil often described himself as an “outsider.”

This claim drew mockery from Twitter users, who used Neil’s former jobs to question whether he was an intruder in the media world.

Neil was editor of the Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994, as well as contributor to the Daily Mail and editor of The Economist’s section on Britain.

He was founding chairman of Sky TV and had a 25-year career with the BBC, which ended in 2020.

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist

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