Andrew Neil quits GB News: what next for the ‘Farage Channel’?
Veteran broadcaster presented only eight programmes for the floundering station
The face of GB News has announced his resignation just three months after masterminding the launch of the channel.
Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil left the BBC last year to become the chair and lead presenter of the right-leaning station, but hosted only eight programmes before announcing his resignation last night.
“I am sorry to go but I have concluded it’s time to reduce my commitments on a number of fronts,” he said in a statement. “Over the summer I’ve had time to reflect on my extensive portfolio of interests and decided it was time to cut back.”
He added: “I wish GB News well in continuing to fulfil its founding promise and mission to reach audiences currently underserved by existing news broadcasters.”
A statement from GB News said that Neil would continue to contribute “as a regular guest commentator” until early next year. He announced his resignation less than two hours before making his debut as a pundit on Nigel Farage’s nightly 7pm show on the channel.
Neil “said he would remain as a twice-weekly contributor” to Farage’s show, The Guardian reported, the but “did not discuss his departure from GB News” .
Ironically, twice-weekly appearances would represent a major uptick in those put in my Neil so far. Following the June launch, he was on air for less than two weeks before announcing that he was taking a break.
“To go on a summer holiday after just eight programmes naturally attracted attention, and when that holiday continued for more than two months, it was clear something was going on,” said the BBC’s media and arts correspondent David Sillito.
The terms of Neil’s departure from the channel are unknown, but “multiple GB News sources claim the process was the subject of lengthy legal wrangling after the breakdown in his relationship with the station’s chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos”, according to The Guardian.
The Times reported that their relationship “soured dramatically” after the “calamitous” launch, was marred by technical difficulties.
Neil’s departure has fuelled speculation about the future of the floundering channel, which “has struggled in the ratings, with some programmes registering as having zero viewers”, added The Guardian.
Three senior GB News producers reportedly quit last week, and insiders claimed that other “senior members of staff were now considering their positions following Mr Neil’s exit”, said The Telegraph.
The 72-year-old journalist is believed to have played a key role in recruiting other noted TV personalities including Simon McCoy and Kirsty Gallacher to the channel ahead of its launch.
Newsroom sources told The Times that former BBC News anchor McCoy had been “openly unhappy” about the increasingly populist direction of GB News, “and its persistent technical problems and errors”. Former Sky Sports News presenter Gallacher is also said to have grown frustrated.
And the station is expected to swing further to the right following the departure of Neil. “Sensationalist voices” including Ann Widdecombe and Martin Daubney, both former Brexit Party politicians, are “poised” to join the station, said The Times. A source told the paper: “The idea that we aren’t Fox News is increasingly laughable.”
Piers Morgan, who left his role as a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain in March, is believed to have been offered a seven-figure deal to join too, but is reportedly “still considering his options”.
For now, former Brexit Party leader Farage - who was hired by the channel in July in the hope of reversing its plummeting viewing figures - is continuing to draw GB News’s biggest audience.
“GB News is now Farage News, and not in a good way. It’s unwatchable,” wrote Sean O’Grady in The Independent following Neil’s resignation announcement.
“I can’t say I blame Neil for getting out,” O'Grady added. “He used to be editor of The Sunday Times, for God’s sake. I have no doubt he’d not want to spend the rest of his professional life playing second fiddle to Nigel Farage.”