Everything we know so far about GB News
Andrew Neil plans broadcasting ‘shake-up’ as head of the UK’s latest news channel
Critics are sharpening their pens ahead of the arrival of the biggest news channel launched in the UK since Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News began broadcasting in 1989.
The highly anticipated GB News has already attracted widespread speculation - and a fair amount of criticism too - even though no official launch date has been announced yet. But with the new channel expected to go on air at the end of this month, excitement is building.
What is GB News?
The channel will offer a mixture of news updates, opinion and debate and is being fronted by Andrew Neil, formerly the BBC’s top political interrogator and chair of right-wing political magazine The Spectator.
Following “a drive in recent months to poach presenters from rival broadcasters”, says The Times, Neil will be joined by big-name journalists including veteran ITV anchor Alastair Stewart, former talkRADIO host Dan Wootton and ex-Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher as the hosts of what has been described as “news-based programmes”.
The planned focus on opinion and debate could well give the channel a competitive edge over major broadcasters such Sky News and the BBC, which already have the rolling-news market “sewn up”, says the i news site’s media correspondent Adam Sherwin. And that seems like an especially smart move, given that “aside from a Covid-induced spike in viewers”, public appetite for rolling news is “declining”, Sherwin adds.
GB News might have faced fierce competition in the shape of News UK TV, a “Fox News-style” news channel that was to be launched by media mogul Murdoch. But plans for the rival channel have been “drastically scaled back” after Murdoch’s media company, which publishes The Times and The Sun, concluded that it was not “financially viable”, according to The Guardian.
Neil has no such fears about his new channel, which he says will shake up the traditional broadcasting media establishment by targeting the “vast number of British people who feel undeserved and unheard by their media”.
GB News will be “the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years”, Neil has claimed, as a channel offering “robust, balanced debate” that provides “a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area”.
The new launch is expected to be viewed by up to 96% of the British public, and will air on Freeview channel 236, Freesat channel 216, Sky, Virgin Media and YouView, alongside a dedicated on-demand streaming service.
A UK version of Fox News?
GB News is expected to be right-leaning and to adopt a format similar to those of US channels such as MSNBC and Fox News.
The British newcomer aims to fill a gap in the market for “what the US channels do - programming built around strong presenters, which becomes an appointment to view”, Neil told Good Morning Britain last year.
Setting out the channel’s ethos in more detail in an article published in The Sunday Express in February, the Paisley-born journalist argued that “the direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people”.
“Some journalists and commentators seem too confident that their liberal-left assumptions must surely be shared by every sensible person in the land,” he wrote. “But many of those same sensible people are fed up.”
GB News, Neil said, “is aimed squarely at those people”.
Senior executives at the new channel are keen to distance themselves from any suggestion the programme will attempt to replicate Fox News, however, not least because of the need to comply with Ofcom broadcasting rules.
The new UK channel will not be “shouty, divisive television”, said GB News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos, adding: “Fox News would not work in the UK and that’s definitely what we are not doing.”
Another “senior figure at the channel” told The Times that market research by GB News had found that UK audiences are “exhausted by polarising debate.
So “people expecting angry, horrible, hateful TV” from the new launch “will be disappointed”, the unnamed source continued. “Our presenters will have the freedom to call it as they see it and say what they are thinking but the style will be quite warm and embracing.
“Comparisons with Fox really are erroneous, not least because Ofcom won’t allow it.”
Under the watchdog’s impartiality regulations, “alternative viewpoints must be adequately represented either in the programme, or in a series of programmes taken as a whole”.
But despite those rules, some campaigners are anxious about the new channel, with the Stop Funding Hate already calling for an advertising boycott of GB News.
The campaign group tries to persuade advertisers to pull their support from media outlets accused of spreading “hate and division”, and argues that Britons must “reject ‘Fox style’ media standards”.
The intervention could potentially cause major headaches for GB News bosses. Newspapers on the receiving end of previous Stop Funding Hate campaigns - which have included the Daily Express, Mail and The Sun - “have been rattled enough by its impact on advertisers” to meet with the group’s representatives, reports Press Gazette.
Britain’s latest TV channel was initially slated to launch in March, but viewers are still waiting. However, The Telegraph reported earlier this month that Neil’s new operation would go 31 May.
GB News will begin “broadcasting showreels of its presenters” on the 27 May, with live programming beginning at the end of the month, according to the paper.
In response, a GB News spokesperson said the timing of the launch of live programming had not been decided, and would not be “for some time, possibly weeks”.
“The only confirmed dates are related to technical launches,” the spokesperson added.
GB News has offered a sneak peak of its new studios, however. In a video tour posted online, presenter Rosie Wright shows off the channel’s headquarters, in Paddington, London, as construction continues amid rehearsals ahead of the launch.
Neil has bagged a series of high-profile names after vowing to hire presenters with “a bit of edge, a bit of attitude, bit of personality”.
Simon McCoy, who spent almost 18 years at the BBC, and Colin Brazier, formerly of Sky News, are among the anchors joining Neil, who will host a daily news show in the evenings.
Former Guido Fawkes reporter Tom Harwood will be the channel’s political correspondent, while Reach’s head of video Rebecca Hutson will take up a role as head of digital and will also join the GB News on-air team.
GB News is also recruiting a team of regional reporters in order to achieve its mission of adding “non-metropolitan voices in the national conversation”.
Former Labour MP Gloria De Piero and ex-Brexit Party MEP Alexandra Phillips are joining the channel too.
And “Michelle Dewberry, who won The Apprentice in 2006 and stood as an independent pro-Brexit candidate for the Brexit Party in her hometown of Hull in 2017 and 2019, will present an evening show”, The Times reports.