GB News’ first week disasters: Guest claims Jeffrey Epstein ‘wasn’t a paedophile’ and advertisers flee

'While GB news has criticized the BBC for not being British enough, much of its funding comes from foreign sources.'

Correction 24th June: This article initially suggested that Legatum supported Brexit. Legatum have been in touch to clarify that they took no position on Brexit.  Another organisation, the Legatum Institute, a think tank which Legatum part-funds, has been described as ‘pro-Brexit’ in the past. We’re happy to update the record.

It claimed to be a ‘disrupter channel’, one that would challenge the status quo and shake up the media landscape, it has done just that, albeit for the wrong reasons.

The first week of GB news has been marked by hundreds of Ofcom complaints, advertisers fleeing and a guest claiming that Jeffrey Epstein wasn’t a paedophile, all of which have led to the channel being ruthlessly mocked online.

Immediately after its launch last Sunday, presenter Dan Wotton, former executive editor of the Sun, went on a monologue that slammed the expected delay to easing Covid restrictions in England, despite claims from scientists that easing restrictions too soon could lead to a third wave with the potential to overwhelm the National Health Service.

Despite the science, Wotton slammed politicians for ‘trying to create an ultra-cautious biosecurity state, copying the likes of China’. That diatribe led to 373 complaints to Ofcom.

Lady Colin Campbell then appeared on Wooton’s evening show later in the week to claim that Jeffrey Epstein was not a paedophile.

The royal biographer made the comments during a discussion about whether Prince Andrew had damaged the reputation of the Royal Family more than Prince Harry after the former had befriended Epstein.

She said: “Well, first of all, may I say, paedophile is a medical term.”

She claimed it wasn’t fair to call Epstein a paedophile because he tended to prey on teens, which she said actually made him an ‘ephebophile’.

That led to widespread condemnation on social media, with one user writing on Twitter: “Who had ‘To be fair to Epstein he wasn’t *technically* a paedophile’ in the GB News sweepstake?”

GB News has also been hit with an advertising boycott, with several brands pulling their advertising from the channel. The likes of Ikea, Kopparberg and Octopus Energy have withdrawn their adverts from the network after its launch.

Some had paused their advertising claiming that they did now know their adverts were running on the channel while Octopus said it would only advertise with GB News if it proved to be ‘genuinely balanced’.

Money Supermarket has also paused its advertising claiming that ‘because GB News is such a new channel, we need time to fully understand it’.

The progress of groups like Stop Funding Hate in getting advertisers to boycott GB news has caused a great deal of alarm among Conservative MPs and the Tory supporting press.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has warned that GB news boycotts ‘attack our free media’, urging big brands not to succumb to demands by pressure groups. Julian Knight MP, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Daily Mail it was the ‘worst type of cancel culture’.

While GB news has criticized the BBC for not being British enough, much of its funding comes from foreign sources. Discovery Inc is an $11 billion mass media company that operates the Discovery and Science channels, and is based in New York City.

It had previously pledged £60 million in initial start-up cash for the channel.

Legatum, a Dubai-based group founded by Christopher Chandler, a New Zealand-born billionaire, is also a lead investor.

All Perspectives Ltd, which was founded as the holding company of GB news, features eight officers and directors, half of whom don’t live in Britain, including chairman Andrew Neil who is listed as living in France. Others live in the UAE and the U.S.

So much for ‘GB News’.

Lady Colin Campbell told LFF: “It is most regrettable that the media ignores the fact that paedophile, hebephile and ephebophile are medical terms and that journalists persist in mislabelling Jeffrey Epstein as a paedophile when he was an ephebophile.  

“In my view, all responsible people have a duty to describe things accurately, and the media above all have a duty to report things accurately.  How else will the public obtain accurate information, and what can the justification be for the media to persist in mislabelling offenders, save to spare themselves the blushes of having got their facts wrong in the first instance?   

“Both paedophiles and ephebophiles are perverts, no right-thinking person would  support or defend their abuse of minors, and I consider it the height of irresponsibility for the media, which should be in the business of communicating accurate information to the public, to fudge the issue and then pretend that I, or anyone else, was in any way lessening the offences of an abuser of minors just because we  care enough for accuracy to affix the correct label to the offender. ” 

Basit Mahmood is co-editor of Left Foot Forward

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