GB News: The controversial lead up to the UK’s ‘disrupter’ news channel

The news channel has been hit with criticism over impartiality and calls for advertising boycotts.

Despite not officially launching until Sunday 13th June, GB News has already gathered its fair share of headlines since the news channel was announced last year.

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

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

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

“I’m doing it because I believe the direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people.

“I believe our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern and too middle-class.”

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

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

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

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

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


Several news outlets expressed the view that GB News was leading the “Foxification” of UK media, referencing the American 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 newly announced GB News and News UK.

She wrote: “Imagine being the country that has watched the last four years unfold in the US, with its bloodlines so easily traceable to the Fox sensibility, and is nonetheless thinking: let’s have a bit of that.”

Hyde also referred to both UK news broadcasters as “anti-impartiality channels”.

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

He wrote: “GB News will be staunchly independent. That is our point. Our investors know this, our journalists will know it and so will our viewers. We aim to serve British communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream television media, especially outside London.

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

“We are absolutely committed to our mission to report news in the most accurate and balanced way we can.”

Frangopoulos also referenced broadcasting watchdog Ofcom’s impartiality rules, which he said “do not allow a biased news station in this country.”

Section 5 of the Ofcom broadcasting code calls for programmes to have “due impartiality” but also states that this “does not mean an equal division of time has to be given to every view, or that every argument and every facet of every argument has to be represented.”

The code would therefore allow a channel to employ journalists who all had the same political leanings, as long as they invited guests on to represent the opposing view.

Advertising Boycott

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

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

Neil responded to the campaign in a tweet, saying: “The woke warriors trying to stir up an advertising boycott of GB News, a channel that hasn’t even started broadcasting, are hilarious.”

Stop Funding Hate have led campaigns against the Daily Mail, the Sun, and the Express, which have led to meetings with the activist group.

The self-proclaimed “outsider”

On 30th May, The Independent published a profile of Andrew Neil with the headline “Andrew Neil: The ‘outsider’ who has vowed to take on the TV establishment”.

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

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

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

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

Alexandra Warren is a freelance journalist

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

Comments are closed.