Given its struggle to reach large TV ratings and prolonged advertising boycott, Farage’s comments about the channel, which pitches itself as an alternative to mainstream media, were immediately leapt on and ridiculed.
GB News celebrates its one-year anniversary this week. To mark the occasion, Nigel Farage, who hosts his own primetime show on the channel, tweeted:
“GB News launched a year ago today and is making great progress. British Broadcasting needed a shakeup, and that’s what we are doing.”
Advertisers pull out
In the same week of its launch on June 13, 2021, Ikea, Grolsch and Kopparberg suspended adverts on the station due to perceived conflict with their values. There were calls to boycott the brands advertising on the channel on the grounds of its aspirations to monetise divisive political issues and “push the boundaries of TV news regulations in the UK.”
Following the channel’s high-profile calamitous start, which, as well as the advertising boycott saw veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil resign after hosting just eight programmes, in July 2021, the station hired Nigel Farage as a presenter.
12 months later, the channel remains in troubled waters.
According to a review in the Press Gazette of GB News’ ratings one year on, the station is “still struggling to reach a large linear TV audience” and that GB News has “not yet managed to seriously challenge mainstream news channels on TV.”
An earlier report by Press Gazette, published in February 2022, cites figures by BARB – the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board – that show the channel continued to reach around 2.2 million people for an average of 19 seconds per day. The same report compares this to 15.9m for the BBC News Channel and 10.9m for Sky News, with average daily viewing of three minutes and one minute 39 seconds respectively – not exactly impressive viewing figures for a channel that pitches itself as an alternative to mainstream media.
As well as struggling viewing figures, advertising buyers are still opting to keep the opinionated news channel on their blacklists. The prolonged advertising boycott is, according to its chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos, damaging its business.
Despite the problems, Press Gazette informs the channel has “fared much better against rival opinion offering, Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV.”
Rival TalkTV launches in April
Having launched on April 25, 2022, TalkTV – aided by an enormous advertising budget – was free of most of the technical issues that haunted GB News’ launch.
Its debut programme, featuring a heavily trailed but painful-to-watch interview with Donald Trump, alongside a string of diatribes about ‘woke’ policies and cancel culture, sent ratings marginally ahead of GB News’ launch night in 2021. However, following its high-profile launch, centred on its biggest name Piers Morgan, viewing figures for TalkTV have subsequently slumped. The audience for The Talk, a nightly discussion show hosted by Sharon Osbourne, is now reaching fewer than 10,000 viewers. On its May 3 broadcast, The News Desk, an hour-long political show hosted by Tom Newton Dunn, made the headlines for failing to register a single viewer for half the broadcast.
Given its primetime broadcasts having “zero figures”, it could be argued that hailing GB News as “faring much better” against its rival TalkTV,” is not the greatest measure of success.
Farage’s tweet is ridiculed
Given its struggle to reach large TV ratings and prolonged advertising boycott, Farage’s comments that the right-wing channel is ‘making great progress’ were immediately leapt on and ridiculed.
Others referred to how mainstream advertisers refuse to touch the channel.
Farage, however, is committed to peddling the channel’s alleged successes. To mark the one-year anniversary of the channel, the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader has been on GB News tour. The politician-turned-TV-presenter headed to Portsmouth, where he hosted his TV show from a club, with guests right-wing comedian Jim Davidson and Pompey super-fan John Westwood.
Intent on keeping himself in the limelight, Farage has been flogging £1.50 tickets – that include a free drink – to see him live in a Q&A session debating the ‘tough subjects of the day.’
On his live tour in the US in 2021, people bought tickets with no intention of showing up, just to embarrass him.
With viewing figures that show huge discrepancies between the audiences of GB News and BBC and ITV, amid a prolonged advertising boycott, and people buying tickets to see Farage live with no intention of showing up, it’s not surprising that the former UKIP leader’s comments that “British Broadcasting needed a shakeup, and that’s what we are doing,” were mocked.
Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward