Description

GB News is a British free-to-air television news channel. It is owned by All Perspectives Ltd, a holding company headquartered in London, England. The channel is available on Freeview, Freesat, Sky, YouView, and Virgin Media.

Announced in September 2020 and launched in June the following year, the channel was founded with £60 million in funding, the majority of which was provided by Discovery, Inc., Legatum, and Paul Marshall. It was founded with the aim of broadcasting "original news, opinion and debate", with a mix of news coverage and opinion-based content.

Andrew Neil left the BBC in 2020 to become the channel's chairman and present a prime-time evening programme. Other hosts of shows on the channel include Dan Wootton, Simon McCoy, Kirsty Gallacher, and Neil Oliver. The channel launched to mixed reception, and received daily viewership of just over 1 million in its first month.

History

Foundation

All Perspectives Ltd was founded as the holding company of GB News in September 2019, and was granted a licence to broadcast by Ofcom in January 2020. GB News was founded by Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider, two executives associated with the chairman of Liberty Global, John C. Malone. Its chief executive officer (CEO) is Angelos Frangopoulos, the former CEO of Sky News Australia.

On 25 September 2020, it was announced that Andrew Neil, who had presented live political programmes on the BBC for 25 years, would leave the corporation after leading its coverage of the 2020 United States presidential election. He said that he had been in discussions to continue working on the BBC in a new format after the cancellation of his programme The Andrew Neil Show, but that these talks had "not come to fruition" and he had accepted the post of chairman of a new television news channel. On the same day, he was announced as the presenter of a prime-time evening programme on the channel, due to launch early the next year. In a statement, Neil said that the channel would "champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area", and GB News was addressing a perceived gap in the market for "the vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard by their media".

Robbie Gibb was initially an editorial adviser, but stood down from the role in October 2020.

In December 2020, Paul Marshall, a hedge-fund manager, was in talks to invest £10 million into GB News. On 6 January 2021, GB News reached its £60 million fundraising aim, which it said was oversubscribed. The majority of the £60 million came from the American multinational Discovery, Inc., the United Arab Emirates-based investment firm Legatum, and Marshall, who said he was investing in a personal capacity. GB News said it would recruit 140 staff, including 120 journalists, and would also launch "streaming, video-on-demand and audio services".

The recruitment drive began on 25 January 2021. On 28 January, it was announced that Dan Wootton would leave News UK to join the channel as the host of a daily show, five days a week.

On 10 February, Sky News' Colin Brazier was reported to be the host of a news, interview and debate daytime programme. On 18 February, it was announced that Darren McCaffrey would join the channel as political editor and Tom Harwood as a political correspondent. The next day, Michelle Dewberry was named as the host of a five-day-a-week prime-time show. On 2 March, Inaya Folarin Iman, a 24-year-old journalist and former Brexit Party candidate, was announced as another five-day-a-week host. Former Brexit Party Member of the European Parliament Alexandra Phillips was hired on 5 March. Following Piers Morgan leaving Good Morning Britain on 9 March, Neil expressed interest in Morgan joining GB News instead. However, Neil later said that talks were affected by a disagreement: "he's [Morgan] got his own idea of what he is worth and we [GB News] have a slightly different idea of what he's worth".

On 13 March 2021, it was announced that Liam Halligan would join the channel as economics and business editor. On 18 March, the channel announced that comedian Andrew Doyle would join it to host a weekly current affairs show. On 23 March, it was announced that Euronews' Rosie Wright would join the channel's breakfast presenting team. On 25 March, it was said that BBC News newsreader Simon McCoy would present an afternoon show. On 19 March, it was announced that broadcaster Kirsty Gallacher would join the breakfast team. On 2 April, former ITV News presenter Alastair Stewart was announced as the host of a weekend news and current affairs programme. Also hired were archaeologist Neil Oliver, to host a weekly current affairs and interview programme, and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero, to host an afternoon programme. On 23 April, it was announced that Mercy Muroki will co-host a daytime programme that tackles everyday issues. On 11 June, Isabel Webster joined the channel as the co-host of a weekly news review programme.

Broadcasting

GB News commenced broadcasting at 20:00 BST on 13 June 2021. Neil launched the channel by saying "We are proud to be British – the clue is in the name. Red Bee Media managed the playout of the channel at launch.

On 20 June 2021 Nigel Farage and Dehenna Davison joined GB News as contributors to host the Sunday morning political discussion programme The Political Correction.

It was reported by The Guardian in July that John McAndrew, director of news and programmes, formerly of Sky News and Euronews, had stood down from his role. On 17 July it was announced that Nigel Farage, already a contributing presenter, would host Farage, a prime time evening show, from 19 July. On 19 July it was announced that Mark Dolan would join the channel with Tonight Live with Mark Dolan on 23 July and that Nana Akua would move to a new self-titled programme on Saturday and Sunday afternoons while continuing to host The Great British Breakfast.

Transmission

GB News headquarters, Riverbank House (building pictured on left), is separate from its studios in Paddington
The channel's office headquarters are located at Riverbank House in London, and it has a number of studios at The Point building in the Paddington Basin area of the city.

The channel is only available in high-definition (HD), on the Astra 2F satellite. GB News is available on Freeview channel 236 and YouView 236, Freesat at channel 216, and Sky and Virgin Media at 515 and 626 respectively. Live broadcasting of the channel is also available on the GB News iOS application.

Radio

Following the launch of its television channel, GB News had planned to launch a national 24-hour talk radio station, GB News Radio, in July, via the Digital One digital radio multiplex. The radio station will be the audio of the televised channel, rather than a separate production.

Programming

Neil stated in January 2021 that the channel would be "a fresh approach to news in Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland". The channel plans to air 6,500 hours of "original news, opinion and debate" per year and it has hired 120 journalists. Neil has said that the channel would not provide rolling news, but would, in similarity with some US networks like MSNBC and Fox News, divide each day into "individual programmes, news-based programmes, built around very strong presenters". He said that it would aim to offer programming that would become "an appointment to view". CEO Angelos Frangopoulos added that it will be a "mix" of news coverage and opinion where it will be taking "a very different view on the regulatory environment" that is controlled by Ofcom. Instead of providing rolling news, the channel is a mix of news, analysis, opinion, and debate.

According to BBC News, it is the first channel set up with an explicit political orientation in the United Kingdom. The channel is described as right-leaning, having been forecast to be so by the Financial Times and by The Guardian and City A.M. to be similar to Fox News. BBC media editor Amol Rajan said that "it is not the first channel to be set up in Britain with a strong worldview... But GB News is the first to be set up with an explicit political leaning". Rajan has also stated that "the validity of [the Fox News] comparison is limited". GB News has not explicitly indicated a political allegiance, and UK news broadcasters are required by Ofcom to maintain "due impartiality."

In a March 2021 episode of BBC Radio 4's The Media Show, Neil stated that his nightly news programme would contain segments such as "Wokewatch" and "Mediawatch". In The New York Times, Neil was quoted as saying "In terms of formatting and style, I think MSNBC and Fox are the two templates we're following". The channel's breakfast show, The Great British Breakfast, initially had three co-anchors, in a similar style to Fox News' Fox & Friends, but the format changed to two co-anchors from the second week of broadcasting. Free Speech Nation, a current affairs show hosted by Andrew Doyle, airs once a week.

Comparisons in programming, format and political leanings have also been made between GB News and Sky News Australia, itself formerly led by GB News CEO Angelos Frangopoulos.

Reception

The channel launched to a mixed reception. Judith Woods, writing for The Telegraph described it as "unutterably awful; boring, repetitive and cheapskate", awarding it one out of five stars.

Advertiser response

In February 2021, Stop Funding Hate, a pressure group, called for advertisers to boycott the station, based on what they claimed the station would represent.

Brewery, Grolsch, Nivea, Pinterest, Specsavers, and Octopus Energy paused their advertising on the channel, expressing concerns over its content. Some of these advertisements had been placed on the brands' behalf without their knowledge, by Sky Media. The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, criticised Stop Funding Hate and what he described as "a vocal Twitter minority" for calling for the advertising boycott.

Ratings and public response

336,000 viewers tuned in to see the launch of GB News. A month after its launch, its daily viewership of just over 1 million trailed Sky News' 2.5 to 3 million viewers. Audience figures subsequently fell further, with ratings by the end of June lower than the Welsh language dubbing of PAW Patrol on S4C. On 14 July, audience figures dropped so low they were reported as zero by the ratings measurement board BARB at least twice on the day, attributed to regular viewers boycotting the station after one of its presenters, Guto Harri, took a knee on-air in solidarity with the England football team. GB News suspended the presenter, describing the event as an "unacceptable breach of our standards"; Harri later confirmed that he has permanently left the channel. The first episode of Nigel Farage's show on 19 July attracted an average audience of 100,000.

Ofcom received 373 complaints relating to a monologue made on the opening night's edition of Tonight Live with Dan Wootton in which he argued against the government's extension of the COVID-19-related lockdowns in the UK. Ofcom decided not to pursue any of the complaints, a spokesperson saying "Our rules allow for rigorous debate around the response to coronavirus ... consistent with the right to free expression".

Ian Burrell wrote in the Evening Standard, "This channel has been both lampooned and ignored, but critics need to get used to something: GB News isn't going away."

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