As biggest brands refuse to join GB News boycott, the questions campaigners need to answer

As biggest brands fail to join GB News ad boycott, the questions campaigners have yet to answer

GB News launch faces renewed ad boycott campaign

The campaign to boycott brands that advertise with newly launched opinion-led TV channel GB News continues, but apart from troubling the waters of social media it looks to be making little impact.

According to websites dedicated to the boycott, so far about 14 companies have pulled their advertising from GB News, although three of these – Vodafone, Specsavers and Moneysupermarket.com – have said they are not actively boycotting the channel.

The market cap of the companies – those which are publicly listed – behind the brands that have pulled advertising is about £93bn in total.

They include Kopparbergs Bryggeri AB (Kopparberg), Beiersdorf AG (Nivea), Asahi Group Holdings (Grolsch), Vodafone Group, Moneysupermarket.com Group and Pinterest Inc.

This compares to a market cap in the trillions for the companies behind the brands that continue to advertise on the channel, which include Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft.

Stop Funding Hate and Ripples are both campaigning for advertisers to boycott the channel. Ripples’ website for the campaign lists more than 50 companies that advertise on the channel, which it brands “fake news”.

It calls on its supporters to contact these brands and “politely let them know that their brand is being tarnished by association with GB News” and to “put direct pressure on them to drop their advertising”.

We asked Ripples and Stop Funding Hate to talk to us for this piece.

Ripples describes itself as a “progressive digital campaigning platform” that launched last year. It told Press Gazette: “We’re not currently doing interviews about the campaign.”

The group pointed to a tweet on its official Twitter account in which the group said advertisers hadn’t stopped pulling out of GB News, but were “doing it more quietly, to avoid a right-wing backlash”. This followed reports of brands rowing back on the boycott.

Stop Funding Hate which has targeted right-leaning newspapers for years, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview from Press Gazette. It began its campaign against GB News before the channel had even aired.

Questions Press Gazette would like to ask the groups include:

  • What is their process for deciding that a news channel or news title should be closed down by having advertising withdrawn?
  • Who makes the decision?
  • Is there any scope for appeal?
  • Which coverage exactly on GB News qualifies as “hate” for Stop Funding Hate and “fake news” for Ripples?
  • Are the groups politically motivated? Is there an element of seeking to undermine channels and newspapers which promote political beliefs that are at odds with those of the members of the campaign groups?
  • Are a small minority of Twitter users seeking to dictate what a larger group watches exerting disproportionate pressure on brands?

In a blog for Huffpost UK, published in 2016, Wilson said the campaign’s “ultimate aim is to cancel out the incentives that are driving these papers towards ever-more hostile reporting…”.

But coverage of a story is an editorial decision, and GB News, like all news outfits, is free to choose its angle – albeit within the bounds of Ofcom rules on impartiality.

Rob Keery, marketing manager and agency storyteller at media buying agency Anything Is Possible, said that “whatever one’s personal thoughts about GB News might be, there are no examples of hate speech on the channel to date”.

AIP is a member of the Conscious Advertising Network and said brands pulling out of GB News was “a failure of conscious advertising principles”, including awareness of where your brand is appearing.

He said: “I think it’s a decision that every brand has to make consciously.

“If you do trade on your social and political values, if you are an activist brand and the channel does oppose those values, then it is pretty reasonable to most brands to not want to associate with it.

“They’ve got to balance that against the risk and the benefit of speaking to that channel’s engaged audience and whether it [outweighs] the cost of potentially alienating those people who don’t agree with them.

“There are lots of those clear commercial reasons why a channel like GB News would be fine, would be very attractive to advertisers – slightly older demographic, little bit more disposable income, values are maybe a bit more easily replaceable upon a political or social continuum.

“They know what they are… all of these things can lead to much more decisive purchasing decisions, so there’s obviously benefit for being able to reach that kind of audience.

“The model that’s been trialled for GB News in the US, i.e. Fox News, has shown that audience is worth chasing, that you can profit from reaching them.

“There are loads of brands for whom it will never be the right choice, and there are plenty of others who are going to weigh up the pros and cons and the risks, make the call about how they think their values sit with the value of the GB News audience. I think that’s just fine.”

GB News also declined to comment.

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13 thoughts on “As biggest brands fail to join GB News ad boycott, the questions campaigners have yet to answer”

  1. Yet more GB News puffery from PressGazette. This really is becoming incredibly tiresome.

    ‘Which coverage exactly on GB News qualifies as “hate” for Stop Funding Hate and “fake news” for Ripples?’

    This is a facile and disingenuous question. The concerns about GB News arise from who is behind it and what it self-admittedly stands for. Let’s look at the facts:

    GB News’s chairman is Andrew Neil, who is also the chairman of the Spectator, which has published articles supporting neo-Nazis, defending Islamophobia and downplaying child sexual abuse.

    Andrew Neil has also unabashedly instigated repeated, misogynistic hate campaigns against Carole Cadwalladr, publicly mocking her as a ‘crazy cat lady’ and seeking to discredit her multi-award-winning investigation into the use of dark money and disinformation in the Brexit campaign.

    Coincidentally, Neil’s main financial backers at GB News also funded the Brexit campaign! A campaign which sowed so much division in the UK that it directly provoked a years-long surge in racist hate crimes so severe that police forces across the UK had to create new units to cope with the problem.

    The Brexit campaign, in addition to relying on both overt and dog-whistle racism, also relied extremely heavily on fake news. Lies which were disseminated widely either through supportive mainstream media or on social media included that a million Turks would invade the UK if we did not leave the EU; that if we did not leave the EU we would all be conscripted into an EU Army to go to war with China; and that leaving the EU would free up £350m a week to spend on the NHS.

    In addition to being funded by the financial backers of a campaign which directly caused tens of thousands of hate crimes, GB News has recruited, for on-air talent, a vocal Tommy Robinson supporter and a man most famous for posing as a woman on the internet to deride social justice movements.

    Another of its presenters is Dan Wootton, a man whose history of poor behaviour in the workplace has been extensively chronicled in Private Eye’s ‘Street of Shame’ column over many years.

    Wootton’s last gig – on the radio – saw him repeatedly use his air time to promote extremely dangerous junk science and conspiracy theories, which undermined crucial public health messaging on Covid-19.

    Lo’ and behold, he did the exact same schtick on the very first night of GB News’s existence, barely an hour after the station went live and almost immediately after Andrew Neil had promised viewers that the station would not be airing any fake news.

    In addition to all of the above, the entire premise for GB News’s existence is in itself fake news. It is predicated on the argument that the UK’s mainstream media is left-wing and “woke” and needs to be more balanced towards the right-wing. This is a lie and an egregious one at that. It is a demonstrable fact that the UK’s national media is overwhelmingly right-wing.

    So there are more than reasonable grounds on which to be extremely concerned that GB News will promote hate and give voice to fake news.

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