GB News, the biggest news TV channel to launch in the UK since Sky News 30 years ago, has been defended amid a campaign to get advertisers to boycott the channel by its chairman Andrew Neil.
Neil, who will present a nightly news programme on the channel, said it “will not be shouty, angry television” and insisted it will conform to Ofcom rules on impartiality.
The channel plans to air 6,500 hours a year of “original news, opinion and debate”, eschewing rolling news for appointment-to-view programming.
The channel’s director of news, John McAndrew, is a 25-year industry veteran who has worked for the BBC, Sky News, ITN and NBC.
There has been a backlash against the channel after reports in The Guardian, Evening Standard and City AM that it will adopt a Fox News style approach. McAndrew noted on his Twitter account that it will be “free, fair, impartial” and “Ofcom regulated”. Ofcom has a requirement that news channels show due impartiality when covering political issues.
We’ve rounded up everything you need to know ahead of the launch and will keep this page updated with the latest announcements.
GB News start date
The channel’s launch date has not yet been confirmed but Neil said last year was aiming for a March 2021 launch.
GB News channel presenters and journalists
Sky News journalist Colin Brazier is leaving the broadcaster after 23 years to anchor a daytime news, interview and debate programme on GB News.
“I’m delighted to be joining GB News,” he said. “It will be an important punctuation mark in the evolving story of news broadcasting in Britain and I’m thrilled to be there at the start.
“GB News will lend an ear to some of Britain’s marginalised and overlooked voices, an audience I have always cared about.
“I will treasure my time at Sky, working alongside some brilliant journalists but GB News is an irresistible new challenge, a chance to build an innovative news channel alongside some of British journalism’s most trusted names.”
GB News director of news John McAndrew, who worked with Brazier at Sky for more than a decade, said: “Hiring someone of Colin’s calibre clearly demonstrates our ambition for GB News and our commitment to journalism.”
Sun executive editor and Talkradio drivetime presenter Dan Wootton has become GB News’ first big on-air signing despite his employer News UK working on plans of their own for a TV service aimed at Brits who feel disillusioned with the BBC.
Wootton has been at The Sun for seven years and broke some major showbiz scoops, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s departure to the US branded “Megxit”.
Wootton said the chance to join GB News was “just too good to pass up”.
“I feel passionately about GB News’ bold vision to bring a fresh approach to television news and debate that embraces all voices and opinions across Britain,” he said.
Wootton is simultaneously joining Mail Online to write a twice-weekly column in which he said he will continue to break stories.
Mail Online publisher Martin Clarke said: “We have long been admirers of his work at the Sun. “It will be a privilege to work with the man who broke Megxit and we look forward to him sharing his unique insights and brilliant exclusives with Mail Online’s millions of readers.”
As well as his role as chairman, Andrew Neil will host a flagship evening programme in primetime.
Euronews political editor Darren McCaffrey has been appointed to the same role at GB News.
He currently presents the flagship Raw Politics show on Euronews and previously spent almost ten years at Sky News.
He said: “Journalism is at its best when it reflects the widest range of views rather than just the loudest ones,
“I know only too well that local voices are sometimes left out and GB News’ mission to change that is something I’m incredibly excited to be part of.”
Director of news John McAndrew described McCaffrey as “without doubt one of the best political journalists in the country with an exceptional ability to challenge convention, seek out fresh angles and tell us what’s really going on.
“He’s a fearless interviewer with a boundless enthusiasm that’s compelling on air.”
Guido Fawkes senior reporter Tom Harwood, who has spent almost three years with the political blog, has been named political correspondent.
Harwood has also written for the likes of the Daily Telegraph and The Spectator and often appears as a commentator on broadcast news.
McAndrew said of Harwood: “Tom is an incredibly bright and exciting young journalist with a hunger for finding new stories. He’s made a huge impact so far and has a very promising broadcast career ahead.”
Michelle Dewberry, who won The Apprentice in 2006 and stood as an independent pro-Brexit candidate and for The Brexit Party in her hometown of Hull in 2017 and 2019 respectively, will anchor a weekday evening primetime show.
Dewberry said: “I’m proud of my northern heritage and passionate about representing the voices of the working class.
“I want to stop people being left behind. We need a levelling up across the country – there’s more to the UK than London, and definitely more than two sides to every story. To me, that’s what GB News is all about.”
Dewberry has regularly appeared as a guest on news and current affairs programmes for the past decade including Question Time and The Pledge on Sky News, and is known for starting a number of businesses. She is also an ambassador for the likes of Women’s Aid and The Prince’s Trust.
McAndrew said: “Her plain-talking, no-nonsense approach, coupled with her fairness and openness to different views is exactly what our service aims to achieve.
“Michelle has the warmth but also the authority and the life experience to relate to many Britons who feel left out of our national conversation. She’s dynamic and utterly authentic.”
Former Reach head of video Rebecca Hutson has been appointed as head of digital but will also appear as part of the GB News on-air team.
GB News executive producers
Three executive producers have so far been hired, with McAndrew describing them all as “exceptional journalists and programme makers with the experience and ambition to do news differently.
“They also share our vision to reach out to non-metropolitan audiences beyond London and engage them in our national conversation.”
Former BBC Question Time editor and CNN director of news programming Gill Penlington has been named senior executive producer.
Alex Farrell, the executive producer behind Talkradio’s breakfast show, and Sky News assistant editor Amanda Hall have both joined as executive producers.
Who is behind GB News?
The broadcaster has been founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider, both of whom have had associations with Virgin Media owner Liberty Global which is run by John Malone, a major shareholder of GB News investor Discovery.
Cole has written on his Linkedin page of his quest for the “truth in news”, to provide viewers with something “very different” and “challenge the BBC and other incumbent news channels”.
Former Sky News executive editor John McAndrew is director of news and programming and ex-Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos is CEO.
Experienced media and entertainment executive Marc Schipper, formerly head of strategy at Liberty, is chief operating officer.
GB News investors, led by Discovery
Discovery Inc, the US-based network which has a documentary partnership with the BBC in the UK, was the first major investor with reports of it investing around £20m.
Dubai-based investment group Legatum, known for its funding of think tank the Legatum Institute which launched in 2007, has also come on board.
The third major investor announced so far is Sir Paul Marshall, the prominent co-founder of UK hedge fund Marshall Wace who was a donor to the Vote Leave campaign. His stake in GB News is in a personal capacity.
The full amount of investment raised has not been revealed but is understood to be in the region of £60m.
Will GB News be right-wing?
CEO Frangopoulos has said GB News is “committed to impartial journalism” and looking for a “range of voices and perspectives”.
In a letter complaining about a Guardian column Frangopoulos said: “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.”
Nevertheless it has frequently been tipped as the UK’s answer to US right-wing channel Fox News, with journalists approached to get involved telling the Telegraph it was pitched to them as a right-wing alternative to the BBC.
Broadcast TV channels in the UK face stricter regulation than the US, with Ofcom’s Broadcasting Code stating they must adhere to “due impartiality” across their programming.
But due impartiality is less restrictive than viewers may think, meaning GB News is likely to be able to have a right-leaning stance balanced out by guests, for example, sharing the other side of the argument.
Ofcom’s rules state it “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 approach to due impartiality may vary according to the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, the likely expectation of the audience as to content, and the extent to which the content and approach is signalled to the audience.”
Neil has described his expectation that GB News anchors will have a “bit of edge, a bit of attitude, personality”.
GB News jobs
GB News launched a recruitment drive for 140 jobs, including 120 journalists.
It revealed on 19 February that more than 2,000 people had applied for the editorial roles.
Roles included producers of all levels, video journalists and reporters, technical production journalists, creative journalists and executive assistants.
The job adverts called for staff who can “tap into what the country is talking about” and do “not want to make traditional news or follow what everyone else is doing”.
They went on: “We’re looking for brilliant journalists from all backgrounds to help us shake things up.
“You’ll be bursting with ideas and determined to find original stories and new voices from every part of the country.
“You’ll be a disruptor and an innovator who approaches the news in a provocative and entertaining way.
“We are serious about changing things, so only apply if you genuinely want to make a difference and reflect the stories and issues that really matter to the people of the UK.”
How can I watch GB News?
GB News has signed a long-term deal with TV transmitter network Arqiva to reach 96% of UK households through all major UK platforms including Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, YouView and Freesat.
CEO Frangopoulos said the deal would give GB News the reach to “reach to rival that of the major public service broadcasters”.
GB News will also have streaming, video-on-demand and audio services, more details of which have yet to be announced.
Will GB News make money?
Rob Keery, agency storyteller at media buying agency Anything Is Possible, has told Press Gazette that GB News’ timing “is pretty good”.
This is due to advances in technology resulting in a fall in the cost of producing TV adverts and TV ad placements dipping to their lowest price in 20 years during the Covid-19 crisis.
All these factors will be to the new channel’s advantage as “brands who wouldn’t normally think of themselves as TV advertisers” will start seeing it as an affordable option, said Keery.
Added to this is the emergence of programmatic ad buying technology for TV, brought over from digital, which will make it easier for brands to target their ads and measure their impact.
Matt Rhodes, head of brand engagement strategy at media agency Engine, added that the channel’s ad-funded model will need to “attract a more specific audience” that will be “of interest to some, but not all, brands and so can command a significant level of ad revenue”.
What if there’s an advertising boycott?
Campaign group Stop Funding Hate, which has previously led campaigns calling on advertisers to boycott the Daily Express, Daily Mail and Sun, has launched a drive against GB News even before its launch.
The group is asking people to tweet their banks and other providers using the hashtag #DontFundGBNews urging them not to advertise with the channel to “help stop the ‘Foxification’ of British media”.
Neil described the “woke warriors” behind the advertising boycott as “hilarious”.
In his role as chairman of The Spectator he has previously threatened to ban Co-op from advertising with the magazine after the supermarket said it would no longer place ads over its coverage of transgender issues.
But newspapers on the receiving end of Stop Funding Hate campaigns have in the past been rattled enough by its impact on advertisers to meet with its representatives.
Interviewed on Good Morning Britain on 9 February, Neil said: “I’ve been broadcasting for 40 years on and off, I’ve never engaged in hate – there will be no hate on GB News. I find it rather hateful that they think I would go down that road of hate.
“There is a particular strand of opinion in this woke group that says ‘its not enough that I disagree with you, I want to stop what you are doing’.”
What newsroom technology is behind GB News?
GB News claims it will be Europe’s “most nimble and sophisticated multi-platform broadcast newsroom” after signing a deal with systems integrator Mediability.
Mediability’s DiNA system allows journalists to broadcast on several platforms at once, while automating aspects of story production.
GB News chief operating officer Marc Schipper said: “As a start-up, we need to innovate and do more with less, to punch above our weight against far larger and better-resourced news operations.
“GB News will be the only entirely cloud-based newsroom in the country. It means we’ll be lean but also that our journalists can deliver more features for viewers, more immediately and efficiently than ever.”
Mediability said the system allows journalists to collaborate on stories from any location.
“As well as broadcasting live to air, they can prepare material across other online platforms including Twitter or Facebook and use immediate tools such as graphics, almost real-time translations, captions and AI-recognition of stored broadcast clips.”
Picture: Press Gazette