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Andrew Neil launches 24-hour news channel to rival BBC and Sky


Andrew Neil has quit the BBC to launch a new right-leaning opinionated rolling news channel which aims to start broadcasting early next year as a rival to the public broadcaster and Sky.

GB News, which has drawn comparisons with Fox News, promises to serve the “vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard” by existing television news channels, explicitly pitching itself into the middle of the culture war.

Neil said: “We’ve seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news … GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years. We will 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.”

He will leave the BBC, where he has fronted many of its leading politics programmes, after hosting the broadcaster’s US general election coverage. He fell out with executives earlier this year after his own interview programme was cancelled, having already seen his contributions to Politics Live reduced and his late-night show This Week cancelled.

The new BBC director general, Tim Davie, had attempted to win him back but Neil, who is also chairman of the rightwing Spectator magazine, has instead decided to jump ship. The veteran interviewer will be the face and chairman of the advertising-funded GB News, which already has a broadcasting licence and will be accessible in the vast majority of British homes via Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media.

The channel will have to abide by Ofcom broadcasting rules on due impartiality. However, contrary to common belief, these rules do not require equal airtime is given to both sides of a debate. Instead, the broadcasting rules allow strongly opinionated coverage so long as viewers are exposed to alternative views – a model pushed to its limits in the UK by the outspoken hosts on radio stations LBC and TalkRadio.

GB News is likely to set out to antagonise the UK’s existing public broadcaster. The channel’s co-founder Andrew Cole has previously said the BBC is a “disgrace” that “is bad for Britain on so many levels” and “needs to be broken up”.

The new station is being backed by broadcaster Discovery, although it still needs to confirm tens of millions of pounds in investment before its launch. GB News said it hoped to create at least 120 positions, including more than 100 journalist jobs across the UK.

British television executives have long been envious of the high ratings of opinion-led evening programmes on Fox News in the US which delivers sizeable profits. Opinion-led and interview programmes tend to attract more viewers and cost less to produce than reporting-led rolling news.

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK is also planning a rival opinionated television news station and has begun hiring staff.

The BBC thanked Neil for his work on Friday night, saying in a statement: “We wish Andrew every success in his new role; we’re sorry the US election coverage will be his last BBC presentation work for the foreseeable future but he will always be welcome at the BBC.”

In response, Neil tweeted: “With heavy heart I announce I will be leaving the BBC. Despite sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities, it could not quite repair damage done when Andrew Neil Show cancelled early summer and Politics Live taken off air. But I leave with no animosity or desire to settle scores. I look back on my 25 years doing live political programmes for the BBC with affection.”

GB News has also hired the former Sky News executive John McAndrew and appointed Angelos Frangopoulos, the former boss of opinion-heavy Sky News Australia, as chief executive.

A channel spokesperson said: “Andrew Neil epitomises what GB News is all about. He’s an exceptional journalist, brilliant interviewer and fearlessly independent.”





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