BY JON ALEXANDER
And there we have it, arriving with all the grace and charm of Katie Hopkins gate-crashing a Weightwatchers meeting 4 months ago, GB News loses its Chairman and Lead Presenter Andrew Neil.
Of course, this was preceded by rumours of a rift with senior management, senior management departing, a leave of absence for Neil within weeks of the channel launching and the obligatory denials that he had left for good. We’re now left wondering what the hell we’ve witnessed and, more importantly, what was the point of it all?
Building up the excitement at the start of the year, we were promised a channel not afraid of standing up to the “woke” culture infecting our society, a counter argument to the beliefs and opinions of the BBC and Sky News and a channel dedicated to bringing you the best of British and the news *you* want.
What did we get?
Nigel Farage getting pissed with a leader of Extinction Rebellion, a middle-aged, middle-class, straight white man kneeling for BLM whilst his young, black, female colleague looked on with the same look a young bride has when her father takes to the dance floor at her wedding to give everyone an excruciating re-enactment of Patrick Swayze in ‘Dirty Dancing’, oh and Tom Harwood. The latter seems the sort of individual who would advocate public executions if the government of the day mandated them. An unfortunate hangover from the Tory/Lib Dem coalition at the start of the 2010s which has meant the Right has been filtered down to the point where it’s considered “Far-Right” to not want to wave a rainbow flag at every opportunity.
If you follow my other articles, you’ll remember I wrote about the launch of GB News here back in June. Back then the channel was marred by technical issues, a woman hissing over Neil’s opening segment and an amateur feel that left it looking like a student podcast for a media studies degree – overall, a disappointment but potential to improve. What always struck me hardest was the rushed nature, not just in set construction, but technically, the philosophy of the channel (seriously, my mates and I could have come up with something more substantial after seventeen pints in the Nag’s Head) and the general direction of the shows. Most overwhelmingly, for me, was the pairing of presenters and show assignments, emitting zero chemistry. What appeared to be last minute changes led to the channel once again having the feel of the results of my university class where the lecturer gave us all thirty minutes to prepare a presentation on a miscarriage of justice. All the programming was missing was Gloria De Piero trying to whisper “Psst, Liam, you do this bit, I’ll change the graphic on the overhead projector”.
I have struggled to engage with any of the content, this may come as a surprise to those who follow me on Twitter, but I don’t want more of the same on my TV. I, and I suspect many, just wanted a news channel that presented the news. I have no objection to the Left being interviewed for their opinions, I just object to them being allowed to spew their bile on the BBC and Sky News without being challenged. I wanted a break in the bias, especially when Kay Burley “no-chaired” James Cleverly before the General Election in 2019. Yes it was childish, yes it was purely for ratings, but my main anger was reserved for her and her channel’s refusal to do the same when Lisa Nandy, the then Labour leadership candidate, appeared on her show. Which is why this country desperately needs balance. Instead, I got a whinging teenager desperate to jab anybody with anything going and Nigel Farage with a pint…
GB News appears to have gone the way several online social media outlets did, I’m thinking of Gab and Parler in particular – both launched with great fanfare as rivals to Twitter and left-wing cancel culture, primarily attracting a “firm-Right” to “far-Right” audience and allowing themselves to be targeted by the Left’s hate mobs before establishing themselves and having a better defence. Sadly Parler is toast and Gab is now home to those suspended from Twitter. Neither present a decent opposition to the sewer that is Twitter.
A far more sensible approach would have been to launch set shows Monday – Friday; a breakfast slot (6am-10am) incorporating news but also a lighter side to the world, perhaps emission of some good news stories? A lunchtime show from 11am to 3pm giving us up to date news and giving Dan Wootton and others their chance to shine. This could all be topped off with a night of news and special reports programmes covering 5pm to 10pm giving more of a professional viewpoint. Saturdays could house a mixture of these with Harwood getting a CBeebies segment early on and Sundays could incorporate the Farage pub hour. This structure and actually living up to its name “GB News” could have helped it establish itself before having to fight against the cancel mobs and dropping viewing figures from audiences dissatisfied with what they were seeing.
But it is what it is. Whether it will survive is anybody’s guess. I suspect that a January reshuffle will be most telling. This time next year, should the channel still be in existence, will reveal whether or not Andrew Neil was the driving force behind the channel, or the reason for its failure. As always, I shall be watching the channel’s ascent or demise with keen interest.
Jon Alexander was one of the original founders of Country Squire Magazine.