GB News: The first week

It’s been exactly a week since the UK gained its latest TV channel, and what a week for GB News as Mike Watkins reflects.

“The big crime that GB News has committed is to allow people of diverse opinions to get together and have conversations and that is not acceptable to these groups [SFH]” – Andrew Doyle, Free Speech Nation, speaking on GB News

What have we learned from the past seven days? Those who love it, love it and those who hate it very much make their hate loud and clear on social media. GB News had an image created of what it would be long before it went to air and it seems for some, who maybe are only seeing what they want to see, they are sticking to that ‘right wing, bashing everyone channel’ view of the network. Only it isn’t anything like that.

Every programme since launch has brought a mix of left, right and centre views to screen. Yes, the presenters give opinions, but they are leveled out with debate by experts or guest names who counterbalance those views. With balanced content, those who dislike the channel have picked up only on ‘right wing’ views to share. No one, for example, shared Aggie Mackenzie (How Clean Is Your House) suggesting on one debate that those who fly the England flag are racist – about as far left view you could get. (And yes that view was counterbalanced with other views).

The other issue those who dislike the channel have picked up on is ‘technical faults’ and gaffs’. Well, to be fair at the start and for a few days after it was pretty poor. But GB News took on board constructive criticism and have attempted to rectify these issues. Those sharing ‘GBNewsFail’ tweets should try searching YouTube for Sky News or BBC News fails.. there are plenty.

There were petty comparisons, BBC One’s news ratings compared to GB News’ – like comparing EastEnders’ BBC One ratings to a screening of Coronation Street on ITV2 or why are four white women discussing a topic – yet its fine for Loose Women to do such a thing, as long as its on ITV?

The BBC News output has been prone to errors over the years. Two clangers: Left: the entirely wrong person is interviewed on a subject he knows nothing, Right: Graphic error.

It isn’t, it seems, just left-slanted social media users attempting to discredit the service. The week began with GB News themselves announcing that they alleged the BBC had tried to put a kibosh on news content for the channel. Lawyers for the station had lodged a complaint with television regulator Ofcom, over ‘pooled footage’ (a mix of shared footage provided by the BBC, ITN, and SKY) that was to be provided to the channel via news agency Reuters. However, less than 48-hours before the station went live Reuters pulled the plug on content. Andrew Neil told viewers it was down to the BBC, and ITN and Sky had followed later.

If true, it isn’t a good look for our national broadcaster. Then by the middle of the week another controversy, yet none created by any content from the views on the news service. Instead, a handful of complaints had seen advertisers start to withdraw their commercials from GB News’ break slots. The move to remove ads spearheaded by the group ‘Stop Funding Hate‘. A group that seemingly isn’t keen on a channel airing views they may not agree with. This attempt at limiting ‘freedom of speech’ was met with a stoic response from Andrew Neil, who defended the station, and blasted the advertisers.

It was such a brilliant putting in place speech, here it is, in full:

“Now, since GB News launched on Sunday night our young and diverse team have covered, Nissan’s plans to invest more in Sunderland, regeneration of Skegness, whiskey production in Hoike, pressures on the hospitality sector in Newcastle, the pollution charge in Birmingham, house building in Brigg House, flooding in Bedfordshire, Scotland’s fan zone in Glasgow, the struggles of the wedding industry in Ipswich, covid infection rates in Bolton, vaccinations in Abergavenny, the debate over Irish language in Belfast and, of course, Wales’ wonderful Euros win in Cardiff.

“Now some of these stories you won’t see on other news channels. All of them are important to the communities involved and not a scintilla of hate in any of them.

“We’ve interviewed the chancellor of the exchequer, reported on growing anti-semitism in London and covered the country’s many mental health problems. Again, not an iota of hate insight. Indeed the only hate this channel has broadcast when we showed film of a BBC Newsnight reporter being attacked by a baying anti-lockdown mob and we condemned that unreservedly.

“Yet a number of companies, some of them well-known brands, have decided to stop advertising on GB News. They bowed to pressure from a fringe group called Stop Funding Hate. A misnomer if ever there was one. It’s quite remarkable that serious and important executives in well-established companies can be so easily cowed. They’ve all taken the knee to stop funding hate. It’s important that they, and you, realise to whom they are enthral.

There has been wide-ranging debate with views left, right and centre.

“SFH doesn’t stand for a liberal, inclusive society, its dominated by far-left agitators and cranks that push for advertiser boycotts of any media organisation of which it disagrees. It’s default position is to smear anything it takes against as a peddler of hate. In GB News’ case, SFH began rounding up the lynch mob four months before we even started broadcasting. So I don’t think we’re talking open minds here.

“If advertisers want to see real hate, they should look at the social media postings of SFH supporters, they smear and threaten businesses and people who won’t do their bidding with words like ‘vile’, ‘scum’, ‘toxic’ and many more words we can’t repeat here tonight. Yet, through fear or ignorance, some companies do as SFH bids. Woke nonsense has reached the boardroom and corporate capitalism is becoming the useful idiot of bigots bent on censorship.

“Now I understand that in some cases it was not the bosses of the brands that pulled the ads, but their advertising agencies. Fair enough. There is still time for you to have a word with your agencies, who work for you after all and risk doing you huge harm.

“But all these brands should understand that this boycott business can play both ways. GB News viewers are incensed with advertisers who have taken against us, for no reason, many have written to these advertisers to tell them so. 

“And our numbers, our viewers, are growing. For three nights in a row, this show has been the number one rated show in its time slot on any news channel available in the UK. And if you add our audiences, our friends, our allies, our sympathisers, together we can muster millions of supporters on social media. It is not a good idea to be on the wrong end of them.

“We will not go there. We’ve more important work to do. We want to provide a high-quality news channel that reputable advertisers are proud to use and deliver great results for them. So far not a single example of hate has been given in evidence to justify the boycott of this channel. But this programme issues a standing invitation to the bosses of any company or agency that thinks to the contrary to come on air. We’ll look at your examples if you have them. We’ll discuss them together. Our studio door is open.

“Because you’re in the politics business now, and that’s where you are when you succumb to political pressure and then, like politicians, you have to be held to account.”

We’re not entirely sure what those who are deadset on killing off GB News hope to achieve? All it will do is remove an outlet that is providing a wider debate and coverage of news, topics and concerns that other channels ignore.

Surely the real movement of change should be to why do we need GB News in the first place? Why are the other mainstream media channels not open to wider coverage and debate.

“I think there is a great irony with a group [SFH] that claims to be left-wing calling on massive corporations to censor people they don’t agree with.

“But of course it involves a great misinterpretation of what the word hate means. Of course, what they mean by hate, and the reason they’re not able to offer palpable examples of it is because what they mean is ‘anyone who disagrees with us’.

“…There can be a big backlash here, this doesn’t necessarily work and the reason why the public don’t like this kind of thing is firstly it feels like petulant behaviour, it feels like bullying. But not only that… for instance the Ikea tweet about this said they were concerned about their ‘humanitarian values’ as though their values extend to anything more than selling as much furniture, meatballs and tealights as possible.”  – Andrew Doyle, Free Speech Nation, speaking on GB News

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