From embarrassing technical glitches to the departure of its lead presenter and director of programming, GB News has faced a turbulent first few months on air. And in the words of former chairman Andrew Neil himself, “it just got worse and worse”.
There will be very few people who haven’t heard of the channel GB News. Those that are aware, know of its challenging start as a new ‘anti-woke’ channel. The direction is (or was) clear: cancel culture needs to be stopped and freedom of speech should prevail.
The first of many major issues for GB News was a poor launch week, which was tormented by glitches, lighting problems, and sound issues. The lighting was so poor that audiences were struggling to see presenters and the echoey sound and delayed synching was irritating enough to turn viewers off.
The channel became a laughingstock in the media as viewers criticised the poor running of the show, seemingly organised by amateurs. This carnage was followed by the resignation of the director of programming John McAndrew merely a few weeks after launch. The only success GB News could attribute to its launch is exposure because everyone was talking about the embarrassing performance of the channel on social media. No such thing as bad publicity, eh?
The departure of Andrew Neil
The resignation of lead presenter and chairman Andrew Neil was a kick in the teeth for GB News. Initially, he claimed it was because he’d had time to think about his “extensive portfolio of interests and decided it was time to cut back”. Let’s face it: he’s not happy with the quality or direction and is jumping from the sinking ship. His statement read more as if he was trying to let down a partner gently to avoid a messy public shouting match.
More recently however he’s published a tell-all article, outlining how “GB News is just a disaster” and likened the unsatisfactory initial few weeks to “launching a boat that’s only half built”. Ouch. As such a reputable presenter with a career as successful as Andrew Neil, I’m not surprised he’s jumped ship, even after being so influential in the channel’s creation. The decision was to leave or risk destroying his own reputation, and Andrew Neil refused to let this channel tarnish his career.
Cancelling out Cancel Culture?
Not only did the channel have challenges with graphics and presenters, but it also battled with its own identity and ethos. It seems that wanting to cancel ‘cancel culture’ comes with its own litany of problems. There is a hilarious irony with a ‘free speech station’ cancelling its own presenter Guto Harri after taking the knee live on air.
The channel tweeted that Harri’s actions were an “unacceptable breach of our standards” and suspended him. Harri later quit, declaring that GB News was “rapidly becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaimed to be”. I must agree, as the show became so sensationally cringeworthy that I was half expecting Matt Lucas or David Walliams to throw off their wig and reveal it all as an elaborate social experiment.
The show must have been expecting regular Twitter firestorms as they attempted to irritate woke social media users and generate a conversation that put the channel at the centre of the public’s attention. Sadly, social media latched on to the failings of the show and, right from the get go, the show became a memeified spectacle.
The reaction of brands in the early weeks of the channel was also concerning, as many famous companies such as IKEA, Open University, and Kopparberg boycotted the station to review its output before deciding on whether to use them for advertisements. For so many brands to immediately disassociate themselves with GB News puts a negative spin on their already damaged reputation in what was a crucial moment for the new channel.
GB News has become a show that focuses so much on wokeness that it’s now a shell of its original values which aimed to represent unheard audiences. From the loss of Neil to unending glitches, it just seems that this channel is morphing into a Fox News imitation rather than being the inclusive news channel we all ‘so dearly needed’. Whilst I appreciate the original idea and was initially intrigued to watch this new type of news, I now find myself relying on it for laughable content alone, which the show is definitely not short of.
Words by Alex O’Leary