GB News


BBC2’s launch night was memorable for a fire that plunged the station into darkness, Channel 4 opted for Countdown while Channel 5 boasted the Spice Girls. And GB News? It went for Old Spice, Andrew Neil, and the result certainly made the eyes water.

After much fanfare and Covid-induced delay, the channel that promises to upend the snow globe of news and let opinion and debate swirl was finally up, running – then falling on its rump.

On the stroke of 8pm, Neil appeared against a wall of solid black. Cheery. He started to talk but his lips were not in synch with the words, as in some dreadfully dubbed spaghetti western. Good to see the production whizzes behind Alba’s press conferences had found new work.

Neil Oliver, archaeologist of this parish, arrived beside Neil for a chat. Only no-one had switched on the long-haired one’s microphone so Andrew Neil, his face now matching the red in the GB News logo, cut to Kirsty Gallacher.

Back to Neil Oliver for another go. “The nation can hear you!” cried Andrew Neil. Oliver went on to restate everything he had said in his interview with The Herald – repeats already? – and finished by declaring that to the day he died he would consider himself British. Oaths of allegiances already and it was only day one.

READ MORE: Vicky Allan interviews Neil Oliver

Not since Sky News was launched 32 years ago has there been such excitement in the media village. At least no-one on the launch night dropped the F-bomb. France? Where Mr Neil lives? No, Fox News in the US, the right-wing, rabble-rousing channel which critics have accused GB News of being – despite the fact it did not go live till last night.

The first hour, with ad breaks every 15 minutes, was taken up with this introduction to GB News.

For a station that professed itself fed up with metropolitan media navel-gazing it looked a lot like metropolitan media navel-gazing as Neil interviewed presenter after presenter, each one banging on about how different life in GB News land was going to be. Simon McCoy said he would have a good news segment every night (that ancient chestnut) while his co-presenter Alex Phillips promised “rants”.

GB News schedules will be packed with such dual anchor shows. Neil's nightly slot will contain a segment called “Wokewatch” which promises to call out political correctness when it goes mad.

It is the likes of “Wokewatch”, a presenting team that includes Michelle Dewberry, former Apprentice winner and failed Brexit Party candidate, its Union Jack branding, even its name, that have prompted criticism of the new channel from the left. But GB News will have to abide by the same rules on impartiality as every other Ofcom-regulated broadcaster. As for range of presenters, the line-up also includes a former Labour MP, Gloria de Piero.

READ MORE: Twitter reacts to GB News presenter's claims

Back at the launch, Neil looked slightly more comfortable, a bear with one thorn in his paw now rather than three. Come 9pm he was ready to hand over to Tonight with Dan Wootton whose guests included such fresh faces as Nigel Farage, Neil Oliver (him again), and Lord Alan Sugar. The subject was Covid and how awful lockdown had been.

Andrew Neil had promised a new type of news delivered in a new way. Funny, but from where I was sitting the new dross looked a lot like the old dross.

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