Sunday 13th June 2021 saw the launch of Britain’s first new TV news channel since SKY News began in 1989. At 8 pm, from its new studios in Paddington, GB News was launched with a special welcome programme replacing the showreel type teasers that have been running on Freeview channel number 236, Virgin 626 (in HD), Sky 515 (in HD) and Freesat channel 216.
The Press Gazette reports that behind the scenes the newsroom will be using Mediability’s DiNA, which provides the journalist (or ‘storyteller’ as Mediabilty prefers) with one interface to plan, share and publish over various media and social media platforms.
Elsewhere, ad agency storytellers (yes, that’s what they’re really called these days) are cautiously optimistic that GB News can attract a viewership of affordable interest to some brands.
Sixty million pounds of funding is already in place via the Discovery Channel, hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall and Legatum, a Dubai based investment fund. However, since Sky News registers a £40 million per annum loss, Chairman Andrew Neil will be hoping that the channel may also attract viewers willing to pay a modest monthly subscription, Fox News style, for extra content.
Talk of Fox News begs the question, where exactly is GB News to be positioned in the marketplace?
Despite some colourfully historic posts on his social media, director of news and programming John McAndrew insists that output will be free, fair, impartial and Ofcom regulated.
Reassuring words that have done nothing to prevent a leftie brain meltdown at the likes of Stop Funding Hate who were threatening to organise an advertising boycott even before the channel had started broadcasting.
GBNews can also be viewed live from the gbnews.uk website, which as your humble reviewer types, has just touched 00:00:00 on its launch countdown.
“Good evening, I’m Andrew Neil and this is GB News.”
Dark suited Andrew, sitting before a dark background in his red white and blue diagonal striped tie, announces this is not a rolling news channel and, unlike when watching the competition, viewers will not be hectored. In fact, “Hector has been asked to leave the building.”
In a swipe at the BBC, Andrew continues by saying that he won’t forget what the ‘B’ means in GB News. Putting further distance between himself and the London media bubble, Mr Neil mentions regions and left-behind towns, before promising,
“In everything we do we will be held to the highest journalistic standard.”
The first member of the GB News family to be introduced was Puffin’s favourite 41-year-old Hullovian Michelle ‘Dewbs’ Dewsbury who reminded us of her lack of university education and ‘challenged’ upbringing. In the schedules, Dewbs’ two-hour nightly show makes her the warm-up girl for Chairman Andrew who will broadcast from 8 pm to 9 pm Monday to Thursday.
Next up was Doonhammer Neil Oliver, whose microphone wasn’t working. I think Neil said in the current media landscape some people weren’t been heard. Neither was he, as Andrew switched hastily to breakfast show host Kirsty Gallagher. After giving the secret signal that sends a sound man to the firing squad Andrew asked, “Early mornings, how are you going to cope?”
Lots of discussions in the kitchen and positive news, Kirsty replied.
Colin Brazier was in the sofa area, and it was he who broke the channel’s first red hot news exclusive – his sister works at the Co-op in Bradford and, as a counter to Londoncentricity, he uses her as a sounding board. Sat next to Colin was Mercy Mercola, who promised intellectual space to those who would otherwise be labelled sexist and racist. In the same way that the distance between railway lines is the same width as a Roman Centurian’s chariot, the space next to Mercy on the Paddington settee suddenly appeared to be the same size as Ron Atkinson’s bottom.
Chairman Andrew returned to a properly miked up Neil Oliver who said that his outlook had changed across the last few years. In a red-pilling well observed by Puffins, Neil’s fans now refer to him as the King of Scotland and write heartfelt letters to him care of Stirling Castle.
There is a naughty corner at GB News but before we visited it we cut to some regional reporters and then took an advertisement break. All over the nation people you’ve never heard of are ramming their selfie sticks into the pavement, logging onto DNiA and talking into their mobile phones.
As for the commercials, they were for well known national brands, and even blue chips, with only one charidee filler, for the World Wide Fund for nature. Two caveats. Advertisers will have been offered a mega discount ‘get them started off’ rate and 8 pm onwards is prime time.
After the break, we found Simon and Alex in the naughty corner to advertise their 5:15 pm good news slot. Alex has also been allocated a rant section where she will express opinions that would get her the sack anywhere else. On the other side of the screen, Big Brother Andrew nodded approvingly as if signing off Hate Week.
From 9 pm to midnight, Dan Wotton on weekdays and Nana Akua on Fridays and Saturdays, promised controversy, celebrity and a mission to stir things up, brought by a family of regular guests.
Also being promoted was Alastair Stewart and Friends.
“My daughter’s a headteacher,” Alistair told us, “most of the jobs that her pupils will do don’t exist yet and neither do the companies that will employ them.”
A jolly and animated Alastair promised a ‘rising star slot’ to shine a spotlight on new companies and entrepreneurs.
“Am I happy?” He asked us rhetorically, “just a bit! Hahahahahaha.”
Let’s hope those clever people in the studio, with an encyclopedic knowledge of historic news stories and an ability to foresee the future existence of a bent lampost and a giant hole in a hedge, have hidden Alistair’s car keys.
Low cut Gloria de Peiro, whose décolletage puts the ‘Glori’ into glorious, was sitting in a cold draft next to Liam Halligan.
Their business show will escape from London and focus on small and medium-sized businesses elsewhere.
Excited Liam faced Gloria and spoke with his hands, palms up, fingers outstretched, as if desperate to juggle warmth back into La De Piero’s sack of puppies.
By this time, the introductory Welcome to GB News programme’s hour was up, making it 9 pm and time for Dan Wootton.
“Take it away, Dan,” Instructed Big Brother Chairman Andrew Neil.
Dan’s three-hour stint began with an opinionated monologue, US late show style, but without the humour or any gags.
He challenged lockdown in a way that wouldn’t be allowed on any other TV station, complaining that the country isn’t open for business and Boris has bottled it despite presiding over the best vaccine rollout in the world. Lockdown has been a fifteen-month government scare campaign accompanied by endless virus variants and the
creation of an ultra-cautious bio-security state worthy of China.
Amongst others, anti-lockdown Lord Sumpton spoke. Nigel Farage was another guest. His subject was big social media. Farage reminded us that Facebook are political actors and publishers, not just a conduit for information. The punchline being, and their gatekeeper is Nick Clegg.
All this was happening on a rather gloomy set, partially lit by white strip lighting and finished off with red and blue illuminated piping. The sound wasn’t great either. Given the likely demographic, introducing subtitles should be a priority.
As for news, there weren’t any bulletins, just references to topical stories and some pictures in among the chat. There was a weather forecast. Those already too challenged by the different format will be relieved to hear of a familiarly camp weatherman.
Lord Sugar was interviewed in the 10 pm slot. He was able to speak at length without interruption or any attempt at point-scoring. We learned that he doesn’t want to own Tottenham Hotspur again, thinks Corbyn is an ‘idiot’, Starmer is a ‘nutter’, doesn’t mind the knee but hasn’t taken it himself and hopes to do another Apprentice show when the ever-changing Covid regulations are easy enough for him to understand.
The 10:30 slot was a body language expert looking through the day’s news feeds, by which time my aching shoulders, sore eyes and throbbing wrists translated to ‘time for bed.’
What do we think of GB News? It is different. It is opinionated and, on the briefest of showings, more of a talk about news channel than a news channel. Perhaps a countrywide centre-right LBC with moving pictures and no top of the hour bulletins?
What do Puffins think?
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file