Ofcom has been hit with a flood of complaints over GB News’ opening night, piling pressure on the channel amid an advertising boycott.
The media watchdog received 373 complaints about a programme hosted by Dan Wootton on Sunday night.
During a monologue in his inaugural show, the former Sun executive editor railed against Covid lockdowns, arguing that “doomsday scientists and public health officials have taken control”.
The backlash comes amid a fierce row over GB News after a string of firms announced they were pulling ads from the TV news channel.
Kopparberg, Nivea, Ikea and Grolsch have all pulled ads from the network, which launched with much fanfare on Sunday.
The channel is targeted at what founder Andrew Neil has described as the “marginal voices” in the UK not covered by other mainstream media.
But the launch has not been without controversy with critics calling the station the UK’s answer to Fox News.
Neil today clashed with Octopus Energy founder Greg Jackson over advertising on the channel.
The challenger energy firm has said it will wait to see GB News’ output before deciding whether to place ads, adding that it did not advertising on platforms “whose primary purpose is the distribution of hate”.
The GB News founder hit back at Jackson on Twitter, threatening to organise his own boycott of Octopus.
“I resent even the thought that a channel of which I was chairman would peddle hate. You should know better,” he said.
Neil had previously locked horns with Ikea after the Swedish retailer said GB News did not align with its “humanistic values”, adding it did not know its ads would appear on the channel.
“Ikea has decided to boycott GB News because of our alleged values. Here are IKEA’s values — a French CEO who is a criminal with a two year suspended jail sentence for spying on staff,” he wrote in a tweet.
Ikea was fined €1m this week and its former boss Jean-Louis Baillot given a two-year suspended sentence after it was found guilty of using private detectives and police officers to collect staff’s private data.
Social media users have also came to the channel’s defence, resulting in the hashtag ‘Go Woke, Go Broke’ trending.
The brands boycott is similar to those of companies like Paperchase, which pulled ads from the Daily Mail under social media pressure years ago. The Sun also came under attack from campaign group Stop Funding Hate.
Kopparberg said they didn’t realise the advert had run on the channel in a tweet earlier this week.
GB News’ advertising is run by Sky Media, which operates broadcast ads for around 130 different channels. Adverts are placed according to target audiences rather than specific channels, meaning brands do not necessarily choose where their campaigns appear.
However, brands are able to request that their adverts are not shown against specific ads or programmes. Sky said it tries to accomodate any “reasonable request”.
GB News beat both BBC News and Sky News in the ratings war on Sunday evening as it first came on air.
Media analysts are divided on whether the channel will be a success in the long-term, however.