There’s been a flurry of announcements in recent weeks ahead of the launch of GB News, a new opinion-led channel promising the biggest shakeup of British broadcast media for 30 years.
The venture has caused a stir, with no shortage of controversy over its promise to take a “boldly different” approach.
Plans are still being finalised, but here’s everything we know so far about GB News.
What is GB News?
GB News is an upcoming 24-hour television and digital news service that promises a full schedule of opinion and debate-led programming.
When will GB News launch?
The channel had originally set out plans to launch in March this year, but this has now been pushed back to later in 2021.
It has begun a recruitment drive for 140 roles, including 120 journalists, for which it said it received more than 2,000 applications. The channel’s headquarters will be in Paddington.
How can I watch GB News?
GB News has said it expects to reach 96 per cent of the British TV audience through Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, Youview and Freesat. It has already announced its Freeview channel number will be 236.
It will also launch a range of streaming, video on-demand and audio services that can be accessed online.
Who will be the main presenters?
GB News has been gradually announcing its roster of presenters and journalists in recent weeks.
The venture is being spearheaded by Andrew Neil, the former BBC presenter and Sunday Times editor.
Other big names so far include former Sun executive editor Dan Wootton, former ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart, Sky’s Colin Brazier, journalist and former Labour MP Gloria de Piero, Sky Sports’ Kirsty Gallacher and BBC favourite Simon McCoy.
Speculation has also been mounting that Piers Morgan will join the channel following his dramatic departure from ITV’s Good Morning Britain last month.
Who’s running GB News?
GB News was set up by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider through their company All Perspectives. Cole sits on the board of Virgin Media owner Liberty Global, which recently merged with Telefonica’s O2. Schneider also has links with Liberty, which is owned by “cable cowboy” John Malone, a major shareholder in Discovery.
Veteran producer John McAndrew is director of news and programmes, while former Sky News boss Angelos Frangopoulos is chief executive.
Who’s backing GB News?
The venture has secured £60m in funding, £20m of which came from US media giant Discovery. The remainder is from Dubai-based investment firm Legatum and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall.
Why is the plan controversial?
Plans for GB News sparked immediate controversy from critics who warned of the “Foxification” of British TV through a channel with overt right-wing bias. Campaign group Stop Funding Hate has even called for an advertising boycott of the channel.
The nascent channel has hit back at these claims, insisting it would be “committed to impartial journalism”. Boss Frangopoulos said it would be “staunchly independent” and was aimed at “serving British communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream television media, especially outside London”.
Still, GB News is likely to employ an opinion-led schedule of programming, rather than simply rolling news updates.
Under Ofcom regulations broadcasters have a commitment to “due impartiality” across their programming.
However, this allows for a range of opinions across the entire schedule, rather than in every individual show. Talk radio stations such as LBC employ this model successfully, so GB News is likely to follow their lead.
Is there demand for GB News?
Demand for news programming has surged during the pandemic, with broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 attracting record audiences as Brits sought out reliable information.
However, this new project is hoping to capitalise on a gap in the market, offering a different proposition from the incumbent rivals.
Andrew Neil, who will present a nightly show including a segment dubbed Woke Watch, has said he is joining the channel because he believes the “direction of news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of its people”.
“I believe our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern and too middle-class,” he wrote in the Sunday Express.
Neil added that many Brits feel “left out and unheard”, adding that the venture was “aimed squarely at those people”.
GB News will also be hoping to capitalise on growing criticism of the BBC over alleged impartiality — a row that has become amplified amid division following the Brexit vote.
Is GB News a lone challenger?
GB News is not the only venture that thinks it’s found a gap in the market, as Rupert Murdoch’s media empire has been given regulatory approval for a new channel dubbed News UK TV.
The company has hired former CBS News president David Rhodes to launch the channel, which is set to launch this spring.
However, there are some differences between the projects. News UK TV is set to be streamed live and on-demand rather than through traditional broadcasts and is only expected to air four or five hours of programming each evening.
It may also take a more light-hearted approach. Its first publicly-announced show is an entertainment news panel show hosted by ex-Scottish Sun editor and Sun deputy editor Gordon Smart.
Will the channel make money?
The channel will be free-to-air and aims to make money primarily through advertising. It is also expected to generate some revenue through subscriptions by setting up a paywall to access some of its digital content online.
The launch of a traditional (known as linear) channel comes amid a steady decline in TV advertising as viewers increasingly turn to streaming services. This has been exacerbated by cuts to ad spend in the pandemic, with ITV suffering an 11 per cent drop in ad revenue last year.
There is some optimism about a recovery in the UK ad market this year and a reduction in costs for producing and placing TV ads during the pandemic could help encourage new brands to launch campaigns on the medium. Nevertheless, GB News will be launching during a challenging period for the market.