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GB News

A serious rival for the main channels?

It took me “a few seconds” to realise what felt so fresh about GB News, apart from the fact that I was on it, says Allison Pearson in The Daily Telegraph. Then it hit me – on Andrew Neil’s new anti-woke television channel, my views are deemed “perfectly fine”. Being right-wing, “or at least not on the left”, isn’t considered a sin. No wonder it attracted an average audience of 262,000 on Sunday’s launch night, beating the BBC News channel and Sky News. At last, a home for people “who believe lockdowns kill more people than Covid and (look away now) vote Conservative”. A broadcaster has finally clocked that this country has returned a Tory government in the past three general elections. “Roaring success is practically guaranteed.”

“I give it a year,” says Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian. The microphones didn’t work. The studios were too dark. They haven’t been able to sign up Piers Morgan, the man for whom GB News was invented. Instead we get amateurs who misspell Newcastle as “Newscastle”, cut to a live shot of an empty red chair and allow pranksters like “Hugh Janus” and “Mike Hunt” to have their names read out. “Some people think it’s really funny to send in texts and messages on the basis that if we read them out we’ve been had”, said exasperated presenter Simon McCoy to camera on Wednesday. “Grow up.”

None of these naysayers can have “an informed opinion” about a company that’s just started broadcasting, says Jawad Iqbal in The Times. So there is something truly “sinister and stupid” about Ikea, Kopparberg and the Open University pulling advertising as part of a boycott led by the pressure group Stop Funding Hate. People worry that GB News will be Britain’s answer to Fox News, but we have far stricter impartiality guidelines than the US. Ikea claimed the channel won’t fit its “humanistic values”. How? Ikea’s French division was this week fined £860,000 for spying on its own staff. Preachy, anti-democratic, faceless brands telling us what to think are exactly what makes standing up for a station like GB News worthwhile.

Its “scrappy, homespun nature might be part of its charm”, says Helen Lewis in The Atlantic. Britain hasn’t had a right-wing channel before. “The shift is real.” Anchor Dan Wootton railing against lockdown won’t win viewers – 71% of Brits support the latest four-week delay. But having watched hours of it, the wry, welcoming tone adopted by the daytime co-hosts is hard to square with some of the knee-jerk criticism of the channel. Former Sky journalist Colin Brazier presents alongside Kenyan-born social-policy researcher Mercy Muroki. They explained the Black Lives Matter movement as a regrettable overreach on an important subject, rather than “a harbinger of the Marxist apocalypse”. GB News can offer an alternative to the Beeb without “simply becoming a right-wing propaganda channel”. But only if it ditches the cranks and sorts out “that gloomy studio lighting”.

📺 GB News’s teething problems have been well documented by the Twitter account @GBNewsFails. Its 62,000 followers have been alerted throughout the week to a viewer who video-called in with his bare bottom visible in the bathroom mirror, a premature pizza advert that cut off Nigel Farage mid-flow and a pension story captioned as the “Miner’s Penison Scandal”.

📺 Occasionally it felt like a victory just to connect to a correspondent, says Damian Whitworth in The Times. “There she is!” cried presenter Alex Phillips when a reporter who was supposed to be at Stansted airport eventually turned up. But the launch of Sky News in 1989 was “always chaos”, while the early days of the BBC’s rolling news channel in 1997 were “total mayhem”.