It’s fair to say GB News hasn’t had the easiest start in life.
Regardless of your opinion on its founder or its backers, there’s room in British broadcasting for a new challenger that wants to do things differently and keeps the more established channels on their toes. But, after the best part of a week on the air, can GB News be the saviour of broadcast journalism, or will it prove to be another chapter in its decline?
As far as starting line-ups go, there’s no shortage of big-beasts. Newsroom stalwarts such as Simon McCoy, Alastair Stewart and of course Andrew Neil himself are all masters of their craft and very well respected. They’re joined by the more ‘alternative’ voices from Gloria De Piero and Michelle Dewberry (alternative because they’re northern?) to the likes of Dan Wootton and Andrew Doyle (alternative because they’re annoying?). Either way, on paper it makes for a good mix of steady professionalism and fresh thinking.
Yet, with potentially too much of the budget going on securing big names, some of the smaller details that we take for granted, such as sound and picture quality and the look and feel of the studio, seem to have been neglected. We don’t really think about these things when watching BBC or Sky News, we just assume everything works behind the scenes and will come out looking good. But from the dodgy sound and near constant technical issues, to the graphics that make it look like a fake news channel from an ITV crime drama, GB News has shown us just how important these things are to the overall viewing experience.
But you can put all that down to teething problems, right? What matters is the content, and with a range of presenters not afraid to speak their minds, how can the channel fail to produce compelling TV? Well, again it turns out the rolling news game is a bit trickier than you think. There’s a lot of hours to fill every single day and with a focus on comment and debate, and no regular headlines or sports to break things up, there’s a tendency for the presenters to fall into inane chat, going in circles over the same anti-woke comfort-topics.
Add to that the unwelcome headlines around big-name brands boycotting the channel in response to a few angry tweets, and the constant attempts from online pranksters to get the presenters to make fools of themselves, and it all adds up to a troubled first week in life.
However, if there’s one thing that matters more than anything else when launching a new TV channel, it’s viewers, and here there is hope for GB News. Average viewing figures for the launch day on Sunday saw over 262,000 people watching between 8pm and 9pm, comfortably beating the Sky and BBC News channels. The channel’s breakfast show also managed to narrowly beat its Sky rival on Monday too.
Whilst these aren’t the kind of viewing figures that will panic the BBC or terrestrial channels, they show there’s clearly an appetite for what GB News is trying to do. Whether it’s people who genuinely enjoy watching round the clock culture wars, or people who think tuning in is just another way to stick two fingers up to the metropolitan elites, as long as they keep on doing it, then maybe GB News can shrug off the wobbly start.