GB News, the biggest news TV channel destined for UK consumption since Sky News arrived 32 years ago, seems set for a fairly imminent launch – perhaps as early as March – and is currently recruiting 120 journalists from across Britain.
However, on the same day that the channel's chairman, Paisley-born former BBC broadcaster, Andrew Neil, set out his 'anti-woke' vision for GB News, an attempted advertising boycott was launched by campaign group, Stop Funding Hate, which led to hundreds of tweets being sent to banks, mobile phone companies and other brands using the hashtag #DontFundGBNews. The tweets speculated that the channel will be right-wing in the mould of America's Fox News.
Media industry website, Press Gazette, in an in-depth look at the TV initiative, reports that the launch 'is gaining momentum with Dan Wootton as its first major signing and a huge recruitment drive under way. GB News plans to air 6,500 hours a year of "original news, opinion and debate", eschewing rolling news for appointment-to-view programming'.
Dan Wootton, executive editor of The Sun
and Talkradio drive-time presenter, has become the first big on-air signing for GB News. He has been at The Sun
for seven years where he broke some major showbiz scoops, including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's departure to the US – branded 'Megxit'. Press Gazette quotes Wootton as saying: 'I feel passionately about GB News' bold vision to bring a fresh approach to television news and debate that embraces all voices and opinions across Britain'.
As well as his chairman's role, Andrew Neil will host a flagship evening programme in primetime. He set out the channel's ethos in an exclusive interview in the Scottish Sunday Express
on 7 February, declaring: 'I believe 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. Some journalists and commentators seem too confident that their liberal-left assumptions must surely be shared by every sensible person in the land. But many of those same sensible people are fed up. They feel left out and unheard.
'There's a restlessness, a sense that they're being talked down to; that much of the media no longer reflects their values or shares their concerns. GB News is aimed squarely at those people.
'Many are among the 80% of Britons who live outside Greater London. Wherever they are from, we will listen to them carefully and give them a voice in our national debate. Our regional focus is vital. We are investing in 120 jobs for journalists around England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.'
Neil gave the assurance: 'Facts must be well-sourced and accurate. Conspiracy and disinformation will not be tolerated. Mistakes will be quickly acknowledged and rectified'.
The channel's chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos, says GB News is 'committed to impartial journalism' and looking for a 'range of voices and perspectives'. In a letter responding to a critical article in The Guardian
by columnist Marina Hyde, in which she derided GB News as being the 'anti-impartiality' news channel, Frangopoulos emphasised: 'GB News will be staunchly independent. That is our point. Our investors know this, our journalists will know it and so will our viewers. We aim to serve British communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream television media, especially outside London.
'We are proud to be adding plurality to UK media by investing in journalism that will be as diverse and broad-minded as the British people themselves. We are absolutely committed to our mission to report news in the most accurate and balanced way we can.'
However, Press Gazette observes: 'Nevertheless, [GB News] has frequently been tipped as the UK's answer to US right-wing channel Fox News, with journalists approached to get involved, telling the Daily Telegraph
it was pitched to them as a right-wing alternative to the BBC... Neil has described his expectation that GB News anchors will have a "bit of edge, a bit of attitude, personality"'.
The new channel has signed a long-term deal with TV transmitter network Arqiva to reach 96% of UK households through all major UK platforms including Freeview, Sky, Virgin Media, YouView and Freesat. Frangopoulos said the deal would give it the reach 'to rival that of the major public service broadcasters'. The channel will also have streaming, video-on-demand and audio services.
It claims it will be Europe's 'most nimble and sophisticated multi-platform broadcast newsroom' after signing a deal with systems integrator Mediability. Mediability's DiNA system allows journalists to broadcast on several platforms at once, while automating aspects of story production. The channel's chief operating officer, Marc Schipper, explains: 'GB News will be the only entirely cloud-based newsroom in the country. It means we’ll be lean but also that our journalists can deliver more features for viewers, more immediately and efficiently than ever'.
Mediability said the DiNAsystem allows journalists to collaborate on stories from any location, and explained: 'As well as broadcasting live to air, they can prepare material across other online platforms including Twitter or Facebook and use immediate tools such as graphics, almost real-time translations, captions and AI-recognition of stored broadcast clips'.
Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's News UK has revealed it will launch a nightly entertainment show in the UK this spring after months of speculation about its plans to expand into TV. The company, which owns The Times
, Sunday Times
and The Sun
newspapers, and the Wireless radio network, is reportedly hoping to differentiate itself from GB News with an entertainment news launch. And while GB News will be a traditional linear channel, News UK's channel will be available via streaming services rather than over the airwaves.
Press Gazette reports that News UK's first programme, due to start this spring, is provisionally named News To Me
. It will be hosted by Scottish-born Gordon Smart, a former deputy editor of The Sun
and former editor of The Scottish Sun
. He left The Sun
in 2017, after 14 years with the title, to launch a career in broadcasting.
Andy Philip, the live politics editor at the Daily Record
, is joining The Press and Journal
(P&J) as political editor. His appointment is part of the Apollo transformation programme currently being undertaken by DC Thomson Media (DCT Media) involving its four dailies – The Press and Journal
, The Courier
, Aberdeen's Evening Express
and Dundee's Evening Telegraph
. The Dundee-based company envisages the Apollo programme transforming its newspaper business 'to better serve communities with compelling, relevant content – digitally and in print'.
A DCT Media spokesperson told me: 'The programme will see both The Courier
and The Press and Journal
combining the firepower of their political journalists to create one of the biggest politics teams in Scotland – covering the most important matters across Holyrood, Westminster and locally across the north and east.
and The Press and Journal
have set out on an ambitious and radical restructure that will better serve their audiences online – hiring up to 20 new staff as part of its digital newsroom transformation programme.'
Frank O'Donnell, editor-in-chief of The Press and Journal
, said: 'To attract a journalist of Andy's calibre shows how serious we are in transforming our newsrooms digitally and finding the best people to take us forward. We have freed our politics team from the rhythms of print and already this has resulted in more ambitious and eye-catching content that is driving new subscribers. Andy's appointment will only add this to this process and I am delighted that he will be part of the growing team'.
Philip was a reporter on The Press and Journal
13 years ago before moving on to other roles, including the Press Association and the Daily Record
. He told me: 'There's so much scope to cover the big stories in new ways at DC Thomson Media which can only be good for journalism and the communities these papers serve. It's a great time to be joining an excellent team with a fresh outlook. I can't wait to get stuck into the job as political editor at the P&J – a paper to which I am delighted to be returning'.
His appointment follows that of David Mac Dougall as group head of politics at DCT Media – joining from News Now
The Fife Free Press
weekly newspaper has been marking its 150th anniversary with coverage in print and online. The Kirkcaldy-based title, which has been named Scottish Weekly Newspaper of the Year four years out of the last six, was first published on 28 January 1871.
The memorable milestone was initially marked with a special feature celebrating the weekly's history, while a series of Twitter posts were published throughout the anniversary day reflecting on its history. A video message on Facebook thanked readers for their support, and the celebrations continued with an eight-page in-paper supplement.