Yesterday evening, the long-trailed GB News channel finally launched. Its chairman, veteran journalist Andrew Neil, told us his hopes and intentions for GB News: a channel that will be “proud to be British – the clue is in the name”. It is clearly set up as a long-term rival to the BBC with Neil stating that they will air “a huge range of voices that reflect the views and values of our United Kingdom” and talk about the “the stories that matter to you and those that have been neglected”.
So far so good. Just as Sky News forced the BBC to improve its offering, so too should GB News force both to improve. Even if these two channels do not rise to the challenge of this new competitor, it should not matter as GB News should still be able to fill the gap that the BBC and Sky have left open for them to gratefully step into.
Of course, the proof will be in the viewing figures as they come out over the course of the channel’s first few weeks and months of operation. Naturally, given the way that GB News has been launched and promoted, it will gain a fair viewing in the initial few days and weeks. Indeed, on opening night GB News had almost triple the average viewers of Sky News and more than the BBC. The question will then be whether it is able to gain a stable share of viewers and whether the BBC and Sky lose viewers. If Sky and the BBC’s numbers stay stable and yet GB News has a respectable viewer count it will only give greater merit to the argument that the BBC and Sky do not represent a large proportion of the population and that Andrew Neil’s launch message was bang on the money about the need for GB News.
However, for all the preparation there is one clear problem that has hit their launch – constant technical issues. There have been noticeable sound issues including microphones cutting out and the sound being out of synch with the picture. There were ads coming in and cutting across the broadcast, most notably interrupting Nigel Farage in full flow as he attacked “woke” culture, and then not long after Sir Alan Sugar was also cut off. I would also argue that the set and onscreen graphics could do with a rethink, but these are all eminently solvable problems. Admittedly, it is not a good look for the outfit but then I doubt any launches of this nature would be achieved without some technical difficulties.
I have strong hopes for GB News. I hope that it will pose the right questions to reflect the popular views that are sometimes avoided or disregarded on the BBC and Sky. I hope that it will help drive the BBC towards a future where it loses its status as a taxpayer protected and funded organisation. I hope that it will be able to fix the technical problems that have plagued its launch. If this is achieved, I see no reason why GB News will not be a success.