Settling down with a fruit shortcake and a nice cup of tea for the launch of GB News, I admit I had feelings of foreboding. I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed they were exceeded.
For an hour, Andrew Neil, out of sync but reading an elegantly written “editorial”, laid out his tendentious agenda for his new rolling news-not-news channel. Pretty much everything presented for our delectation was a reason not to flick past RT and Al Jazeera and tune in.
Neil told us there wouldn’t be any Fox News-style rants and everything would be fact-checked – but one presenter called Alex Phillips (ex Brexit Party politician) has actually got a slot called “Alex’s Rant” or somesuch, and the very first proper show (I give it six months) featured a Foxy, fact-free monologue by Dan Wooton that wouldn’t have shamed Tucker Carlson. He said on a couple of occasions that there were boos when the England team “took the knee” – but never mentioned the applause the players received. That didn’t seem very truthful.
There was a terrible irony in some of the showcased presenters, as far as I could discern, banging on about how “voices aren’t being heard” when their microphones weren’t working. Whoever runs sound for GB News needs firing. I got the message, though: the constant, repetitive “line” that the BBC, Sky News and ITV are ignoring views that they don’t like, the sort of things people outside the metropolitan elite disdain, and it’s time to let those opinions have the “space” they need, because people have been silenced for too long.
It’s a lie. The whole channel is founded on a false prospectus, that it is there to act as some sort of antidote and balance to the other broadcasters who are citadels of groupthink, “client journalism” and contemptuous of those who don’t conform to their liberal, progressive values. To which there are three answers.
First is that almost every GB News presenter is a creature and creation of these media elites – mostly familiar columnists, editors, established broadcasters, politicians. Some deadbeats, some not so, all Establishment. None of the GB Presenters have been fished out of a boozer in Grimsby or Guildford to give a view on taking the knee, or whatever happens to be in their mind. That would be novel and refreshing. No. They’re all wealthy, on good money (one assumes), well-connected and mix in just the same media circles they ever did. They are, in fact, just as out of touch with “ordinary” people as any judge on the Supreme Court or European Commissioner. Once you get that, then you start to understand the fraud they are perpetrating on their viewers.
Second is the false founding GB News myth that BBC/ITV/Sky News don’t reflect the kind of anti-woke, Brexity, chippy views that GB News is supposedly the only safe space for. They are supposedly biased, unbalanced, propaganda machines for the left. This is not true. Every mainstream news and current affairs show, including the much-maligned Channel 4 News, strives to balance opinions and views, and reflect public opinion. If they did not, then no one would have heard of Nigel Farage or Michelle Dewberry, who I remember doing her schtick every week on Sky’s The Voice. It was rubbish, but carefully balanced rubbish.
Contrary to what was claimed every minute, these opinions are given space in the mainstream broadcast media. Farage, Carole Malone, Lord Sumption and Lord Sugar were the marginalised, “unheard” voices we were treated to on the inaugural night of GB News. Tomorrow’s cry from the streets comes from Roger Daltrey.
The GB News shows looked like editions of Newsnight where the researcher forgot to book some guests to give expert opinion and/or the other sides of a debate. On the BBC, the monologues are rare, and quickly disowned. On GB News there is little else, and it’s very grating.
There are certainly opinions that are not heard on the mainstream broadcast media, and they are not heard for a reason – they violate the legislation or are borderline racist or dangerous to health. GB News are welcome to them, yes. The values that inform BBC and the others’ journalism are the ones that should underpin society and journalism – standing for the truth, challenging authority and wrong doing, interrogating those in power, and, yes, reflecting our multicultural, multiethnic society. Good news is rarely anything but propaganda for someone or something.
Third, and most glaringly, the BBC has plenty of space and time, given over to uplifting news stories and boasts a vast network of regional, national and local radio and TV newsrooms. GB News’ skeleton coverage doesn’t compete, and it’s sheer chutzpah for them to pretend their tokenism will reflect unheard Britain and all the rest of it. It can’t.
Andrew Neil – who really should still be on the BBC – criticised the other broadcasters for being “echo chambers”. They’re not, as it happens, but GB News certainly is. “If it matters to you it matters to us,” they say, but it all seemed very trivial, and dishonest with it.