United Kingdom

Andrew Neil will lead new news channel to rival BBC and Sky aiming to reach those 'unheard' by media

Andrew Neil will lead new 24-hour news channel to rival BBC and Sky aiming to reach those who feel 'underserved and unheard' by the media.  

The broadcaster will be the face and chairman of GB News, signalling the end of his relationship with the BBC, where he has been one of the most respected political interviewers.

Plans are in place for 'Britain's news channel', aimed at those who feel 'underserved and unheard by their media', to launch early next year.

The broadcaster will be the face and chairman of GB News, signalling the end of his relationship with the BBC

The channel could shake up the TV news landscape, currently dominated by Sky News and BBC News.

As well as being appointed chairman, broadcaster and former Sunday Times editor Neil, 71, will host a flagship evening programme in primetime.

This will lead the programming line-up.

He said: 'GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years.

'We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area.'

Neil, best known for The Andrew Neil Show, as well as This Week and Daily Politics on the BBC, added: 'We've seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news.

'GB News is aimed at the vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard by their media.'

The BBC confirmed this summer that Neil's self-titled show would not return to TV screens after it came off air during the pandemic.

It said at the time it was in discussions about a new interview series with Neil.

Political interviewer and publisher Neil recently dismissed speculation that he was in the running to be the next BBC chairman, saying on Twitter that he has 'no interest in the job'.

At a time when the BBC and commercial media companies are cutting jobs, GB News said it hopes to create at least 120 positions.

They include more than 100 journalists in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the channel. 

Global media and entertainment company Discovery, Inc is the lead investor.

GB News will feature more than 6,500 hours of content a year, made exclusively for the channel, which has secured broadcasting licences from Ofcom.

It has been founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider.

They said: 'Andrew Neil epitomises what GB News is all about.

'He's an exceptional journalist, brilliant interviewer and fearlessly independent.'

They plan for the channel to reach 96% of British television households via Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.

The BBC confirmed this summer that Neil's self-titled show would not return to TV screens after it came off air during the pandemic

GB News will broadcast seven days a week across the UK and Ireland and will be available globally on GB News digital platforms.

Sky launched a 24-hour news channel in 1989 and the BBC followed, in the UK, in 1997.

Former Sky News executive editor John McAndrew will be director of news and programming and ex-Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos has been appointed chief executive officer.

GB News said that more announcements will be made in the coming weeks. 

The BBC has thanked Andrew Neil for his work at the corporation following the news he will be the face and chairman of GB News.

A statement said: 'We'd like to give our heartfelt thanks to Andrew for his many years of work for the BBC, during which he's informed and entertained millions of viewers. 

'We wish Andrew every success in his new role; we're sorry the US election coverage will be his last BBC presentation work for the foreseeable future but he will always be welcome at the BBC.' 

From the 'Empty Chair' to Owen Jones: Some of Andrew Neil's 'greatest hits' at the BBC

Andrew Neil explains why he wants to interview Boris Johnson prior to the election

The 'Empty Chair': Neil vs Boris Johnson, December 2019

Mr Neil delivered a direct interview challenge to Boris Johnson during the 2019 General Election, telling him it was 'not too late' to accept his invitation to chat before the poll.

Mr Johnson had refused to be interviewed by Mr Neil, who had spoken with Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and the Lib Dems' Jo Swinson.

During an 'empty chair' moment,Mr Neil said: 'There is of course still one to be done, Boris Johnson. We have been asking him for weeks now to give us a date, a time, a venue. As of now, none has been forthcoming.' 

'It is not too late. We have an interview prepared. Oven-ready, as Mr Johnson likes to say. The theme running through our questions is trust - and why at so many times in his career, in politics and journalism, critics and sometimes even those close to him have deemed him to be untrustworthy. 

'It is, of course, relevant to what he is promising us all now.'

Neil vs Ben Shapiro: May 2019

Mr Neil clashed with US conservative commentator Ben Shapiro on the BBC's Politics Live last year.

Mr Shapiro was subjected to a tough interview by Mr Neil about previous remarks he had made, including 'Israelis like to build, Arabs like to bomb crap' and his support for new abortion laws in Georgia.

The American, formerly of Breitbart, then accused Mr Neil of bias and suggested abortions after more than six weeks of pregnancy were brutal.

'You purport to be an objective journalist,' Mr Shapiro said. 'The BBC purports to be an objective, down-the-middle network. It obviously is not, it never has been, and you as a journalist are proceeding to call one side of the political aisle ignorant, barbaric and sending us back to the dark ages.'

Mr Shapiro later said that he had been 'destroyed' by Mr Neil in the interview.

Neil vs Owen Jones: January 2019 

Mr Neil and commentator Owen Jones clashed in a row during the broadcast of the This Week programme.

The row began after Mr Jones made a film about far-Right protesters who harassed him and other journalists.

During the debate, Mr Jones raised Mr Neil's work outside his role at the BBC as chairman of the Press Holdings media group which publishes the weekly magazine The Spectator.

As the debate drew to a close Mr Jones claimed the editorial line of The Spectator and other papers legitimised some far-Right views, provoking an angry response from Mr Neil.

Mr Neil told Mr Jones: 'Your smears and lies about me are not going to be dealt with tonight so just move off it.' 

Neil vs Paris jihadists: November 2015

Mr Neil delivered a rousing speech against the Paris attackers who 'slaughtered 132 innocents to prove the future belongs to them, rather than a civilisation like France'. 

In his rousing message, he listed the artists and theorists who shaped French culture and who overshadow ISIS's beliefs and acts.

'I can't say I fancy their chances. France. The country of Descartes, Monet, Sartre Rousseau to Camus, Renoir, Berlioz, Daft Punk, Zizou Zidane,' he said. 'Liberté, égalité, fraternité and crème Brulee.

'Versus what? Beheadings, crucifixions, amputations, slavery, mass murder, medieval squalor and a death cult barbarity that would shame the Middle Ages.'

He then thundered: 'I think the outcome is pretty clear to everyone but you. You will lose. In a thousand year's time, Paris, that glorious city of lights, will still be shining bright as will every other city like it. And you will be as dust, along with the ragbag of fascist Nazis and Stalinists that previously dared to challenge democracy and failed.' 

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