Fox News-Style Channel Launches in U.K. With Truly Disastrous Results

Billed as "anti-woke" and "opinion-led," the U.K.'s newest news channel has found its first five days on air far from smooth sailing.

GB News, which is helmed by veteran political journalist Andrew Neil, was marred by technical difficulties on its opening night—Sunday, June 13—and plagued by pranks all week.

Despite high ratings for the channel, a number of key advertisers have already removed their commercials, with Ikea, Nivea and Grolsch among the companies to pull the plug.

Neil asked viewers in a monologue on launch night: "It's a new way of doing news. What could possibly go wrong?"

Andrew Neil
Andrew Neil's opening monologue for the launch of GB News. GB News

Well, quite a lot actually.

From presenters being mooned live on air to hosts reading out prank names such as "Mike Hunt," GB News is being widely mocked by viewers and critics.

The channel also faced embarrassment on Tuesday evening, when a contributor started a debate about the meaning of the word "pedophile," during a discussion about Prince Andrew's former friendship with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in 2019.

"Well, first of all, may I say that pedophile is a medical term, so is hebephile, so is ephebophile, and Jeffrey Epstein was an ephebophile," said Lady Colin Campbell, a royal biographer and former reality TV contestant.

Presenter Dan Wootton attempted to divert the conversation, declaring that Epstein was a pedophile, but Campbell's comments sparked severe criticism from viewers.

Well it’s certainly different.

— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) June 15, 2021

Earlier on Tuesday, Ikea announced that it had unknowingly advertised on GB News and had suspended all paid display advertising.

"We have safeguards in place to prevent our advertising from appearing on platforms that are not in line with our humanistic values and vision to side with the many people," the company said via a Twitter statement.

It added: "We are in the process of investigating how this may have occurred to ensure it won't happen again in future, and have suspended paid display advertising in the meantime."

Meanwhile, beer company Grolsch said in a statement: "We have ceased any further appearances of the Grolsch advert on this channel as we look to understand with our media partners how this happened."

Although viewers have drawn comparisons to Fox News, the bosses of GB News prefer to describe the channel as "opinion led" and a pro-British alternative to the likes of the BBC and Sky News.

"We're going to embrace the mood of the nation and communities that feel their voice has not been heard in the mainstream media," Angelos Frangopoulos, the Australian media executive brought in as CEO, said via The Guardian.

"We're just being true to telling the stories that people want to talk about."

The channel's chairman Andrew Neil is also chair of the conservative Spectator magazine. He was formerly a BBC political presenter and editor of The Sunday Times.

"The fire has been stoked by the woke warriors and by and large the establishment media is on their side," Neil said of GB News at the FT Future of News event. "We'll just be a bit of a counter-voice to give another point of view."

One of the channel's anchors, former BBC presenter Simon McCoy, has described the Fox News comparison as "unfortunate."

"I think there are certainly preconceptions about GB News," he told PA.

"This unfortunate Fox News analogy, it seemed to take root in some parts of the Twittersphere, and that's a shame because it just misunderstands exactly what we're doing. And the only way we can disprove it is to go on air and be what we want to be."

However, these comparisons will not be helped by the "anti-woke" agenda mentioned by Neil and appearances by the likes of Wootton, formerly executive editor of The Sun tabloid, and Laurence Fox, an actor and failed London mayoral candidate who stood on a platform of fighting "extreme political correctness."

Delivering a blurry and out-of-sync monologue on launch night, Neil set out the channel's mission statement, promising to "puncture the pomposity of the Westminster elites" and challenge the "threat to free speech" posed by "cancel culture."

"GB News will not slavishly follow the existing news agenda," he said. "We are not a rolling news channel nor will we be providing conventional news bulletins. But on all of our programs and platforms you will always know what is going on and what the country is talking about."

He added: "GB News will not be another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of the media. It is our explicit aim to empower those who feel their stories, their opinions, their concerns have been ignored or diminished. We are proud to be British. The clue is in the name."