For the beleaguered news channel, which crawled past its 100 days milestone this week, has already shifted the political and cultural dials in terms of Britain’s experience of broadcast news.
For three months, GB News has been pushing the envelope. Presenter Neil Oliver informs viewers he won’t be complying with Covid lockdowns. His colleague Dan Wootton tells an environmental activist that “people like you should be locked up”. Andrew Neil’s replacement Colin Brazier invites David Starkey on his show to talk “cancel culture” after the historian was pilloried for previously saying: “Slavery wasn’t genocide, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many damn blacks in Africa or in Britain.” He later apologised for this. Crucially, GB News has taken Britain’s most divisive politician and given him a TV platform. Nigel Farage went to sea to hold forth on camera about Channel migrants. And he has used his pub-styled studio to “talk pints” and politics with guests such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Sir Geoffrey Boycott and Ken Livingstone. This is new ground for British TV news.
Although the channel’s linear audience has been tiny, GB News has not gone unnoticed. Its editorial approach and catalogue of calamities have generated heated online argument and acres of press coverage. All without falling foul of regulator Ofcom.
Most significantly of all, GB News has been an inspiration for Rupert Murdoch. The media baron had lost his initial enthusiasm for a British version of Fox News but GB News changed his mind: he has now launched talkTV.
Murdoch did not merely learn from the early failings of GB News. He also observed it testing the waters with Ofcom while changing the public’s experience of broadcast news and building on the growth of Right-wing radio hosts, from Farage’s former show on LBC to the culture warriors of Murdoch’s TalkRadio. GB News was Murdoch’s canary in the mine. Just as Farage smoothed the way for Boris Johnson in politics, so he has prepared the ground for Murdoch’s star presenter, Piers Morgan, to become the king of a new era of Right-leaning broadcast news.