Andrew Neil, the tough guy of TV news, was teary-eyed this week, choking up about Sunday’s ‘fraught’ launch of his new channel.
But if GB News succeeds, the real tears will surely be shed by his former bosses at the BBC.
And they will have nobody to blame but themselves, after turning BBC News into a shrill, hectoring megaphone for Left-liberal conformity.
Even before it has broadcast a second of actual news, GB News has itself become the story.
For Neil, whose nightly show will include sections called ‘Woke watch’ and ‘Mediawatch’, it is ‘the new challenger to the established order’.
For outraged critics it is an abomination, and they have even launched a campaign to strangle the station at birth — #DontFundGBNews — demanding advertisers boycott the channel.
Andrew Neil was teary-eyed this week, choking up about Sunday’s launch of his new channel
The one sort of ‘diversity’ that the woke elitists cannot abide is diversity of opinion. Which is why everybody who believes in freedom of expression should welcome GB News, if only for the discomfort it has already caused the cancel-culture warriors.
It is precisely because the BBC has dug such a hole for itself that a gap has opened up for GB News.
The corporation has abandoned its tradition of authoritative reporting in favour of politically correct lecturing.
In the process it has lost touch with millions of viewers who, polls show, believe it has no interest in their opinions.
To compound the injustice, those viewers are still compelled to cough up for the TV licence fee.
The BBC is now widely seen as for Them, and not for Us.
Almost every BBC journalist appears to espouse a Left-liberal viewpoint on every issue: Brexit or Israel bad; the EU and Palestine good.
We pretty much know what reporters and presenters will say before they open their mouths. Little wonder millions have turned off.
BBC founder Lord Reith decreed that the Corporation’s role was to ‘educate, inform and entertain’ the public. Now it seems the BBC’s self-appointed role is more to re-educate, indoctrinate and exasperate its audience.
That is evident not just in BBC News, but from BBC dramas that come across like Public Information Films haranguing viewers about social justice, to BBC ‘comedy’ panel shows whose stars seem to think everything’s a joke as long as it is knocking the Tories.
Neil argues that GB News has a niche because ‘news debate in Britain is increasingly woke and out of touch with the majority of people.
Our national conversation has become too metropolitan, too southern, and too middle class.’ And it is hard to disagree.
BBC founder Lord Reith decreed the Corporation’s role was to ‘educate, inform and entertain’
There is indeed a yawning divide between the BBC elite and much of the British public. Its journalists have long appeared obsessed with the fantasy world of the Twittersphere rather than the one where most of us live.
Last July a senior BBC manager even admitted that top journalists had become ‘addicted’ to ‘toxic’ Twitter and that the Beeb ‘had issues’ with — in other words, ignored — ‘the rise of Euroscepticism’ and with ‘tracking the growth of concern about immigration’. A year on, what’s changed?
The BBC gives the impression of looking down on the mass of British people as an ignorant racist mob in dire need of being lectured by the likes of Gary Lineker about anything from the virtues of taking the knee to all things woke.
The double-standards and hypocrisy are breath-taking. BBC news will encourage the social media mob demanding the head of cricketers for racist and sexist jokes they tweeted as teenagers — yet employ a journalist, Tala Halawa, who has previously tweeted that ‘#Hitler was right’ and that ‘Israel is more Nazi than Hitler’. She is now under investigation by the Beeb.
Pictured: BBC journalist Tala Halawa is under investigation over this tweet from 2014
Last year, the BBC proudly announced that it would spend £100 million of licence-payers’ money on ‘increasing diversity in TV’. Yet the one sort of diversity that the BBC will not tolerate is any real diversity of voices.
That is why Andrew Neil was let go, despite being perhaps the BBC’s most accomplished political broadcaster, and the interviewer whom Boris Johnson refused to face before the general election.
Neil and his team insist that GB News will be fair, objective and subject to the same Ofcom impartiality rules as every UK broadcaster.
He dismisses the allegation that his channel will be the British version of America’s Fox News — ‘they come from a hard-Right disinformation fake news conspiracy agenda’.
That cuts no ice with the woke critics. Even the name ‘GB News’ has been condemned by those who despise Britain and the British people.
No doubt they would be more at home watching BBC Breakfast presenters giggling like teenagers about the Union Flag behind a Tory minister’s desk.
Outside Broadcasting House stands a statue of George Orwell alongside my favourite Orwell quotation: ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’
It’s salutary to recall that Orwell based his depiction of Big Brother’s propaganda machine in his novel 1984 on Broadcasting House after working there in wartime.
BBC bosses might not want to hear it, but there almost certainly would not be a GB News launching on Sunday if they hadn’t turned BBC News into a woke version of the Ministry of Truth.
The BBC’s news rival: From a broadcasting titan to an ex-Apprentice star, can this team of 150 outfox Auntie’s 6,000 news staff?
By Roland White
Here’s a story that BBC News might not be going very big on this weekend: a rival station launches on Sunday.
GB News will be the first big newcomer to the world of TV current affairs since Sky News appeared in 1989. And at the helm is one of the heavyweights of British broadcasting, Andrew Neil.
The former Sunday Times editor and Daily Mail columnist spent 25 years at the BBC, presenting The Week, The Daily Politics, The Andrew Neil Show, and doing his bit on election nights.
Then suddenly his forensic, fact-packed interviewing style fell out of favour. In July last year he revealed that he’d become ‘surplus to requirements’ and was considering his options.
When Tim Davie took over as director-general in the autumn he tried to persuade him to stay on but it was too little too late and Mr Neil left in September and shortly afterwards announced plans to set up the new station.
What can viewers expect?
There’ll be no rolling news or even hourly bulletins among its annual output of 6,500 hours of programming, but the sort of debate and discussion shows that Mr Neil presented at the BBC. He’ll even be hosting the opening programme, at 8pm on Sunday.