The UK got a noisy new news network on Sunday, as Discovery-backed GB News went live with a commitment to offer an alternative to BBC and Sky News. Although the launch has proved popular with viewers, the channel has been plagued by tech issues and an advertiser boycott in its opening days.
Broadcasting from a studio in Paddington, London, GB News launched on Sunday night with Andrew Neil, who defected from the BBC to chair the network, giving audiences a run-down of what to expect from a line-up of presenters that includes former BBC News anchor Simon McCoy and ex-The Sun journalist Dan Wootton.
But it became clear almost immediately that GB News is not a polished product. Since its opening night, the channel has experienced consistent difficulties with sound, lighting, misspelled chyrons, misbehaving graphics, lost connections to remote guests, and confusion among presenters.
The rough and ready broadcasting has spawned its own Twitter account, with GBNews Fails merrily posting about the daily snafus. Only this morning, the account retweeted a clip of morning show Great British Breakfast, which featured presenters competing with the noise of what sounds like heavy-duty machinery in the background.
Today on GB News there’s a new presenter called Drill. pic.twitter.com/qK9YAca0oM
— Gerald Somers (@Gerald__Somers) June 16, 2021
Here’s another clip of McCoy, a vastly experienced broadcaster who had a loyal following at the BBC, being interrupted mid-interview by graphics and music:
— Mark Williams (@MWmagic) June 15, 2021
In addition to the tech issues, GB News’ spikey right-leaning agenda has prompted some concern among major brands who have featured in the network’s ad breaks. Some have decided to boycott the channel, which on its opening night featured a monologue from Wootton arguing that lockdowns are not effective against coronavirus. On Wootton’s show last night, guest Lady Colin Campbell downplayed Jeffrey Epstein’s pedophilia.
Well it’s certainly different. pic.twitter.com/HrS2bIy1Lg
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) June 15, 2021
Ikea, Vodafone, cider maker Kopparberg, and beer company Grolsch are among those pulling their ads from GB News. “We want to make it clear to everyone that our ad ran on this channel without our knowledge or consent. Kopparberg is a drink for everyone and we have immediately suspended our ads from this channel pending further review of its content,” tweeted Kopparberg.
GB News’ ad sales are handled by Comcast-owned Sky Media, which places adverts on behalf of brands. This means that certain ads have appeared on GB News without the knowledge of the companies selling their wares.
It’s not all been bad news for GB News, however. The channel has enjoyed strong ratings since its launch, with its opening hour attracting an audience of 262,000 viewers, which was more than double BBC News’ audience at the same time, according to UK trade Broadcast. Monday’s breakfast show was seen by 79,000, which beat Sky News’ audience of 58,000 in the same three-hour slot.
Deadline has contacted GB News for comment.