By Simon Gentry
Is Britain about to get its own Fox-style, right-wing 24 hour rolling news television station? That question has been exciting left-wing Twitter in the last week or so and does raise a host of questions about the way the media landscape is changing and what the public think of the current providers.
GB News is chaired by media veteran Andrew Neil, who also Chairs The Spectator, and has reportedly raised over £60 million from the Discovery Channel and financial investors to launch a round the clock TV news service to rival BBC News 24 and Sky News.
There are also strong rumours that the Murdoch’s News UK will launch a similar 24 hours news service, possibly extending the franchise they started when the launched Times Radio last summer. Times Television, like the radio station, would probably use the existing stable of News UK journalists, and would be aimed at the same audience as the newspaper.
The most obvious question is whether the UK market is big enough to support four channels devoted solely to news. Even in very ‘newsy’ times most of the public only access news once or twice a day, and rarely sit and watch a rolling news service, so whether there is enough interest from advertisers will be probably determine the fate of at least GB News, if not the Times-linked News UK offering.
Of course, the value of advertising will ultimately be dependent on the audience, which raises the question of whether there is a big enough audience. GB News and its backers are betting that what they believe to be a leftward/Remain bias at the BBC and Sky, and that this has opened up an opportunity for news channel with a centre-right slant on events.
Tom Harwood, the high-profile member of the Guido Fawkes team with an unashamedly right-wing bias, has landed a job at GB News but from what we can see the rest of the team seems not to be particularly right-leaning. The BBC is in the process of letting over 500 of its new journalists go, so both GB News and the News UK offering will have lots of talent to chose from.
GB News will fall under the regulatory purview of OfCom, so it will not be able to be quite as extreme as some on the Twitter-sphere seem to believe and its hard to see how a true Fox-style news service would win a big enough audience to survive in what will be a crowded market.