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GB News launch – success or flop?


By Jamie Williams

Last night, on the hottest day of the year to date, over 164,000 viewers tuned in to the launch of GB News.

This figure was 280% higher than those that were watching Sky News during the same time. There were 31,000 more viewers watching GB News compared to BBC News. The big question is, can these numbers be sustained?

Despite these impressive viewing figures, the launch did not go exactly to plan. Throughout the first programme, the sound was out of sync. One presenter’s microphone did not work. Sir Alan Sugar vanished from the screen whilst addressing his first question. The amateur screenscape resembled a Hollywood news flash, rather than that of a prodigal channel promising shake up the British media landscape.

Technical challenges aside, the direction of travel was clear. Andrew Neil launched the programme with a 5-minute monologue. Neil promised to give a “voice to those who have been side lined” and cover the “people’s agenda”. As part of this commitment, Neil pledged to look beyond the M25-centric agenda of GB’s broadcasting counterparts. A network of regional reporters, with an intricate understanding of local issues, will advance the pan-geographic approach. Whilst this commitment has been made, one should not forget that the headquarters of GB News is in Paddington, London.

Dan Wootton’s Show followed. The flagship presenter went on a crusade against the Government’s decision to delay the reopening of society, proclaiming that lockdowns are a “crude measure”. It is ironic that the channel has promised to cover the views of the British people, they have chosen to challenge the majority view, at first instance. A series of opinion polls indicate that only a minority of people support the reopening of society and abandoning public health measure such as social distancing and wearing marks.

Late last year, I wrote that the demand for opinionated output is clearly on the rise. It is already clear that many Brits welcome GB News as an alternative to traditional media outlets. But, will opinionated content prove as successful in Britain as it has across the other side of the pond? We will have to wait to see if the opening viewing figures hold.