On Sunday night, what some have called a new dawn for British broadcasting began with GB News’ first programme. From its first announcement, GB News said it wanted to be controversial and spark debate – it has certainly done that, but perhaps not in the way it intended…
The first days of the channel have been riddled with sound problems (the first ever show on the channel was out of sync and many guests couldn’t be heard) and criticism as their sets are barely finished and very dark. As media commentator Scott Byran put it “Don’t compare the GB News technical mistakes as being like Student Television. That’s disrespectful to student television.” Burn.
Whilst the tech issues and dodgy sets are the most obvious problem, the channel also has some serious underlying issues too. A mix of experience and youth, the channel is safe in the hands of old hands such as Alastair Stewart, Colin Brazier and Simon McCoy who all impressed in their first outings. It also benefits from the energy brought by a series of young, enthusiastic reporters across the UK who clearly love the breath of fresh air that the channel was launched to provide.
However, whilst the reporters are full of passion, the same cannot be said of some of the less experienced presenters. It takes time to make a great broadcaster, and while selecting polemicists with limited TV experience may have saved money and gained traction online, it does not make great television over a two or three hour show as the presenters return to their same rants over and over again.
Whilst some of this may have been first day nerves, it will need to improve if the channel is really going to compete with the BBC and Sky.
I know this is turning into a list of problems rather than a review, but I have to talk about Dan Wooton. I will admit that, as a student, GB News is not supposed to be my cup of tea, but some of the content is worrying if the channel wants to be taken seriously.
In his opening monologue on the channel’s first night, Andrew Neil said they would not be promoting conspiracy theories. Just an hour later in his opening monologue Wooton tore this up with a five minute anti-lockdown rant. Whilst this isn’t a conspiracy theory, it’s too close to one for comfort if Neil wants the channel to be seen as a serious news broadcaster.
Linked to this, for a news channel there doesn’t seem to be much news. No headlines on the hour, no bulletins, just debate and discussion of what’s happening across the nation. Whilst it’s interesting to see how a brewery on the Scottish boarders has coped through lockdown, the G7 Summit and the various agreements made there have much more of an impact on the lives of everyday Brits and deserved much greater coverage.
GB News boasts that it can take on the BBC’s 6000 staff with its 150, whilst I admire its ambition and huge potential for growth (they’ve announced that they’re expanding into radio in just a month or so), I do worry whether they’re up to the job. The tech problems need sorting and the anti-lockdown rants reining in if the channel wants to be taken seriously, as only by doing this will it truly shake up British broadcasting.
Andrew Neil looked tired and frustrated on air, perhaps he’s feeling the burden of the ship sinking already? I genuinely hope GB News will stay afloat, but if it is to survive it may need a lifeboat. Whatever happened to that Piers Morgan?