Owner of Andrew Neil’s GB News inAwkward Conflict of Interest
While the new television channel has pitched itself as a rival to the media establishment, one of its co-founders maintains ties to one of Britain’s big broadcasters
Andrew Neil has finally left the BBC. After 25 years of service at the public broadcaster, the political interrogator has finally admitted he’s no longer cut out for impartial broadcasting and has joined what appears to be a new, right-leaning news network called ‘GB News’.
Neil, who is chairman of the right-wing Spectator magazine, will chair GB News as well as hosting a nightly show. The channel is expected to launch in the new year and has already mouthed-off the establishment broadcasters, none of which are representative of the UK population, Neil claims.
GB News will serve the “vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard” by existing television news channels, Neil said when announcing his new gig on Friday.
“We’ve seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news… GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years,” he added. “We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area.”
However, one of the station’s co-owners is closer to the “mainstream” than Neil cared to digress.
GB News appears to be owned by a company called ‘All Perspectives Limited’, which is in turn equally owned by media moguls Mark Schneider and Andrew Cole.
Cole is a director and board member at Liberty Global – a multinational telecommunications company with roughly 47,000 employees. According to the trading website Wallmine, Cole is also a shareholder at Liberty, reportedly owning stock worth more than $1 million.
Liberty Global has an interest in mainstream broadcasting in the UK, owning 9.9% of ITV Plc, the company that effectively owns and operates the ITV network. There has even been speculation that Liberty could launch a full takeover of ITV, with this rumour circulating via City AM as recently as May.
Although GB News is thought to be competing more directly with Sky and the BBC – both of which boast rolling news channels – Neil’s anti-mainstream rhetoric does seem somewhat jarring, given Cole’s ties to a leading news broadcaster.
GB News already boasts a broadcasting license, according to reports, and will be available to view on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media. Incidentally, Liberty also owns Virgin Media, which it acquired for $24 billion in 2013.
To navigate Ofcom’s broadcasting rules, which require due impartiality, it’s thought that GB News will mirror the London-based radio station LBC, by employing presenters with a range of views.
Andrew Cole has been approached for comment via Liberty Global.
An Awkward Namesake
GB News also faces some potential confusion with its choice of name.
A current affairs platform under the name ‘GB TV’ already exists, having been founded in June by former UKIP leader Henry Bolton and three of his associates.
Bolton’s channel has only published three videos so far – one of which lampoons the Government for reportedly housing asylum seekers at an army barracks. However, GB TV is styled akin to a news channel – albeit one designed in the late ‘90s – which might confuse those searching for Andrew Neil’s new project.
GB News has reportedly hired former Sky News executive John McAndrew, alongside the former boss of Sky News Australia, Angelos Frangopoulos, who will act as CEO. The platform is aiming to raise a further $55-65 million in investment before it launches and reportedly intends to hire 100 journalists.
This sort of spending will surely set apart GB News when it hits the airwaves. However, until then, awkward questions about who owns the channel might be an annoyance to the anti-establishment broadcaster.