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Fri 7 May 2021

Andrew Neil’s Union-Jack-branded platform is backed by a range of foreign and right-wing interests, reports Sam Bright

As though the country hasn’t suffered enough over the past 12 months, two well-funded right-wing broadcast operations are now set to launch in the coming months.

News UK TV, funded by Australian-American media baron Rupert Murdoch, is vying with GB News to be the first to launch this spring – heralding an ominous new TV ecosystem in Britain.

GB News is chaired by former BBC presenter Andrew Neil – who also previously worked for Murdoch as editor of The Sunday Times for 11 years. Yesterday, the Evening Standard carried more information about the imminent launch of the platform and its attempts to lure right-wing presenters from their present habitats – including Julia Hartley-Brewer of talkRADIO, and Nick Ferrari of LBC.

GB News claims that it will challenge the current monopoly of Britain’s broadcasters – namely the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky – by creating a news service that is more representative of the wider population.

Judging by the statements made by the company and its executives to date, it will attempt to be considerably more conservative in outlook than the established broadcasters, and less London-centric – though it remains to be seen how the latter will work in practice.

There is also a deep hypocrisy embedded in the branding and ethos of the channel. For while it seeks to represent the British people, and wears their flag, it is actually funded and operated by a range of foreign groups and individuals.

In terms of funding, GB News has successfully secured £60 million in initial start-up cash, which has come largely it seems from two foreign sources.

The first is Discovery Inc. – the $11 billion mass media company that operates the Discovery and Science channels, based in New York City.

The second is Legatum Limited – a private investment firm headquartered in Dubai. Legatum funds projects that promote “entrepreneurship and free enterprise” and established a UK-based think tank under its name in 2007. Following the 2016 EU Referendum, the Legatum Institute had an influential role in promoting Brexit and the Vote Leave campaign’s CEO, Matthew Elliott, was a fellow at the institute for a year.

Legatum and Discovery are the “lead” investors in the media start-up, but they are joined by other parties.

Indeed, Byline Times can reveal that GB News is also backed by a New York-based private investment firm called Kibble Holdings. Posting on LinkedIn, the firm’s managing partner Matthew Kibble said that the investment was “a little different” to the firm’s typical approach, “but never more important for the world”.

Kibble – who appears to have been an early investor in the controversial US big data platform Palantir via his family’s investment firm – also claims to have operations in Dallas and Hong Kong.

GB News is also backed by pro-Brexit hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall.

And as for the management of GB News, the story isn’t radically different. One of the co-founders of the platform is Andrew Cole, a director and board member at multinational telecommunications company Liberty Global. Cole’s LinkedIn profile states that he is currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. Cole has publicly called for the break-up of the BBC.

Cole’s accomplice is fellow media mogul Mark Schneider. Though now apparently based in London, Schneider is American and was educated at the University of Denver. He is a member of Republicans Overseas, the support group for party supporters living abroad.

The CEO of GB News, meanwhile, is Australian Angelos Frangopoulos, the former CEO of Sky News Australia. Frangopoulos’ LinkedIn profile indicates that he hadn’t held a role in the UK before joining Cole and Schneider on the board of All Perspectives Limited – the holding company for GB News – in November 2019.

This management team is now deploying its bulging bank account to hire 120 journalists – all in the hope of fundamentally altering the make-up of British journalism.

If you are concerned about the infiltration of right-wing foreign money and influence through GB News, we would recommend subscribing instead to Byline Times and its sister platform Byline TV – a progressive rival to billionaire-backed corporate media machines.

GB News has been approached for comment.

This article was corrected on 21/01/2021 to reflect the Legatum Institute’s connection to Legatum Limited and its role in Brexit.


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