GB News: Will it be short-lived or is it a station you will need to consider for story pitches

Britain’s first new television news channel for two decades launched on Sunday.

GB News is a channel we have been told will set ‘a fresh agenda’ and that it will ‘give a voice to those who have been side-lined’.

As a media training company, we must prepare our delegates for all the different media outlets they could face.

So, what do we know about this new channel, and what does it mean for you telling your story?

Well, it would be fair to say it has experienced an interesting first few days.

There have been many technical issues, including poor sound quality, out of focus cameras and presenters battling against misbehaving graphics.

And pranksters appear to have tricked presenters into reading out some fake viewer names, much to the amusement of social media.

Sure, the people behind the channel would have hoped for fewer of these issues.

But those glitches will surely be ironed out. Polish will be applied to the product. And presenters will undoubtedly learn to tread carefully with viewer names.

Despite the issues, viewing figures look impressive. The channel shared figures from the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board showing it was watched by 164,400 people between 7pm and 11pm on Sunday (it launched at 8pm). BBC News had 133,000 viewers during the same period, while Sky had 57,000.

But the big issue that will impact whether those types of results can be maintained and improved is that the channel has launched with an image problem.

Even before it aired it became pigeonholed as the channel of – and for - angry white ageing men. And that has led some to christen it ‘Gammon TV’ AND ‘Brexit TV’.

And it is hard to see at this early stage how it will shake that reputation and appeal to a wider audience, particularly when Nigel Farage featured on the opening day.

Certainly, some big brands are uneasy about being linked with the channel and its news content.  

Less than 48 hours after the launch, Kopparberg, Grolsch, Nivea, the Open University, Ikea and Ovo Energy quickly moved to distance themselves from GB News. If, like me, you are an advertising novice, it seems advertising for the channel is managed by Sky Media and is bought to target specific audiences rather than for particular channels. 

Cider company Kopparberg said: “We want to make it clear to everyone that our ad ran on this channel without our knowledge or consent. Kopparberg is a drink for everyone and we have immediately suspended our ads from this channel pending further review of its content.”

Ikea released a similar statement saying: “We have safeguards in place to prevent our advertising from appearing on platforms that are not in line with our humanistic values. We are in the process of investigating how this may have occurred to ensure it won’t happen again in future, and have suspended paid display advertising in the meantime.”

What impact this advertising boycott will have is not clear.

Publicly, those behind the channel and its supporters have been bolshie about the boycott, but if more brands were to follow suit, the nerves may start to wrangle a little louder.

So, what does this all mean for PRs and story pitches? Should you target the GB News channel?

Well, it is early days for the channel, and it would be foolish for us as a media training company to write it off on the back of some technical teething problems and controversy. It is, after all, a channel promising to broadcast 6,500 hours a year, so it needs some time.

And it has expansion plans that suggest a long-term commitment. A GB News radio station could launch as early as next month, and there are plans for similar TV channels in Spain and Eastern Europe.

It also has some high-profile journalists and presenters on its roster, including Simon McCoy, a BBC anchor for 17 years, Liam Halligan, from Channel 4 News, and Gloria De Piero, a former MP who has also been GMTV’s political editor.

Additionally, Andrew Neil, the channel’s chairman and a journalist with a reputation for skewering leading politicians, will present an evening show.  

The station has also announced a regional reporting network and says these reporters “will be embedded in their local communities.” So, there should be plenty of interview opportunities, despite much of the initial airtime feeling like it has been filled with pundits.

And there is lots of talk about covering the stories that matter to people. The challenge will be convincing some of the population that it is interested in reporting the stories that matter to everyone, irrespective of their political views.

When Nivea spoke about its adverts appearing on its channel, it said its policy is to wait a few months after a new channel has launched before allowing advertising.

It will be fascinating to see if PRs take a similar approach to story pitches.

Media First are media and communications training specialists with more than 35 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers. 

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