Struggling channel GB News hires Nigel Farage to host show
LONDON (AP) — GB News, a British news channel that launched last month as a right-leaning alternative to the BBC and Sky News, said Saturday it has recruited populist politician Nigel Farage as a presenter.
The channel said the former leader of the pro-Brexit U.K. Independence Party will host an evening show airing Mondays to Thursdays.
GB News has had a rocky start it began broadcasting in mid-June with a roster of hosts that included newspaper and TV news veteran Andrew Neil and broadcasters recruited from the BBC, Sky and ITV. It promised to provide an alternative to an alleged “metropolitan elite” bias among the established news channels, but denied it would be a British equivalent of Fox News.
British broadcasting rules require news channels to be accurate and impartial in their coverage.
Hiring the high-profile but divisive Farage, who spent years stoking concerns about immigration and later became Britain’s most prominent supporter of Donald Trump, could be a sign the channel plans to put more emphasis on right-wing politics and “culture war” issues.
When GB News launched in June, Neil, who is the channel’s chairman as well as a presenter, said it would “expose the growing promotion of cancel culture” and give a voice “to those who feel sidelined or silenced.”
But its commitment to free speech was questioned after it censured one of its presenters, Guto Harri, for taking a knee this week during an on-air discussion of the anti-racism gesture adopted by England’s national soccer team. His gesture drew an overwhelmingly negative response from viewers.
On Friday GB News said it did “not have a company line on taking the knee” but that Harri doing so on air “was an unacceptable breach of our standards.”
Harri has not appeared on air since the incident on Tuesday. British newspapers reported that the channel’s head of news, John McAndrew, had quit. McAndrew could not immediately be reached for comment.
The channel, which has been backed by New York-based Discovery and British investor Paul Marshall, among others, has also experienced teething problems such as technical glitches and seen its ratings decline.
Neil, who has taken a break after two weeks hosting a daily show, said GB News was “finding its feet.”
“Start ups are fraught and fractious,” he tweeted Friday. “@GBNEWS is no exception. But the news channel is finding its feet and has a great future. Watch this space.”