Why I got GB News so wrong – the TV juggernaut that’s too rich to fail | Zoe Williams

I hardly ever worry about the mistakes I have made, unless the mistake is so flagrant that every day brings fresh proof of my error; so hello GB News. The channel is almost three years old, and it’s been a little over three years since we started to worry about its provocations: should we call for an advertising boycott, they asked themselves? My line was: relax, everyone, and my reasons were threefold.

Firstly, GB News would be boring and no one would watch it. The problem with reactionary opinions is that they are simply predictable. They can be inconsistent, of course – and simultaneously assert that women belong in the kitchen and that women’s rights are so fundamental that transgender rights are anathema – but it’s always anyone’s guess which way they’ll go. Who would want to watch this? I was right, to a certain point: the audience figures were laughable at first, climbing from year to year until they became a “respectable fringe”. But I was wrong on a more fundamental level by conceiving of this as a regular, commercial broadcast, the aim of which is to attract viewers and make a profit. Even if its audiences have increased, financially, its the losses have soared – this week it published an annual report Loss of £42 million, almost 40% more than what he lost last year. The only thing GB News doesn’t worry about is money.

Secondly, I thought Ofcom would tackle prejudice more severely: the whole point of the channel was, if not to replicate Fox News, then at least to speak to this imaginary constituency, which would be impossible under fairly strict in matters of impartiality. In fact, Ofcom often criticizes GB News, not just the more flowery events – the “clearly and unambiguously misogynistic» conversation between Dan Wootton and Laurence Fox, who have both since left the channel – but also on more everyday subjects, such as legitimacy of a panel discussion about last year’s budget in which only Conservative MPs (Esther McVey and Philip Davies) and their cronies were involved. These decisions seem to leave no trace of shame: the channel continues on its way, impassive, and the individuals leave for even more marginal pastures, castigating the “Ofcommunists” (copyright Dan Wootton).

Third, I thought that Andrew Neil, the founding chairman, whatever his views, had too much respect for the core values ​​of news to run a company that peddled untruths, or was so biased as to amount to misinformation, or was technically shabby and intellectually thin. I was right about that, and Neil left after three months. But I was wrong to think that it mattered: his departure, again, left no shadow of embarrassment.

My naivety was immense, but first of all stupidity: I didn’t follow the money. Basically, I was thinking of a gold rush that said: “It’s not taking off, who wants to stay all day in a puddle shaking a sieve?” » Well, people who think there’s gold there, stupid. Backers of parent company All Perspectives Limited, including hedge fund Paul Marshall, invest tens of millions in the loss-making business each year. Is this a vanity project, or a way of donating massive sums – £660,000 since its launch – to the insurgent wing of the Conservative party without going through the usual channels?

This does more than keep rebel Tory MPs solvent; it identifies them, brings them together, provides them with cheerleaders, amplifies them and renders them unignorable, both to the media at large and to the few vestiges of sensible conservatism that exist in Parliament. It doesn’t matter how many viewers the channel has, because what are viewers for, apart from advertising and money – and that’s the only thing GB News already has. He moves the discursive dial every day, using nothing more complicated than money. It’s too rich to fail.

It is salutary to compare the fate of the rebellious Conservative MPs with that of the now forgotten Labor malcontents who left to launch Change UK. Similarities: Change UK was also charmless, its press conferences were embarrassing, its agenda was underhanded (he said it was amorphous ‘change’, it meant ‘get rid of Corbyn’). But these Change UK MPs were no worse as GB News favorites; in addition, at least when they were racist, it was by chance. It’s not because they were less competent that their group sank without a trace. If someone had given her a TV channel and invested millions in it, she would still be with us today. To reuse the overrated exchange between Fitzgerald and Hemingway, the hard right is different from you and me. There’s more money.

Naivety, however, was the bigger mistake: I thought television – yes, even magazine-format news – was a matter of cultural appetite, determined by us, the motley army of the British people. We don’t always agree, but when we do, we want to see Danny Dyer talk about David Cameron with his trotters up, and we want to name a boat Boaty McBoatface. We don’t want to see Lee Anderson defame Sadiq Khan. Even the most committed Islamophobes do not want this; natural sense of fair play and all that.

But this kind of television, this kind of politics, doesn’t care about your cultural appetite. Where was the appetite for any of his talking points, from small boats to trans rights to the extremism that poisons public life? How is it possible, when you can’t reliably put dinner on the table, that food isn’t your top priority? This is not possible, because it is not true; Yet the importance is determined by the financial elites, who have so empowered the conservative insurgents that the party is just a party. insurgents, while the Labor Party only responds to this insurrection.

Interestingly, when an individual, whether Anderson or Fox, flies the kite too far, he can be released by the party or channel without hesitation; big names are superfluous, just grist for the project. Again, the far right is different from you and me. Of course, his agenda is different; a different vision of society; different conceptions of loyalty and belonging; and different priorities, that is, reversed priorities in which the less salient ones get the most attention. But above all, it brings in more money.

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