GB News, the UK’s first new news channel in decades, launched on Sunday night with a monologue from the estimable Andrew Neil, setting out the channel’s philosophy.
‘We will puncture the pomposity of our elites and politics, business, media and academia and expose their growing promotion of cancel culture for the threat to free speech and democracy that it is’, he said.
Just 48 hours later and GB News’s detractors have already proven him right.
Stop Funding Hate, a pearl-clutching campaign group that seeks to deprive news outlets it disagrees with of advertising revenue, has managed to get Ikea, Nivea, Kopparberg, Grolsch, Octopus Energy and the Open University to pull their ads, amid claims GB News is somehow fuelling hatred and division with its chatty, unwoke approach to current-affairs coverage.
Stop Funding Hate – imagine if a Guardianista with a Twitter account ran Mary Whitehouse’s National Viewers' and Listeners' Association – has been urging its followers to complain to advertisers about the supposedly ‘hateful’ company they are unwittingly keeping. Six advertisers and counting have now suspended their ads, pending review, most saying they didn’t realise that their ads were appearing on the channel and that they wanted to ensure GBN’s content matched their values.
What ‘values’ they seem to be worried about isn’t really clear. Anyone who has bothered to watch GB News’s output in its first couple of days would not have detected anything resembling ‘hate’ being broadcast from its west London studio. But in the fetid minds of SFH and its social-media supporters, apparently anyone to the right of Alan Rusbridger – or anyone who just thinks the whole 'taking the knee' business is a bit annoying – is some kind of deplorable fascist who shouldn’t be allowed to grace the nation’s television screens.
‘Brands are free to choose where they do & don't advertise, and the public are free to speak out & seek to influence that choice’, Stop Funding Hate says, rather defensively if I may say so, over on Twitter. But we all know what this is about.
This is about a campaign group trying to cajole big business into blacklisting media organisations it disagrees with. SFH has been on the warpath with GB News even before it started broadcasting. Call me a cynic, but I think this is about more than a professed, deep concern about balance in broadcasting.
Regrettably, woke capital is a soft target for this kind of stuff. Businesses that don’t give a stuff about politics but pretend to do so for retweets and firms that seem to confuse Twitter argy-bargy for the public mood, are cowards and are all-too-willing to give in to those who shout the loudest online.
Grolsch, after it suspended its ads with GB News, declared itself ‘a brand that prides itself on core values of inclusion and openness to all people’. Remember: this is a beer we're talking about. And as is so often the case these days, such calls for inclusion are essentially exclusionary – they never seem to include those who just so happen to hold a different opinion to the great and good.
GB News may have got off to a rocky start in its first few days. But whatever happens from here, the folks over there should feel more than a little vindicated. The unhinged backlash to it proves that this news channel, trying to bring something different to a conformist media and be a thorn in the side of the enforcers of cancel culture, is definitely on to something.