GB News ad boycott reaction: 'Worst kind of cancel culture' - Press Gazette

GB News ad boycott reaction: 'Worst kind of cancel culture'

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has said the growing advertiser boycott of GB News is “worrying” and that the new channel is a “welcome addition” to the diversity of the UK media.

Around 11 advertisers are now confirmed to have suspended their marketing campaigns on the channel (full list of brands and their statements here).

Dowden told the Daily Mail: “One of the cornerstones of our liberties is our robust, free and diverse media and GB News is a welcome addition to that diversity.”

Referring to a video showing Newsnight political editor Nick Watt being chased through Whitehall at an anti-lockdown protest on Monday, Dowden continued: “As we’ve seen this week with the totally unacceptable harassment of a BBC journalist, we cannot take it for granted. It is up to brands to advertise where they wish, but it would be worrying if they allow themselves to succumb to pressure groups.

“They should note that GB News is regulated by Ofcom and held to the same high standards as every other broadcaster in the UK.”

Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, told the Mail: “This is the worst type of cancel culture. GB News is bringing a much-needed perspective to our media landscape.

“The brands that are pulling their advertising are frankly gutless and need to understand that the UK is a conservative country and will remain so for the foreseeable.”

The Boycott GB News campaign, led by the non-profit “progressive” digital campaigning platform Ripples, urges people to help stop the “biased” channel’s “fake news” and its “right wing, pro-government, pro-Brexit and coronavirus-conspiracist presenters”.

They are joined by long-standing campaign Stop Funding Hate, which has previously persuaded advertisers to part ways with the Daily Mail and The Sun. Its founder Richard Wilson has written that the “aggressive positioning of GB News as an anti ‘woke’ TV channel is likely to raise ongoing concerns”.

The group shared an article written by Wilson in 2016 in which he said the public has a “right to speak out” and is “entitled to exercise our rights, and make our voices heard”.

Press Gazette ran a snap Twitter poll for 30 minutes on Thursday morning asking if people think it is acceptable for brands to withdraw advertising from GB News in response to online campaigns or whether they are curbing freedom of speech.

Of 599 responses, 76% said it was okay for brands to do so, while 20% objected on freedom of speech grounds.

GB News political correspondent Tom Harwood, who joined the channel from political blog Guido Fawkes, wrote for Mail Plus that the “left-wing mobs” trying to cancel it were “merely serving to show how needed GB News is in the first place”.

He said: “I get the feeling those who are trying to banish GB News before it has properly got going are utterly unrepresentative of the country at large and, in reality, all their attitude shows is just how needed GB News is after all.”

Tom Harwood on GB News on 17 June. Picture: GB News/Screenshot

Pointing to audience data for GB News’ launch night on Sunday that put it above the BBC News and Sky News channels, Harwood added that this “shows the various sneering attempts to cancel or do down choice will ultimately backfire”.

Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath questioned why brands had decided they “cannot tolerate free speech and media plurality” yet trade in countries such as China and Saudi Arabia.

He wrote: “The boycott of GB News is a turning point for business. They must choose: are they for-profit ventures selling to customer-kings, or weapons of the Left, political organisations masquerading as commercial outfits, militating against freedom? If it’s the latter, the backlash, when it comes, will be ferocious.”

Piers Morgan said he would boycott Ikea in response to its statement that it had suspended display advertising and begun investigating how its ads appeared on GB News. He called the Swedish retail giant “pathetic virtue-signalling twerps”.

In the Times, former BBC analysis and insight editor Jawad Iqbal called the “premature” boycott “both sinister and stupid”.

He wrote: “The channel, which was good enough to pass the stringent tests set by broadcasting regulators, has been deemed beneath the standards of corporate giants such as Ikea, which have pulled their on-air advertising. Since when did it become the role of big business to police the parameters of acceptable public debate on television or anywhere else?”

The Independent’s economic commentator Hamish McRae predicted that the tumult will take weeks to settle down and the ultimate outcome will depend on GB News’ content over that time.

“If the fears of Stop Funding Hate prove justified, then GB News will indeed have a tough time recruiting and retaining advertisers,” he said. “On the other hand if it manages to establish a reputation for fair-minded, centre-right reportage and that pulls in prosperous viewers, then they will be an attractive market that advertisers cannot ignore.”

Press Gazette contacted a number of free expression campaign groups including Article 19, Index on Censorship and English PEN for this article but has yet to receive any response.

Picture: GB News/Screenshot

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17 thoughts on “GB News ad boycott reaction: 'Worst kind of cancel culture'”

  1. I find it odd that this story is about the ‘debate’ about the boycott campaign, yet while it quotes six people criticising the boycott/defending GBNews and one neutral voice, there is not a word from either of the groups cited as being behind the campaign or anyone supporting it. Linking to a five-year-old article about the Press doesn’t quite cut it.
    Your own poll shows that people think businesses have a right to withdraw advertising if they don’t like the platform – many were unaware their products were being placed in the channel in the first place.
    How can it be censorship for advertisers to choose where they spend their money? They make these decisions every day – would the Tory party advertise in the Morning Star? You choose your brand/culture fit.
    For ministers to describe businesses that done share their view as ‘gutless’ is ridiculous. I expect little of Dowden or Knight, but it is dispiriting to see PG publish such an unbalanced article. Freedom is not the preserve of the media and the simple act of setting up a TV station does not confer on anyone an automatic right to advertising revenue.
    Finally, where are all the stories on the site about the Defund the BBC campaign?

  2. Excellent point, Liz Gerard. Those foaming at the mouth about companies choosing not to buy advertising on GB News, because it is apparently extremist to attempt to defund media you disagree with, are the *exact same people* who have spent the last two years furiously demanding that the BBC be defunded because of its alleged “left wing bias” – which is a provable lie anyway.

    The facts are as follows:

    Fact – Right-wing newspapers dominate the UK’s national press and outsell left-wing newspapers by 5:1.

    Fact – Repeated content analysis studies have proved the BBC’s news and current affairs output has significant right-wing bias. It has repeatedly censored criticism of the government, such as refusing to cover an enormous protest outside Downing Street over David Cameron’s tax avoidance.

    Fact – The overwhelming majority of the UK’s national press backed Brexit.

    Fact – The BBC’s news and current affairs output gave more prominence to leave campaigners than remain campaigners.

    Fact – After the referendum, the BBC announced in the industry press that it was de-platforming remain voices and would no longer offer any debate on the rights or wrongs of leaving the EU, instead focusing on the mechanics of making it happen. It censored gigantic anti-Brexit demonstrations.

    Fact – Despite all of the above, right-wingers and Brexit devotees fervently insist that “the media” is “controlled” by “woke lefties” and “remoaners”. It is a complete and utter fantasy. But they nonetheless insist upon it with a militancy that would put the wind up many a terrorist.

    Fact – GB News is capitalising on the delusion of right-wingers by reinforcing their completely unsubstantiated claims that the media is all left-wing. It is selling them a remedy to a problem which does not exist outside their own imaginations. If anything, the truth is the opposite: the left-wing has almost no voice whatsoever in the British media.

    Fact – The above is illustrated by GB News’s own schedule. Pretty much every single presenter it has signed was already a major player at another mainstream media outlet. Andrew Neil – BBC. Dan Wootton – The Sun/Times Radio. Colin Brazier – Sky. Alastair Stewart – ITV. Kirsty Gallacher – Sky. Simon McCoy – BBC. Liam Halligan – Channel 4. Neil Oliver – BBC.

    Fact – Despite being presented with a roster of voices who already had enormous prominence in the media, GB News’s fanatical supporters nonetheless insist that the channel is giving voice to people who previously had their views censored by the media.

    Fact – ‘Suppressed’ voices given a platform on GB News so far are BBC star Theo Paphitis, global rockstar Roger Daltrey, Nigel Farage (the most frequent BBC Question Time guest of the 21st century), billionaire cabinet member Rishi Sunak, and millionaire author and TV star Lady Colin Campbell.

    The entire premise of GB News is a nonsense. Andrew Neil is a snake oil salesman, bottling the disease and selling it to the public as the antidote. The whole thing is a con. Not one major shareholder in ‘GB’ News even lives in Great Britain. They’re all non-dom millionaires using the station as a tool to affect change that benefits their business interests – which is why the essence of GB News’s reporting and posturing, whilst pretending to be somehow radical and alternative, is in fact identical to that of all the other billionaire-owned media in the UK.

    But there are none so blind as those who shall not see. If you want to believe that Nigel Farage – BBC’s most invited guest of the last 21 years – is being censored and suppressed by the “woke” BBC, then have at it. If you want to believe an overwhelmingly hard-right media isn’t right-wing enough, fill your boots.

    But don’t come crying ten years from now, when you get exactly what you’ve been voting for.

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