The chief executive of GB News has emphasised the channel’s commitment to balance and accuracy after it was described in The Guardian as being the “anti impartiality” news channel.
British Journalism Award-winning Guardian columnist Marina Hyde expressed her alarm about the prospect of a Fox News-style TV channel in the UK, writing last month (following the attack on the US Capitol). She said: “The import of events in Washington this week is many things, but one of those is a cautionary tale about what happens when ‘news’ is entirely unmoored from facts.”
She added: “… imagine being the country that is RIGHT NOW deciding to get in on the bonkers newsotainment game…
“In the coming months, not one but two anti-impartiality news channels will launch in the UK – GB News, backed by Discovery, and News UK, courtesy of that aforementioned adornment to international life, Rupert Murdoch.”
GB News wrote a letter to The Guardian following Hyde’s column, which the paper has not published (either in print or online). However, Press Gazette has seen the letter from chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos in which he says the column is a “false imagining” of what GB News will be.
GB News chairman Andrew Neil has said the channel will be opinion-led, and appeal to the “vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard”. Journalists approached to join the channel have reportedly been told that it will be positioned to the right of the BBC.
But Frangopoulos said in his letter: “To call us an ‘anti-impartiality news channel’ is not only untrue but baseless given we haven’t launched yet. It also misunderstands Ofcom’s due impartiality rules which do not allow a biased news station in this country.
“GB News will be staunchly independent. That is our point. Our investors know this, our journalists will know it and so will our viewers. We aim to serve British communities who feel poorly represented by mainstream television media, especially outside London.
“We are proud to be adding plurality to UK media by investing in journalism that will be as diverse and broad-minded as the British people themselves.
“We are absolutely committed to our mission to report news in the most accurate and balanced way we can.
“It is unfortunate that your article failed to adhere to this basic principle.”
Section 5 of the Ofcom code states that any broadcaster must adhere to strict rules on due impartiality, which include giving voice to a range of political opinions. Broadcasters which fail to follow these rules face being taken off air.
Andrew Neil himself sits on the right politically and is a former editor of The Sunday Times and chairman of The Spectator.
GB News is currently recruiting 140 journalists and has funding from Dubai-based investment group Legatum and Vote Leave-backing hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall. Its main backer is US broadcasting network Discovery Inc.
A Guardian News and Media spokesperson said: “We receive hundreds of letters a day and unfortunately cannot publish every letter we receive. In our letters page we endeavour to publish a range of responses, viewpoints and topics and we welcome submissions.”