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March 23, 2023updated 27 Mar 2023 9:38am

GB News expands political coverage and invests in new Westminster studio

GB News is fitting out a "high-tech digital production facility" moments from Parliament.

By Charlotte Tobitt

GB News is expanding its political coverage and investing in a new Westminster studio.

GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulo announced the move in a missive to staff on Thursday in which he also spoke about the immediate impact of the move to a .com website domain and revealed several senior editorial appointments and programme shake-ups.

Frangopoulos told staff: “We’re achieving a great deal, but we can’t afford to rest. As we’ve seen in recent weeks, not everyone wants us to succeed and, as our passionate audience grows, so does the scrutiny on us. 

“We’ve made huge leaps in our production quality, but we can and must do better. Great work can be easily undone by a spelling mistake, audio or video issue, or a guest’s poor wi-fi, so it’s vital we strive collectively to deliver excellence in all we do. This responsibility lies with every one of us so please, if you see or hear something, say something!  

“We still have mountains to climb but thanks to you all, and your willingness to be as nimble and adaptable as a start-up like ours demands, we’re getting there step by step!”

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[Read more: Ofcom chief says Tory MPs can present shows on GB News and interview who they like]

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GB News revealed on Thursday it is investing in a new multi-studio broadcast centre in Westminster, believed to be the former Sky space in the QEII conference centre, to make it into a “high-tech digital production facility” ready to go live later this year.

Currently the channel has a small studio space near Parliament for presenters such as Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage.

GB News has just appointed The Telegraph’s Christopher Hope as its incoming head of politics and promoted political commentator Tom Harwood to deputy political editor. It said the pair will lead a team of journalists who will be based at the new Westminster site.

As well as Rees-Mogg who started last month, GB News has also added Conservative deputy chairman Lee Anderson to its roster of MP presenters, alongside Esther McVey and Philip Davies. Former Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster is also expanding her role on the channel to become a regular presenter throughout the week and make documentaries under the GB News Investigates brand.

Also part of the political output at GB News are Telegraph associate editor Camilla Tominey, who hosts a Sunday morning show from Westminster, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People political editor Nigel Nelson who is a regular guest on the channel, and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero who presents Gloria Meets on Sunday evenings.

Editorial director Mick Booker said the Westminster expansion was a major part of GB News’ ambition to be the number one news channel in the UK by 2028.

Booker said: “The next election will be decided largely in the Red Wall, in the very areas where we have some of our strongest audiences. They care about politics, so we care about politics.”

In his email to staff, after listing many of these moves Frangopoulos said: “And we haven’t even revealed the full extent of our plans for political journalism yet, so watch this space.” The broadcaster said in a statement that more political hires will come in the next few months, as will the announcement of programming to come from the new Westminster studios.

It comes a year on from GB News joining the BBC, Sky News and ITN’s broadcast pool for political coverage, which Booker described as a “game changer”.

Head of technology and operations Stephen Willmott said: “The new facility will be a big boost to our production capability, both for broadcast and for digitally exclusive content and podcasts. It will also allow us to complete an ongoing upgrade our main studios.”

Also on Thursday, Frangopoulos announced the promotion of series executive producer Ben Briscoe to head of programming, following the departure of head of TV Helen Warner in January after four months in the role.

Briscoe was previously assistant editor at ITV’s Good Morning Britain for six years and then followed Piers Morgan to TalkTV to be his series editor. But after less than a year he jumped ship to GB News. He will now also play a role in helping GB News reach its growth target, looking after executive producers and on-air talent alike.

After GB News chief digital officer Geoff Marsh told staff last week the broadcaster has set itself up on a “launchpad to explode” its online audience by moving from the gbnews.uk domain to gbnews.com, Frangopoulos claimed “all-time records” are being set on the website after just three weeks.

He also claimed a relaunch of To The Point with Andrew Pierce and Bev Turner at 8.30am on weekdays has “seen ratings grow 28% in two weeks” and that the Weekend Breakfast programme with Anne Diamond and Stephen Dixon had a 3.3% audience share last week, a record to date.

GB News announced on Wednesday it is launching a new programme at 8pm on Saturdays called The Saturday Five, with Darren Grimes, Albie Amankona, Emily Carver and Benjamin Butterworth debating the biggest stories of the week with a guest. Neil Oliver’s show will shorten to one hour and air at 6pm, while Calvin Robinson’s Common Sense Crusade will move from Sunday afternoons to 7pm on Saturdays. Mark Dolan, described as “inimitable” by Frangopoulos, will host Mark Dolan Tonight between 9pm and 11pm.

And Frangopoulos praised Alastair Stewart for “one of the most impressive journalistic careers in British broadcasting” after the presenter announced his retirement from regular broadcasting. The 70-year-old former ITV News presenter will continue to contribute and commentate on major events for the channel but said: “…the rigours of preparing for two live interview shows a week, and commuting from Hampshire to London for them, are considerable.

“I want to reduce my commitment while I’m still ahead as an old broadcaster, rather than an ancient one. Thankfully the timing is mine; I just want to spend more of it with my family, my horses, and the charities that have meant so much to me over the years.”

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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