An Irish View of GB News

GB News: Dan Wootton, Andrew Neil and Michelle Dewberry
GB News: Dan ‘Hunky’ Wooton, Lord Brillo of Paisley and Ice Queen Michelle Dewbury

The Irish know their history. No one dare tell them to forget it, or that it is bunkum, or inappropriate to be reminded of, or wrong to teach in schools. They can spot an arrogant Englishman before he steps off the plane or the ferry. They use the term ‘arrogant Englishman’ when referring to Westminster politicians telling Ireland how it should run its business, or be subservient to the UK’s interests. “To solve the Northern Ireland border”, opined one English wag, “Ireland should rejoin the UK”.

The Irish must look upon the advent of GB News with disdain if not contempt. A bunch of media carpetbaggers living off the rich who won’t pay taxes but prefer to pay their wages to promote neo-liberal ideology; a group of fatheads and fatter paunches ever-ready with an illiberal remark just short of telling you the masses are horrid and smelly. (The Aussie version, SKY News Australia, does have panel members who use crude terms, the Chinese are ‘black haired, slanty-eyed and yellow skinned’.)

This author does not see how GB News can survive without a massive influx of advertising revenue. To get your roving reporters out into the big wide world you need a lot of dosh. The smallest news crew, two people, is costly when you take into account their travel and overnight stays on top of their salaries. So, the channel does without roving reporters or expert correspondents in far flung places. GB News cannot be all armchair interviews and still expect viewers to accept comment without visual drama.

One of the station’s first guests was Nigel Farage, which tells you all you want to know about the politics of its founders. But the news station’s right-wing backers won’t bail it out forever. They will be looking for their interest payments and profit share Year 2.

Already some of the biggest companies have turned shy at having their products associated with an avowedly political news stall. Those pulled out of showing their commercials on the channel include, IKEA, Nivea and Grolsch. Swedish cider maker Kopparberg has suspended adverts owing to station’s perceived conflict with their values. The Open University has also paused its advertising, a place of learning from whence was born GB News’ non-historian, Neil Oliver, a man who hates the SNP far more than any SNP supporter dumped by that gradual of gradualist parties. Octopus Energy’s founder, Greg Jackson, published a letter to customers that said it had asked its agencies to suspend advertising on GB News. “We’re not currently running ads on GB News,” he wrote. “We will monitor it, and only advertise if it proves to be genuinely balanced.” There’s optimism for you.

Understandably, GB News feels a boycott unfair. What have the done to be shunned? It’s a commercial enterprise, chum, consumers have the right not to buy what you’re selling, and that includes what’s in the adverts between programmes. I am sure gaps in advertising will be filled by the bottom feeders of commercial television, the tatty Diamondique sellers or cheaper-than-a-Dyson vacuum salesmen.

If you want to know what is happening in the UK and why Scotland is continually defeated by English colonialism, an Irish man or woman will explain, fluently and with authority. Here features writer for the Irish Times, Patrick Freyne, casts a jaundiced eye on the first week of GB News’ existence, the station a sort of watered down RAC Club of aging hacks echoing the US Republican party married with Fox News, but without the compassion. I doubt you will see an English newspaper say anything close, and there is none in Scotland dare upset the status quo of which GB News is hoping it remains a permanent fixture. Readers will note, Scotland has no news channel funded by rich men.

Scots can be certain of one thing, you will never hear an analysis of Scotland’s chronic under-nourished democracy explained on GB News, but you will see tousle-haired Neil Oliver tell you Scotland has nothing to complain about, except damn self-governance.

It Takes Until Tuesday to Go Full Wingnut

by Patrick Freyne

There’s a moment during the first Monday night of GB News’s programming when its chairman, the former BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil, finds himself staring into the abyss. The Abyss’s name is Dan Wootton, and the Abyss is very pleased with himself. He’s cheerfully telling Neil about his fact-free lockdown scepticism, and Neil, who is still wedded to logic, looks worried that his career is in a burning clown car.

Wootton’s show is probably the most distilled version of what this new channel promises to be. GB News has been designed as a sort of Fox News UK. It’s there, by its own account, to shake off the shackles of both the BBC’s allegedly “woke” echo chamber and also actual reporting, which, I think you’ll agree, amplifies reality’s left-wing bias.

“The people at GB News hate elitist experts so much they’ve apparently chosen not to hire any technicians. Clips don’t play or the wrong clips play. Guests are inaudible or bathed in echo”

The people at GB News love the Union Jack so much they’ve dismembered one and made a sort of tortured, glitchy, cubist logo from it. It’s a logo that really makes a statement. That statement is: “I am in great pain.”

The people at GB News hate elitist experts so much they’ve chosen not to hire any technicians. Clips don’t play or the wrong clips play. Guests are inaudible or bathed in echo (sounding suspiciously like they’re in an echo chamber). All of the presenters have developed a strained grimace for when things fail. They mightn’t do journalism, but they have perfected gurnilism.

The people at GB News love Britain so much they’re not going to trouble it with much actual reporting, dispatching bubbly reporters to talk to randomers and expecting viewers to email in their views. “Mike Smith has been in touch to say I don’t smile enough,” says the Brexit Party candidate turned presenter Michelle Dewberry, giving just a sample of the type of content acquired in this manner.

Click Bait

Over the course of each day, viewers are bombarded with questions. “Would you vaccinate your child against Covid?” “Should Isis bride Shamima Begum be let back into Britain?” “Are killer bees brainwashing our children?” (That one’s mine.)

You could spend the whole day shouting “Yes!” and “No!” at GB News, which is clearly a lot of people’s idea of a good time. Though not as opinionated as Wootton, the daytime presenters cover wedge issues in the culture war – footballers taking the knee, immigrants crossing the Channel, Tory councillors forced to remove Union Jack bunting – while also oohing about life-saving dogs and new cafes opening in northern suburbs.

GB News is basically a beacon of positivity about Britain that’s simultaneously deeply suspicious about fellow Britons, who they think want to vaccinate them against their will and teach them French.

My favourite bits are the weather reports, because they’re the only segments without technical problems (my nerves are shattered), and the contributions from the adorable child reporter Tom Harwood, whom older presenters can barely resist popping on their laps and saying, “Now there, sonny me lad, tell us about the Australia trade deal and I’ll give you a hoop and a stick.” Based on the daytime schedule, it feels like GB News is fighting its “war on woke” very cunningly. I mean, after watching it I don’t feel very woke at all. I feel very sleepy. 

Staring into the abyss

There’s a moment during the first Monday night of GB News’s programming when its chairman, the former BBC broadcaster Andrew Neil, finds himself staring into the abyss. The Abyss’s name is Dan Wootton, and the Abyss is very pleased with himself. He’s cheerfully telling Neil about his fact-free lockdown scepticism, and Neil, who is still wedded to logic, looks worried that his career is in a burning clown car.

The grinning Abyss has a three-hour programme every night (straight after Neil’s), featuring other nihilistic information vacuums like Nigel Farage and Rod Liddle. I believe it’s called Stare into the Abyss for Three Hours, and it does what it says on the tin.

Wootton’s show is probably the most distilled version of what this new channel promises to be. GB News has been designed as a sort of Fox News UK. It’s there, by its own account, to shake off the shackles of both the BBC’s allegedly “woke” echo chamber and also actual reporting, which, I think you’ll agree, amplifies reality’s left-wing bias.

“The people at GB News hate elitist experts so much they’ve apparently chosen not to hire any technicians. Clips don’t play or the wrong clips play. Guests are inaudible or bathed in echo”

The people at GB News love the Union Jack so much they’ve dismembered one and made a sort of tortured, glitchy, cubist logo from it. It’s a logo that really makes a statement. That statement is: “I am in great pain.”

As Dan Wootton keeps reminding us, GB News isn’t like the fuddy-duddy BBC with its ‘rules’, so when Rod Liddle comes on he’s smoking a cigarette, and Lady Colin Campbell she has a dog on her lap

Things perk up with Andrew Neil, who is now orange. He has a segment on his show called Woke Watch, featuring an aggrieved white man named Andrew Doyle grumpily lamenting, for example, that the National Trust has created signs acknowledging that some properties were funded by the slave trade.

While Doyle generously accepts that a history of structural racism is a terrible thing, he also finds reading about it at a stately home annoying. Yes, millions have been traumatised by centuries of racism, but Doyle is mildly irritated by having to read a sign when on a day trip. So, if you think about it, it evens out.

Grilling guests

For the most part Neil has an actual news show where he grills guests such as the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, about real issues. Neil is just rebelling against a perceived left-wing bias in the BBC (the organisation to which the famed Marxist Dominic Cummings constantly leaked Tory talking points), but his colleague the Abyss appears to be rebelling against actual news values. On Wootton’s Monday show a member of the British public calls in to ask Roger Daltrey of The Who about government pandemic policy. Seriously.

For a moment I think a researcher – probably the person who does the sound – was asked to book someone from the WHO. Then I remember that Daltrey is a Brexit-voting curmudgeon, and it makes sense. Who knows what’s going to happen next. (I’ve left that sentence as a statement rather than a question in deference to the GB News fans’ faith in Daltrey.)

As Wootton keeps reminding us, GB News isn’t like the fuddy-duddy BBC with its “rules”, so when Rod Liddle comes on to protest footballers taking the knee against racism, he’s smoking a cigarette. When Lady Colin Campbell turns up to lambast Meghan Markle and quibble about whether Jeffrey Epstein was a paedophile or an ephebophile, she has a dog on her lap. When the “anti-woke” actor Laurence Fox inevitably appears, I think, he’ll surely be naked from the waist down and in clown makeup. When Fox does turn up – it was inevitable – he’s actually wearing a suit and calling lockdown “child abuse”.

You can’t win against the Abyss and his attention-starved chums. Outrage is like oxygen to them. Each angry tweet or article just convinces them that they are martyrs on a burning pyre

It doesn’t take long for Wootton to go full wingnut. On Tuesday he highlights a baseless conspiracy theory about how lockdowns might ultimately be a government plot to curb carbon emissions. Does he have facts to back this up? No. But he’s the type of journalist who doesn’t need facts. He prefers to ask questions. You know, like your four-year-old: What is a dog? Why is the moon? Are spiders happy? Is Isis funding the BBC?

Dissenting voices

There are some dissenting voices on Wootton’s panel, but most of his guests are a who’s-who of trollkind. They include Allison Pearson, Rod Liddle, Claire FoxMegyn Kelly, Laurence Fox, Lady Colin Campbell, Lord Voldemort, Scrooge McDuck, the millionaire from the cover of the Monopoly Box, Cruella DeVil, Megatron, Gargamel from the Smurfs and Nigel Farage. (Only the worst seven actually appear.) 

Look, you can’t win against the Abyss and his attention-starved chums. Outrage is like oxygen to them. Each angry tweet or article just convinces them that they are martyrs on a burning pyre, even though that pyre is actually made of money and it’s not actually on fire because nobody thought to hire anyone who knew how fire works.

NOTES
Patrick Freyne is described in the blurb for his book ‘Let’s Do Your Stupid Thing‘ thus: “Patrick Freyne has tried a lot of stupid ideas in his life. Now, he is here to tell you about them: like the time (aged 5) he opened a gate and let a horse out of its field, just to see what would happen; or the time (aged 19) he jumped out of a plane for charity, even though he didn’t much care about the charity and was sure he’d end up dead; or the time (aged old enough to know better) he used a magazine as a funnel for fuel when the petrol cap on his band’s van broke. He has learned a few things: about the power of group song; about the beauty of physically caring for another human being; about childlessness; about losing friends far too young.”

The article is reproduced with grateful thanks to the Irish Times – why not subscribe to it? And while you are at it, buy one of Patrick Freyne’s books.

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3 Responses to An Irish View of GB News

  1. 100%Yes says:

    Self harm this is a perfect example of how not to run a company. Well done to all those advertisers who have boycotted GB-News for the conservative and unionist party.

  2. jim4indy says:

    Does this mean that Brillo will no longer be appearing on the BBC?

    If it does, we owe GB News a debt of gratitude.

  3. diabloandco says:

    Won’t be watching it as this article has put me off – while laughing. I particularly liked the part about WHO. Have to agree with jim4indy, we owe GB news a thank you.

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