The BBC has been accused of last-minute ‘ambush’ of Right-leaning new television network GB News, which launches this evening.
The national broadcaster was alleged to have been calling for the new station to be barred from accessing footage of public events which is available via a ‘pooling’ system run by the UK’s three main broadcasters.
It would mean that, at major events where there is room for only one camera, GB News – fronted by former BBC lead interviewer Andrew Neil – would be shut out from broadcasts.
A spokesman told The Telegraph: ‘This is an ambush by the BBC designed to damage the launch of GB News and protect their dominance of UK news broadcasting. We will fight it. And our launch continues.’
The BBC has been accused of last-minute ‘ambush’ of Right-leaning new television network GB News, which launches this evening. Pictured: GB News’s new offices in Paddington, central London
The alleged shut-out has echoes of complaints made by national news agency the Press Association in 2010, when it said it was unable to access footage from ‘single camera assignments’ filmed as part of the UK Broadcast Pool.
The pool is made up of the BBC, Sky News and ITN, which produces the news operations of both ITV and Channel 4.
A BBC spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘We are very happy for GB News to be part of the pool and we are happy to discuss how that could happen.’
GB News is chaired by former BBC interviewer Andrew Neil
The House of Commons’s culture committee said at the time that the Government should allow PA to film alongside the pool camera if the main broadcasters would not share the footage at a ‘reasonable cost’.
The Telegraph report that GB News claims to have been pushing for its new, high-profile rival to be barred from receiving pooled footage.
This would require a change to the pool’s rules which would come into force tomorrow.
Whilst some pool members are said to be happy with sharing footage with GB News on ‘fair’ terms.
However, GB News has reportedly said it has not heard from the main broadcasters and has instead signed a deal with news agency Reuters so it can access clips.
A BBC spokesman told the Telegraph that news of the alleged shut-out was ‘speculative’ and refused to comment further.
The BBC has been approached for comment by MailOnline.
At 8pm tonight, GB News will launch with a programme presented by Mr Neil, who left the BBC last year.
The new broadcaster’s other big names include former ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart, former BBC presenter Simon McCoy and MailOnline columnist Dan Wootton.
It comes after GB News on Friday announced plans to launch a national radio service as early as next month.
Launched as a rival to the news and current affairs offerings on the likes of BBC and Sky, it will be available to watch in HD on Sky channel 515 and Virgin Media’s channel 626, as well as also showing on Freeview and YouView channel 236, Freesat channel 216 and online.
On Thursday GB News’ key presenters were pictured in futuristic behind the scenes pictures of the studio ahead of the new channel launching this weekend.
A BBC spokesman told the Telegraph that news of the alleged shut-out was ‘speculative’ and refused to comment further
Other names to feature on air include former Sky Sports presenter Kirsty Gallacher, Darren McCaffrey and Rosie Wright, who will host morning show The Great British Breakfast, while also working on other programmes.
The news channel has also signed up businesswoman and former Apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry.
Broadcaster and author Neil Oliver, known for programmes including Coast and A History Of Ancient Britain, will host Neil Oliver Live, while Andrew Doyle will host Free Speech Nation.
The new broadcaster’s other big names include former ITV newsreader Alastair Stewart, former BBC presenter Simon McCoy (left) and MailOnline columnist Dan Wootton (right)
Mr Stewart will anchor Alastair Stewart And Friends, featuring conversation and analysis of current affairs.
The broadcaster said: ‘I don’t think that there is a market for nastiness. I don’t indulge in nastiness myself.
‘But I do think that there is a huge market for the other side of the story, and the one that can be expressed without worrying too much about walking on eggs, and not offending people who are desperately sensitive and politically correct.’
‘I’m delighted Prince Harry’s taking time off if it means he shuts up and gives us all a break!’: As ANDREW NEIL launches his new TV station GB News on Sunday, he gives a refreshingly unwoke taste of what to expect
By Katie Hind, Showbusiness Editor for the Mail on Sunday
Andrew Neil is a man on a crusade – to cancel the ‘cancel culture’ he believes is corrosively damaging almost every aspect of modern life.
The veteran broadcaster says: ‘It isn’t enough to be told that you are wrong about something.
‘Those behind this cancel culture want to ruin your life, your career… and utterly destroy you. This is a battle we must fight.’
Indeed, nobody can accuse the 72-year-old former newspaper editor of not taking his mission seriously.
After leaving the BBC last year after a quarter of a century, he has come out of semi-retirement to launch a new television station that he hopes will change the landscape of broadcast news in this country.
Neil – who is critical of the BBC and Sky News – says viewers are subjected to bulletins that are ‘too Left-wing’ and lacking in humour.
The much-anticipated GB News goes live tonight at 8pm. Setting the tone, the first show will be an hour long and hosted by Neil. (Pictured, Katie Hind with Andrew Neil)
Aside from cancel culture cancelling, Neil jokes that another motivation has been to earn enough money to buy a horse for his wife Susan Nilsson (pictured)
On the eve of his GB News channel starting its broadcasts, Neil gave a candid interview to The Mail on Sunday, in which his characteristically trenchant views covered everything from Prince Harry and ‘disloyal’ former BBC colleagues, to ‘taking the knee’ and the expensive horse-riding hobby of his Swedish wife, who is 25 year his junior.
When we meet, Neil, as ever, is a ball of nervous energy. And yet the screen rottweiler also has a vulnerable side.
He admits: ‘There is a mixture of emotions going on: exhaustion, exhilaration, excitement, and every now and again, depression.’
Indeed, just a few days previously, he cried on ITV’s This Morning during his last regular appearance alongside presenters Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby.
‘I was so grateful to them and their team for having me on the show,’ Neil says. ‘I had given up the BBC, and GB News wasn’t happening.
‘But every week they had me on and despite me not really being a This Morning kind of person, they were so kind. I didn’t know if or when I would be on TV again.’
The much-anticipated GB News goes live tonight at 8pm. Setting the tone, the first show will be an hour long and hosted by Neil.
Viewers should instantly see that the new channel will challenge what Neil calls the ‘too Left’ political bias of its rivals – not least with its regular ‘Woke Watch’ feature.
While Channel 4 and ITV get away with a mild ribbing from Neil, it’s the BBC and Sky News – which he launched in 1989 – that he really takes issue with.
‘At GB News, we are building shows around presenters with attitude and character, with something to say, a sense of humour – all of the things that you aren’t really allowed to have at the BBC or Sky,’ he says.
‘You would never mistake either broadcaster for a ray of sunshine.
‘I was listening to Sky this morning. It was depressing, which is disappointing for me because I launched Sky. But it’s good for us now – they have left a gap in the market.
Although he and his wife enjoyed the US law drama Suits in which the Duchess of Sussex made her name, Neil has plenty – and not much of it favourable – to say about her husband, Prince Harry
‘All these broadcasters come from a mindset that is various shades of Left, and that brings with it a set of attitudes and views to what are, and what are not, important stories.’
There seems nothing Neil doesn’t have a razor-edged opinion on.
Although he and his wife enjoyed the US law drama Suits in which the Duchess of Sussex made her name, Neil has plenty – and not much of it favourable – to say about her husband, Prince Harry.
‘I am so glad that Harry is going to take some time off. I’m not sure what he does to take time off from but it is good he is taking time off. If it means he shuts up and gives us a break…,’ he says.
Ever the interviewer, Neil tells me the one question he would put to the Prince if he had the chance: ‘What went wrong?’
Andrew Neil was teary-eyed this week, choking up about Sunday’s launch of his new channel
Pictured: studio of new British television news channel GB News which is under construction at The Point in Paddington, north London. The channel is set to launch at 8pm on June 13
He continues: ‘This was a nice young man who was a credit to the Royal Family, who put his life on the line, joined the Armed Forces, went to Afghanistan – and it was dangerous out there.
‘Then he went and did this wonderful thing with the Invictus Games. I don’t know anybody who wasn’t delighted that he was marrying Meghan.’
Next up, Neil’s views on another woke subject – ‘taking the knee’.
‘My view is it is virtue-signalling,’ he says.
‘The problem with it all, while recognising that racism and race relations are nowhere near perfect, is totally different from making a gesture linked to an organisation called Black Lives Matter.
‘It’s a semi-Marxist organisation with an agenda to destroy capitalism.’
Conceding that racism still exists among some football fans, Neil is critical of ‘wealthy’ players, managers and club owners, saying: ‘They should be doing more to address these matters rather than taking the knee.’
Warming to his theme, the Scot raises the name of Dominic Cummings. Neil quotes the furore over the Prime Minister’s former aide as a prime example of how he believes the BBC is ‘out of kilter with public opinion’.
He says the Corporation has treated Cummings as if he was ‘the most important person, hanging on his every word. Whereas a year ago he was a lying, evil Tory b*****d, he is now a brave, whistleblower who speaks truth to power’.
To Neil, though, Cummings is seen by the public ‘as the bloke who thought he would test his eyes by driving his wife and child to Barnard Castle’.
He says: ‘That’s where the media bubble can be out of kilter with public opinion. I hope GB News can come at these stories in a different, more Right-of-centre way.’
Neil’s critique of the BBC doesn’t end there.
He takes issue with the switch of much programme-making to the BBC’s Salford studios in 2011 in a bid not to appear so London-centric.
‘The BBC decamped all of its people against their will to Manchester just to say ‘we are now representing the North’. How is that going to change anything?’ he says.
‘Meanwhile, licence-fee payers are paying for their cars, their hotel rooms, the rest of it.
‘They need to realise that it isn’t about geography, it’s a mindset.’
The ‘mindset’ of Neil’s GB News is wholly different. I suggest he must seem like a father to some colleagues. He corrects me: ‘Their grandad, more like.’
Recruits to the new channel include former ITN veteran Alastair Stewart, Kirsty Gallacher, former Labour MP and GMTV star Gloria De Piero and BBC stalwart Simon McCoy.
Throughout the run-up to today’s big launch, GB News bosses have been adamant that they will not be the UK equivalent of ‘Trumpian’ Fox News in the US.
‘Fox News is not my kind of journalism. It’s too Right-wing,’ he says.
‘It’s too conspiracy theory-based. It does, at times, peddle fake information. It does sometimes distort things to an extent that it is almost like lying.
‘I have spent all my career either as a journalist or in the business of media, trying to build a reputation as a serious journalist who is not afraid to attack any side of the political spectrum, who is an equal opportunity attacker.
‘Why would I ruin that in the final big gig of my life by becoming a kind of Fox News?’
Aside from cancel culture cancelling, Neil jokes that another motivation has been to earn enough money to buy a horse for his wife Susan Nilsson.
The couple have spent the pandemic at their home in the South of France, walking their three dogs, golden retrievers Miss Molly and Mr Junior, and their street dog Iris, ‘also known as Scrubber due to her resemblance to a bog brush’.
He says 47-year-old Susan, an engineer, is concerned for his welfare. ‘She worries about some of the stresses I’m under at times; she worries if she sees I’m upset by something,’ he says.
‘But after 15 months in lockdown, she told me, ‘Just get out and make some money and come back when it’s all finished.’ ‘
As we near the end of our interview and Neil goes off for more rehearsals ahead of tonight’s debut, he inevitably returns to one of his favourite subjects – the BBC.
This time his target are former BBC big names – perhaps alluding to the likes of John Humphrys – who have been critical of the institution which gave them a platform and a good living for decades.
Neil, on the other hand, believes his criticism of the BBC is only restricted to the Left-wing slant of its news coverage.
‘I must be the only BBC politics presenter who has left in recent years and not rushed to give them a kicking. The moment they get free, they turn,’ he says. ‘I think it’s terrible, appalling. If it was that bad, why did they stay for so long?’
With that swing of the rapier at his ex colleagues, Neil is off to hunt other targets – starting tonight.