There’s been a lot of talk about Andrew Neil’s new venture, much of it unkind. I can’t say that I’m as surprised by some of the glitches of the early days of broadcasting - it takes time to bed things in and there will be errors as new staff work out how things are best done.
And, whilst the list of presenters doesn’t leap out and grab me, I don’t think that I’m really part of their hoped for audience, so that probably won’t cause their backers any great loss of sleep. But I do wonder if there is a sufficient market to allow GB News to survive and thrive.
There isn’t a huge audience for television news in this country, and what there is tends to repeat itself in thirty minute chunks - I don’t sense that people sit down and watch long chunks of news unless a major event is taking place. And whilst having presenters opine at length can work on radio, where you can do other things, television has to be watched, and concentrated on.
The other potential problem is that getting 1% audience share in the United States offers you a decent chunk of advertising revenue, it isn’t anywhere near as lucrative in the United Kingdom. And even the relatively low budget GB News needs to earn £25 million per annum to break even if reports are to be believed.
You can potentially square that circle by offering attractive advertising rates or audiences who are likely to have higher levels of disposable income, but that doesn’t necessarily sit well with a cast of professional provocateurs fighting the sort of culture war that Fox News does so well in the United States.
Indeed, what surprises me about the campaign to dissuade potential advertisers is not that its apparent success but why some of the companies who have announced that they won’t be advertising on GB News would have been doing so in the first place. If your target market is younger and more socially liberal, it doesn’t strike me that GB News is the best use of your advertising budget… at least, not now.
I have read the reviews, which appear to suggest that a number of the presenters are determined to fight a “war on woke” (whatever that means), which makes it easy for me to give it a miss. But, in a free society, the right to offer something different must be allowed to exist and, in a free market of ideas, to stand or fall on its own merits.
So, we’ll see if I’m wrong about whether or not there is a sufficient audience out there to make it work, or whether the management team will need to trim towards the political centre in order to make it sustainable. In the meantime, for those who are getting upset about it, I would suggest that they walk on by and save their anger. All it does is draw people’s attention to the very thing you despise…