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Britain’s New Entry in Conservative Media Is Off to a Splashy, but Shaky, Start | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Britain’s New Entry in Conservative Media Is Off to a Splashy, but Shaky, Start

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Media analysts said GB News faced a bigger long-term challenge: It wants to be treated as a traditional ad-supported news channel, but it is promoting itself as a politically opinionated combatant in the culture wars.

“GB News is pitching itself along identity lines but using the idea of a separation between advertisers and editorial to fight back against its critics,” said Meera Selva, director of the Reuters Journalism Fellowship Program at the University of Oxford.

There are also questions about whether GB News will run afoul of Britain’s broadcast rules. Several hundred viewers filed complaints with the broadcasting regulator, known as Ofcom, after Mr. Wootton’s harsh criticism of Mr. Johnson’s postponed reopening — a warning sign, given that it was the channel’s first night.

Under the regulations, broadcasters are allowed to deliver opinions, provided there is a rough balance over the course of a day between left and right. Some media experts said the mix of programming on GB News — from Mr. Wootton’s commentary to Mr. Neil’s interviews — suggested that it was trying to strike that balance.

“They’re not trying to bust the rules,” said Stewart Purvis, a former chief editor at the broadcaster ITN, who oversaw content and standards at Ofcom. “They’re trying to understand the rules.”

More than a British version of Fox, Mr. Purvis said, GB News was an example of “grievance television.” Its targets are the media establishment, personified by the BBC, and the politically correct precincts of academia and government. That will appeal to its mainly pro-Brexit audience, he said. But when Mr. Neil is not on the air, GB News fills the time with far less well-known figures.

“What we’ve never had before in British television is a succession of young people just talking to each other,” Mr. Purvis said. “Whether there is an audience for endless, anti-woke, happy talk is less clear.”

Anna Joyce contributed reporting.


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