GB News chair Andrew Neil has sought to regain the initiative on rumbling advertiser controversy around the fledgling station by declaring that the final say on who can advertise rests with him. Speaking out after several advertisers declared that they did not wish to be associated with the news channel, Neil sought to turn the tables by saying: “I will be looking at brands to decide if they are fit to advertise with us.“
GB News chairman and presenter Andrew Neil has issued a stinging rebuke to a group of 11 advertisers, including Octopus Energy, Bosch and Vodafone, that have declared they will not advertise on the channel until they had assessed whether or not its content could be classed as hate speech.
The personal intervention came during an episode of the station’s flagship Mediawatch program in which Neil addressed the issue head-on saying: “A number of companies, some of them well-known brands, have decided to stop advertising on GB News, they bowed to pressure from a fringe group called Stop Funding Hate, a misnomer if ever there was one.
“It’s quite remarkable that serious executives in well-established companies can be so easily cowed. They’ve all taken the knee to SFH. It is important that they and you realize to who they are in thrall. SFH doesn’t stand for a liberal, inclusive society. It’s dominated by far-left agitators and cranks who push for advertiser boycotts of any media organization with which it disagrees.“
The attack followed an ill-tempered Twitter exchange between Neil and Greg Jackson, the chief executive of Octopus Energy, who tweeted that he wished to assess GB News for himself before making any final decision on advertising, to which Neil responded: “How many other channels have you watched before deciding to advertise? I will be looking at brands to decide if they are fit to advertise with us.“
Vodafone has also been caught up in the controversy after adverts for the telecoms provider ran on the channel – something it claimed was done without its express permission. Seeking to placate both sides, Vodafone sought to clarify its policy by saying it “wouldn’t normally advertise on a new channel, preferring instead to wait to make a commercial assessment of its quality and reach“.
GBNews has sought to position itself in confrontational terms, pursuing an angle in opposition to what it terms the ’woke’ agenda of other broadcasters, inviting comparisons with notorious US channel Fox News.
This has placed many advertisers in an awkward spot as they seek to placate left-leaning consumers unhappy at seeing major brands such as Ikea, Grolsch and Kopparberg endorse the station through commercial association.
In reality, these ads are outsourced to Sky Media, where the focus is on matching brands to audiences, not channels – something that is now likely to change in light of the ongoing social media furor.