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Policy & Regulation News Media

Is it game over for GB News?

By Gordon Young, Editor

September 29, 2023 | 7 min read

Critics are calling for GB News’s shutdown after Laurence Fox made crass comments about female journalist Ava Evans, but presenter Mark Dolan says the station will neither shut down nor shut up.

Mark Dolan

Mark Dolan, presenter at GB News / Credit: GB News

“So, are we done for? Is it game over? Will the establishment see us off with ad boycotts or authoritarian demands to shut us down or stifling new regulations?”

These were questions posed by GB News presenter Mark Dolan in a monologue on Friday evening. They were legitimate questions, as it’s been a disastrous few days at the two-year-old right-wing news station.

The home of ‘free speech’ - as the channel likes to style itself - became the home of foul speech thanks to commentator Laurence Fox. The actor-turned-politician made outrageous comments about journalist Ava Evans during a guest appearance on the Dan Wootton Tonight show on Thursday.

“Show me a single self-respecting man that would like to climb into bed with that woman ever, ever, who wasn’t an incel,” Fox told Wootton. “We need powerful, strong, amazing women who make great points for themselves. We don’t need these sort of feminist 4.0. They’re pathetic and embarrassing. Who’d want to shag that?”

In a matter of seconds, Fox destroyed months of hard work by the station’s management to detoxify the GB News brand and ease an advertising industry boycott. Despite chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos moving fast to suspend both Fox and the host Wootton, the damage was done.

Ofcom, the government regulatory authority for broadcasting, telecommunications and postal industries in the United Kingdom, announced an investigation. Meanwhile, rival broadcaster Adam Bolton and even a conservative MP, Caroline Nokes, called for the station to be taken off the air.

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There is real danger GB News is now back in the ‘more trouble than it is worth category,’ as far as brands are concerned.

AKQA chief executive, Ajaz Ahmed, summed up the sentiment when he told The Telegraph, “I don’t know of any self-respecting brand that would wish to advertise on a toxic wasteland, and I don’t know of any self-respecting agency that would recommend it to their clients ... The duty of the media is to expose injustice, not to cause it, and to hold power accountable, not to abuse it.”

Others argue that calls for GB News to be shut down are evidence of an establishment bias against an upstart broadcaster. Mistakes they say are part and parcel of a fast-moving broadcast environment, and point to the BBC ‘Sachsgate’ affair as evidence that no one is immune to things going Pete Tong.

But even as Frangopoulos publicly apologized, saying he was ‘appalled’ by the remarks which ‘were past the limits of acceptance’, another presenter and cleric Calvin Robinson was tweeting his support for his two suspended colleagues.

Management exasperation must have been palpable as he, too, was suspended - many think it will be a miracle if this man of the cloth is reinstated.

Still, there is no doubt that pressure is also building on GB News from the regulators. GB is now facing a total of 12 Ofcom investigations relating to issues that include failing to provide editorial balance by using sitting MPs as presenters.

It is perhaps why, according to Bloomberg reports, the station is considering moving some of its more controversial presenters to its online platforms, which are not regulated to the same extent as the mainstream channel. And, with the likes of more amiable personalities like Dolan, who has taken the Wootton slot - coming to the fore - maybe it is growing out of the terrible twos.

Certainly, its audience continues to grow and many agree it is filling a real gap in the market.

In his monologue, Dolan was adamant he had the answers to his questions:

“We are two years old and we've only just begun in life. You don't achieve anything without making a few enemies and you don't achieve change without ruffling a few feathers.

“In the end, we have a duty to you to offer an alternative to do it in a different and hopefully, fresh and fun way to give you a voice. So let me be clear, we will be shut down and more importantly, we won't shut up. I certainly won't shut up.

“It's not in my nature. Have I got news for you? GB News is here to stay.“

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