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Ad boycott is undermining GB News and free speech, says boss

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 12/06/2022 Ben Woods
Angelos Frangopoulos GB News - JULIAN SIMMONDS © JULIAN SIMMONDS Angelos Frangopoulos GB News - JULIAN SIMMONDS

Advertising agencies mounting a prolonged boycott of GB News are damaging its business, its chief executive has admitted, as he claimed the action represents a threat to free speech.

Angelos Frangopoulos said public debate was at risk because the channel was being put under “commercial pressure” to change its content a year after its launch.

He said: “Commercially, this is a very serious matter. This does cause damage to the GB News business model, there is no two ways about it. And that is something that the advertising industry itself needs to acknowledge.”

Mr Frangopoulos, the former chief executive of Sky News Australia, said advertising buyers had opted to keep GB News on their blacklists despite the channel remaining in-step with Britain's broadcasting rules.

“Being part of a regulated environment should give an advertiser and a brand confidence that a broadcaster is meeting the legal requirements around impartiality,” he added.

“To then ignore that and apply what could be perceived to be some kind of commercial pressure to change that content, I think is quite dangerous for public debate and freedom of speech.”

GB News was targeted at launch by Stop Funding Hate, the social media campaign group that has organised boycotts of national newspapers promoting right-of-centre views.

Some of the world's biggest brands including Grolsch, Ikea and the skincare brand Ikea suspended ad ties following the attack - although some companies later reversed their decision.

Mr Frangopoulos said he was having top-level talks with agencies and brands who continue to boycott GB News to understand their concerns.

He said: “Quite frankly, it's all perception and not reality. The battle GB News had before launch was a perception that was set by a hashtag on Twitter. Who do you trust: a hashtag on Twitter, or Ofcom?”

His comments come on the first birthday of GB News, an opinionated news channel backed with nearly £50m of funding from the US broadcaster Discovery, the Dubai investment group Legatum and the Brexit-supporting hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall.

Despite hopes of disrupting the dominance of the BBC, the channel endured a tumultuous start beset by technical glitches and swift the departure of its chairman and lead presenter Andrew Neil.

Andrew Neil, with his hands on the desk, alongside the rest of GB News' 2021 launch lineup - Gareth Milner/GB News © Provided by The Telegraph Andrew Neil, with his hands on the desk, alongside the rest of GB News' 2021 launch lineup - Gareth Milner/GB News

The former Sunday Times editor took a break from the channel after presenting just eight shows because he said he needed to recharge his batteries, and then resigned.

Since then, it has launched GB News radio, brought in regular news bulletins, hired Sunday Express editor Michael Booker and installed Eamonn Holmes as a breakfast presenter.

The station has also faced an early challenge from Rupert Murdoch, who hired the former Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan to spearhead his brand of opinionated TV.

However, average viewers for Piers Morgan Uncensored at 8pm have fallen from 316,800 during the channel's launch on April 25, to 41,500 on May 23, according to the TV ratings compiler BARB.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage's programme for GB News attracted 57,500 viewers in the 7pm slot. Neither GB News or TalkTV have managed to regularly beat the BBC however, which attracted 106,300 average viewers in Mr Morgan's slot on May 23. 

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