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If a news channel implodes and no one is around to watch it, does it even matter? The answer, as with all philosophical questions, is complicated. It shouldn’t matter, for you can hardly miss watching something you never watched in the first place. But then again it does matter if the person at the heart of said implosion is also having the mother of all public tantrums. You see, it’s so much fun to watch the tantrum that you simply can’t ignore the implosion that caused it. As I say, it’s complicated.
I refer, of course, to GB News and its former chairman, now detractor-in-chief, Andrew Neil. The channel, you may or may not remember, launched on 13 June with a tub-thumping monologue from Neil, who insisted that GB News was “dedicated to covering the news that matters to you and to giving voice to those who felt sidelined or even silenced in our great national debates”.
Four and a half months on from this shotgun wedding – which was followed by an indecently long honeymoon for Neil – and things are not at all rosy. Neil’s divorce from GB News was secured some weeks ago (whatever) but the bitching, which is the reason we’re here at all, has only just begun. It’s delicious.
It was just shy of 11pm last night when Neil really went to war with his ex. “After weeks of talks with GB News, resulting in exit settlement, the channel then broke it by briefing Mail on Sunday with [a] load of smears/lies then unilaterally cancelling [the] exit deal,” he tweeted, “leaving me free to do, say whatever I want [plus] never again be on GB News. Couldn’t be happier.” Translation: Take the bloody lamps, you cow, they never seemed to work anyway.
Now obviously anyone reading Neil’s tweet (6,308 likes at the time of writing) is going to want to know more about these “smears/lies”. So off to the Mail on Sunday we go. Leaked documents to the newspaper suggest that Neil was due to be sacked before he resigned. GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos is reported to have described the chairman’s position as “untenable”. Fair enough: how “GB” can you really be when you’re not actually in GB?
But the best bit is an email that Neil allegedly sent to GB News staff on his arrival from France for the launch of the channel. “The eagle has landed… in the smallest private jet in the world,” it reads. “At one stage Susan [Neil’s wife] didn’t think we were going to make it!”
Yes, while the GB News set was literally falling apart, the chairman of the channel was allegedly arriving in a private jet that was simply too small for his ego. One imagines the poor production team, lugging trestle tables from the village hall as stand-in desks, reading this and thinking, “That’s great, Andrew, but any chance of a hand getting this bloke off the floor? He’s on one knee and refusing to budge.”
It is now less a case of “the eagle has landed” and more “the snowflake has melted”. Last week, Neil was on Question Time (back on a proper channel, eh), complaining that, “I had always made it clear [GB News] wouldn’t be a British Fox News [...] Fox deals in untruths, it deals in conspiracy theories and it deals in fake news. That’s not my kind of journalism and I would never have set out to do that. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to why I’m here tonight and not with GB News.”
Well, consider my conclusions drawn. Why, for example, was the actual chairman of the channel unable to steer it away from all the things he claims to dislike? Why is it that the rest of us could see exactly what GB News was going to be but the chairman could not? Tough as this might sound, if you’re the chairman of a news channel, you don’t get to say that it wasn’t your fault. If the manager of a football team was to complain that his players were not performing as he would like, you might well ask if he has something to do with it.
But none of this stuff really matters. Or at least, as I said earlier, it matters only in the sense that it enables the squabbling to continue. This is the GB News “news” that matters and it deserves 24 hour rolling coverage.