Andrew Neil lost, and GB News is now the Farage Channel. How the hell did that happen?

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Farage still has things to prove, and people to despise  (GB News)
Farage still has things to prove, and people to despise (GB News)

So that didn’t last long did it? The worst, most cringey, most chaotic, most ludicrous launch of a TV channel since L!veTV proceeds as many of us predicted, whingeing its paranoid way towards oblivion.

As far as I can see, Andrew Neil – who you may have noticed has quit his role as chair and top public face of GB News – did about eight shows, lasted, nominally, around eight weeks in post and delivered one excellent interview with a front-rank politician.

If all of GB News’ output was as good as Neil’s skewering of Rishi Sunak on who’s going to pay for the great green revolution then I think I might have tuned in to the channel more often, and not just to see how entertainingly bad it can be.

I can’t say I blame Neil for getting out. He used to be editor of the Sunday Times, for God’s sake. I have no doubt he’d not want to spend the rest of his professional life playing second fiddle to Nigel Farage. GB News is now Farage News, and not in a good way. It’s unwatchable.

Farage has been more or less unemployed since Brexit, is publicity-crazed, and hasn’t anything better to do than unleash demons wherever and whenever he can. He’s still got things to prove, and people to despise. He has no pride and doesn’t mind being reduced to interviewing the likes of Christopher Biggins and Ian Paisley Junior.

Watch: Nigel Farage launches new prime time show on GB News

Neil does. He is a big beast who needs some real meat. He is a journalist, not a politician pretending to be a journalist. Neil deserves a good slot on a proper channel with full research back up and a technical team who know how to make the sound work.

He needs, as he stated in his now poignant opening “manifesto”, to be interviewing senior cabinet ministers, and making headlines, and not getting over excited because he’s spotted a dinghy full of refugees in the English Channel. What Neil needs is his own interview slot on the BBC, like he once had, and to which he will hopefully return.

He promised his viewers that GB News would be finding stories in the provinces, it wouldn’t be an echo chamber, and there’d be no conspiracy theories. It didn’t quite turn out that way. The faction in GB News that wanted to pander to the extremists, concentrate on culture wars, ditch the regional bollocks and drop any pretence of debate and reason has won. Every night is anti-trans-rights night on GB News. It’s very boring, which keeps its audiences figures pleasingly minimal, but, anyway, Neil lost.

Even as chair, and even as their biggest name, Neil was being turned into a mere frontman for a version of Fox News that he pledged GB News would never degenerate into – a bigoted hate machine, very much an echo chamber of ignorance, and a unrestrained propaganda outfit for Farage and his anti-immigrant, EU-obsessed political agenda.

The Farage show is like an old edition of Question Time in which the researcher forgot to book the other guests for the panel. Farage interviewed an M25 climate protester who actually refused to be bullied by the old fraud, and the green bloke won the argument, such as it was, but he was allowed little time to say his piece.

Every hour of every day, GB News scorns Ofcom rules and all the traditions of British broadcasting that demand balance from those given the privilege of a licence. In the UK, we demand political balance because television is such a powerful medium, and because so much of our media – old print and new digital alike – is so absurdly, blatantly biased. Ofcom seems to have forgotten all that and, with Neil effectively departed, surely the regulator can see that Britain now has a television channel dedicated to what we might term the Farage Cult.

As Farage himself might say, how the hell did that happen?

Watch: Viewers shocked after Ken Livingstone appears on GB News with facial injury

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