Andrew Neil: I’m not out to seek revenge on the BBC

·5-min read

Andrew Neil has said there were times he was “unhappy” at the BBC, but that he is not out to “seek revenge” as he leaves to help launch GB News.

The broadcaster, 71, will be the face and chairman of the 24-hour TV channel, signalling the end of his relationship with the BBC, where he has been one of the most respected political interviewers.

Plans are in place for “Britain’s news channel”, aimed at those who feel “under-served and unheard by their media”, to launch early next year.

Speaking on Good Morning Britain, Neil said he moved on from the BBC in an “amicable way”.

Asked about his relationship with the broadcaster, he said: “You will have to ask the BBC that. I don’t really want to look back, I have enjoyed my years at the BBC.

“I have been surrounded by some of the most talented people in broadcasting.

“There have been times where I have been unhappy at how the BBC has treated me.

“They wouldn’t move This Week to a better time slot, it was getting closer and closer to midnight.

“They cancelled the Andrew Neil Show even though it was beating Channel 4 news every time it was on.”

BBC Director General
Tim Davie, new director general of the BBC (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Neil said the new director-general of the BBC, Tim Davie, had presented him with a number of offers but that they had felt like a “step back”.

He added: “The new DG came up with some really good offers at the end but they weren’t quite good enough.

“I felt it was a bit of step back, too much water had flowed under the bridge. It was time to move on and I do so in an amicable way.

“I’m not out to seek revenge. I’m not going to do a John Humphrys in which you leave the BBC with glowing reports, then 24 hours later you beat up on the BBC. That’s not my style.”

GB News will not be a rolling news channel like those offered by Sky and the BBC, but will be similar to US networks MSNBC and Fox News, Neil told hosts Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid.

He said: “There would be no point doing what is already being done pretty well with the existing incumbents. It will not be a rolling news channel.

“It will be based more like MSNBC in America, which is on the left, and Fox, which is on the right.

“You know, Piers, as well as I do, they don’t do rolling news. They do news when it breaks but they don’t do continuous rolling news.

“They segment the day into individual programmes, news-based programmes, built around very strong presenters, or anchors as they call them in the United States, and that is what we will do.

“Anchors with a bit of edge, a bit of attitude, personality – and people will make an appointment to view them.”

At a time when the BBC and commercial media companies are cutting jobs, GB News said it hopes to create at least 120 positions.

They include more than 100 journalists in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the channel, in which global media and entertainment company Discovery Inc is the lead investor.

GB News will feature more than 6,500 hours of content a year, made exclusively for the channel, which has secured broadcasting licences from Ofcom.

It has been founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider.

They plan for the channel to reach 96% of British television households via Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.

GB News will broadcast seven days a week across the UK and Ireland and will be available globally on GB News digital platforms.

Sky launched a 24-hour news channel in 1989 and the BBC followed, in the UK, in 1997.

Former Sky News executive editor John McAndrew will be director of news and programming and ex-Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos has been appointed chief executive officer.

GB News said that more announcements will be made in the coming weeks.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch is also said to be planning the launch of a TV station.

Neil said: “They tried to get me to join and do that, but in the end I decided not to.

“I left Rupert Murdoch’s organisation 25 years ago and it didn’t seem to me like a sensible career move to go back.

“The offer they made very generous and very professional and so on.”

The BBC previously thanked Neil for his work at the corporation and wished him luck in his new role.

A statement following his initial announcement said: “We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks to Andrew for his many years of work for the BBC, during which he’s informed and entertained millions of viewers.

“From his early broadcasting days on Despatch Box in the 1990s to his recent forensic and agenda-setting political interviews, be has proved a formidable and hugely talented broadcaster.

“For years, he was at the heart of the irreverent and much-loved This Week and played a key role in the Daily and Sunday Politics, Politics Live and the BBC’s general election coverage.

“We wish Andrew every success in his new role; we’re sorry the US election coverage will be his last BBC presentation work for the foreseeable future but he will always be welcome at the BBC.”