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Artillery Row

GB News must save itself from itself

The channel can do important work if it gets out of its own way

If you’re on the right, GB News is a marvellous opportunity. It’s an independent news platform bankrolled by the ample funds of a simpatico multi-millionaire. All the right people hate it and it’s doing pretty well when it comes to viewers.  

What’s not to like?

A lot of its output has been superb. Charlie Peters’ documentary Grooming Gangs: Britain’s Shame was essential viewing. Homegrown hosts like Patrick Christys have been very likeable. It’s been good to see the great comedian Simon Evans on British TV screens regularly. I’m not a natural viewer of Farage but there’s no denying the ratings.

So, it’s sad to see the platform stumbling into avoidable PR disasters. There’s nothing wrong with PR disasters. In a time with such a broken moral compass, you’d have to be doing something wrong to earn the approval of the mainstream. But the phrase you know you’re over the target when you start catching flak is incorrect. It can mean your foe is attacking you at your weakest.

Laurence Fox’s tirade about the shaggability of a left-wing journalist is not being criticised because it’s a daring assault on fashionable pieties but because it’s such an obviously dumb and boorish thing to say. It’s a good point to attack because it is so manifestly indefensible — being unfunny as well as rude. 

But Mr Fox is being attacked enough. What were GB News doing talking about a random left-wing journalist in the first place? Why was the average viewer meant to be interested in the thoughts of “Ava Santina”? She was a bit obnoxious talking about men’s mental health on a different channel. Say what you like about Mr Fox’s comments but you have to accept that it must have been difficult to make that segment interesting.

There’s so much for a right-wing channel to be covering

Why were they scrambling for subjects? There’s so much for a right-wing channel to be covering. There is unconstrained mass immigration to Europe (the Home Secretary was being loudly condemned for criticising open borders even as Fox was speaking). There is violent crime. There are left-wing fraudsters. There are councils being crippled by equal pay claims. There is racial separatism. There are a lot of other issues, relevant to everyone whatever their beliefs — the NHS, the economy et cetera — but I mention these because drawing attention to them hits our leftist cousins where they hurt (metaphorically, of course). I’m not asking the channel to avoid contentious topics, in other words. I’m wondering why it squeezed contentiousness out of something so mundane.

Hell, GB News presenters can even talk about COVID vaccines if they want. Sure, I’m not convinced that they have spread myocarditis through the land like compost being spread across the surface of a field. But I’m often wrong and I could be wrong here. 

Just cover things that count. Not the facial expressions of Ava Santina.

Of course, news is entertainment more than anything. If you showed straight reportage — never mind political philosophising — without comedic spice, no one would tune in. But you can make entertainment out of what is serious. Tucker Carlson, like him or loathe him, showed that you can have rhetorical bombast and attention to substantive issues. Dan Wootton — who was presenting when Fox made his comments — would happily talk about Harry and Meghan from 6am to 10pm, only pausing to wedge a spot of lunch down his maw. 

Now, I know most of the people howling about Fox and GB News want the worst for the channel. It disturbs them that a platform so often ignores their finger-wagging. If it was up to them, the most right-wing our media would get would be Matthew D’Ancona writing ponderous columns about “the missing centre”. 

But I don’t want GB News to fail. I want it to succeed — not just to be a thorn in the side of the establishment but a devastating liver kick. It can do it. But it has to have more focus and more ingenuity — not to chase RTs with aimless chit chat about something on the Twitter timeline, or to mistake bottom-tier pub banter for Swiftian satire.

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