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How long will G B News last?

Former BBC presenters often switch sides to make a better pension for themselves, so the best of luck former sacked Sunday newspaper editor Mr Neil, to archaeologist Mr Oliver, and convincing teleprompter reader Mr McCoy for making the best of last of the television summer wine.

The best news Saudi and American and money can buy  Photograph: UK Free TV
The best news Saudi and American and money can buy Photograph: UK Free TV
published on UK Free TV

It is unlikely to last awfully long.

It seems unlikely for GB News to last be long-running service because although £60 million sounds like an awful lot of money, but it has not bought a place anywhere near the top of the TV menu.  ITN runs the news for ITV/STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 on £136 million a year and that does not include a 24/7 news-only broadcast channel, only three hours a night.    BBC News’s various outputs (BBC News channel, BBC World News, BBC regional news) costs many hundreds of millions of pounds a year to run. 

According to City AM £20m of the money for “G B News” came from US media giant Discovery, Inc. based in New York. The remainder is from Dubai-based investment firm Legatum and hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall:  perhaps it should be called “Dubai Discovery-Inc News”?  


It has somewhat limited coverage.

The channel will be broadcast on Freeview multiplex com6.  This means less than three quarters of homes will be able to even receive the Freeview signal. (Multiplex COM6 - ARQB - Arqiva B: broadcasting to 19.8m UK homes from 80 masts ).   This means that the of the 44% of homes that use Freeview, only three quarters of them will be able to watch the new channel, makes 32.9% of homes. 

If the channel is on Sky that will add another possible 30.1% of homes (8.38m/27.8m) and Freesat homes are now 3.8% (1.07m/27.8m). 

In total no more than 66.8% of homes will be capable of watching. 


It is as far down the programme guide as you can go.

One of the problems for new UK TV channels that are not public service broadcasting channels is that the legal rules for EPG positions means that after the top slots go to BBC, and the public service broadcasting channels (ITV/STV/UTV, Channel 4, Channel 5) are then allocated on a first come first-served basis.  

The rules also say that without broadcasting anything for at last two hours a day the slot is lost.   But any spaces vacated this way caused a shuffle of the channel numbers to make the free slot at the end (in the 90s on Freeview).  Each broadcaster can shuffle around their own channel allocations, so UKTV can move Dave, Drama, and Yesterday, but the slots cannot be sold off.

This means that Freeview channel 236 is literally 118 presses of channel down from the old home of Mr Neil and Mr Oliver.    Fans of Mr McCoy will find him only 20 channels down, but no longer in High Definition.   This is important because time and again viewers still trust what is on the single-digit Freeview channels and do not seek out the same people when they jump ship.   The remaining British viewers of broadcast TV do not really watch news shows after 7pm and before 10pm: there are such shows on at 8pm on ITV+1, BBC FOUR and 9pm on BBC Scotland and they not watched by many homes.   People expect their peak time TV to entertain!

Andrew Neil’s BBC shows have been for described as for “bored students and housewives” and “insomniacs”.  


Live TV is dying

This is against a falling trend for television.  In 1992 average weekly viewing was 30 hours per person per week, still 28 hours in 2000 but by this year, 2021, has fallen to 19½ hours a week, down 35%. 

The Disney corporation “closed 30 channels in fiscal year 2020. We plan to close 100 in 2021”.   With the rise and rise of Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video most media organizations are removing content from broadcast television, because most people want to watch stuff when they want to!

The BBC News channel has a share now of 1.38% (watched for 2½ average daily minutes), Sky News 0.82% (1½ average daily minutes) and Sky Sports News 0.46% (48 seconds average a day).      All other news channels score nil points by BARB.


It is not G.B and it is not News.

Clearly the people putting up the £60 million for this TV channel do not spend much time in the United Kingdom because they would realise that every schoolchild can tell you that “Great Britain” is the name of the biggest island in the British Isles archipelago, ahead of the Island of Island.  The next most populated are Portsea Island, Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Isle of Sheppey and so forth.

Perhaps if the backers did not all live between 5,592 and 6,441 km away from our fair isles, they might get that!


It also appears that the schedule and budget for the channel are not going to be able to run to collecting much news.  Based in single location in Paddington in London, it seems unlikely to match the reach of ITN (with their Border, Tyne Tees, Calendar, Granada, Central, Anglia, London, Meridian, Wales, West Country, Channel, UTV news commitments) and clearly no match for the well-funded BBC news operation that still runs from 14 locations in England: London, Nottingham, Norwich, Cambridge, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Tunbridge Wells, Southampton, Plymouth, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Hull, plus Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, St Helier as well as BBC World News, BBC News America, BBC Arabic and BBC Persian. 

Hiring lots of people to sit in Paddington who shown skill has been to be the face for a skilled, reputable, and well-oiled news machine are going to struggle without having news to read from the teleprompter.    Even with the best technology, the best communications networks, and the best people almost every 24/7 news channel has taken many years to get it together: Sky News, BBC News 24, BBC World Service News TV, and Sky Sports News Dot Com TV all were quite embarrassing for many years.    Presenters such as Mr Neil have been fronting 45-minute shows, not 168 hours of TV output every week. 


A history of failure of TV News channels

Most TV news channels have been and gone.   ITN News/ITV News lasted from August 2000 until Christmas 2005 but never managed to sell enough adverts to make it a financially viable prospect.

Sky News is kept on air by the subscriptions that people take out with Sky generally being used to fund a goodwill brand ambassador for Sky.    Of course, Mr Neil was involved with the early days of Sky News but was ousted when Sky Television merged with former rival British Satellite Broadcasting because his public statements were not suitable for the new merged company BSkyB, which perhaps means he is still “taunting” as much as he always was! 

And Mr Neil was also the editor of the Sunday Times (whilst “editing” Sky News) before moving onto being on the BBC Two every weekday, and Sundays and Thursday late night on BBC One.  The idea that Mr Neil is anything of an outsider is perhaps fanciful.  

But no-one has managed to launch an independent new TV News channel for many years because even well thought out channels like The Money Channel, which at last had a target for adverts in mind, burnt though their cash before making a profit.  


The no Paul Dacre problem

Another problem here for “Dubai- Discovery News” is that (surely) part of the plan was for former newspaper editor (and current multimillionaire) has failed to demonstrate that he could perform the legal duties required as a head of Ofcom and will not be therefore there to be able to turn a blind eye to the legal protections that are required of a broadcast TV channel by the law.

Remember here that it is the multiplex operator (Arqiva) that will be unable to broadcast the channel if Ofcom says it is not 100% squeaky clean and as they transmit almost everything in the UK, they will comply with an Ofcom directive or just be totally unable to operate their business.   


So, in summary

  • In at most 66.8% of homes.
  • 118 clicks down the TV guide from Mr Andrew Niels old TV homes (so, lots of inertia)
  • Not really doing news, just talking about it, piggybacking on other’s content (“Wokewatch” is perhaps another name for cheap piracy)
  • Not in HD on Freeview
  • These types of channels burn money and find it hard to get an audience.
  • Will need to comply with all Ofcom Broadcasting Codes and the law.


All questions
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In this section
Leading the UK into digital 1
Tim Davie: full speech to BBC staff on a digital-first future 2
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Thursday, 3 June 2021
Brian Butterworth

2:22 PM

Iain Girling: Which is my point entirety! It turned out that people didn't watch The Money Channel or the ITV News Channel either. In television the amount of revenue from advertising isn't earned in portion to the BARB numbers, you need either BIG audiences like ITV, or high-income ones like Sky Arts. Commercial channels with small numbers of low-income viewers don't last long.

Mike: You pressed return at the end of each line, therefore your post looks like it does. My policy of 19 years now, is to never edit posts once made.

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Brian Butterworth's 38,915 posts GB flag

3:02 PM

Brian Butterworth:

Whilst I just knew you'd come back with that sort of point, it's a rather blinkered view IMHO.
In your list of examples you mentioned eg. political corruption. How many stories have there been in the last 15 months or so along those lines which have turned out to be a load of bull.
There's been too many reporters (I'm not going to call them journalists as it's offensive to the good ones) who hear a bit of "gossip" and report on it as though it's fact without checking a single thing. This is the sort of thing that most of the public are fed up with. Reporters need to learn to investigate.
It doesn't matter whether it's a documentary type programme that's taken weeks/months/years of investigation or a simple news report - where investigation might be achieved quite quickly. There again in some cases it might not!

As I said previously, and others have too, time will tell.
Here's part of a comment from one of the team, in the item you linked in a previous post -
Quote "the community is hungry for analysis, explanation and a range of viewpoints and that's what we will deliver.
That's what I think most of us are looking forward to.

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Chris.SE's 4,266 posts GB flag
Brian Butterworth

5:39 PM

Chris.SE: I'm sorry, but when there is a long-standing definition of a phrase, I'm going to go with that rather than making it up.

As for "hungry for analysis, explanation and a range of viewpoints" doesn't actually mean that these are going to get deal with as they're based in Paddington in London which is even closer to the Westminster Village than Isleworth (Sky) or Salford (BBC).

They've not, as far as anyone can tell, actually employed journalists to go around "Great Britain" and gather any viewpoints. They "range of viewpoints" they will serve will be those of billionaires in Saudi and America, because one should, in these situations "follow the money".

Unless you know differently. I am always open to evidence of a newsgathering organization being built. Even photos of trucks with logos on them, that kind of thing.

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Brian Butterworth's 38,915 posts GB flag

9:51 PM

Brian Butterworth:

Brian, well sorry, I do know differently - the station isn't even on air yet so I can't possibly agree with your view about "the range of viewpoints". Let's wait and see before condemning it out of hand.

As for the RTS article, apart from being interesting and primarily about stories that have taken time to investigate and how some of them have gone about it, it is NOT a "definition" of investigative journalism! And there's no reason why the principles and way they go about these investigations shouldn't apply to other stories that appear in the news.

I think we've done this one to death now!

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Chris.SE's 4,266 posts GB flag
Friday, 4 June 2021
John W
5:37 AM

It would be nice to read and hear the news and not the opinions of the (overpaid) presenters.

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John W's 1 post GB flag
Saturday, 5 June 2021
5:57 PM

The channel will be launching on all platforms, including being available to all TV customers on Virgin Media. The channel will also be in HD on all platforms excluding Freeview.

As to it being a success, well that will depend on them providing something the existing channels don't. Only time will tell.

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Gtibb's 20 posts GB flag
Sunday, 6 June 2021
Nicholas Anderson

10:21 PM

GBTV will have to try very hard to maintain an audience and the best way in which they can do this is by getting out on location and talking to people in the street on various national and international stories.

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Nicholas Anderson's 161 posts GB flag
Monday, 14 June 2021
Darren Brian White
10:49 PM

GB News is a breathe of fresh air, havent watched BBC, ITV or Sky since its been on

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Darren Brian White's 3 posts GB flag
Tuesday, 15 June 2021

1:02 AM

Darren Brian White:

They need to sack their sound engineer though, at least they seem to have bought a few more LEDs for Dewbs!

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Chris.SE's 4,266 posts GB flag

1:59 PM

Give them a chance to sort out their technical problems! For a first broadcast, Dawbs managed the chain of technical hitches commendable. Audio modulation levels and lighting can easily be improved. If they clearly dififerentiate between news-facts and comments by presenters and interviewees, GBN will score over SN and BBC-N, both of which inject opinion into their "reports". Al-Jazeera is more objective, and has a main focus on world events. GBN could fill the gap by providing factual news separate from comment.

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michael's 872 posts GB flag
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