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26 September 2020 00:30

BBC Tim Davie Television licensing in the United Kingdom

Andrew Neil announces GB News channel to rival BBC and Sky

Despite sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities, it could not quite repair damage done when Andrew Neil Show cancelled early summer + Politics Live taken off air — Andrew Neil (@afneil) September 25, 2020 Andrew Neil has turned down the BBC to head up a new British television channel. The leading journalist and broadcaster, regarded as television's most forensic and feared political interviewer, will be chairman at GB News, founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider. Neil has not been seen on the BBC since his programme, The Andrew Neil Show, was taken off air in March when the Covid-19 crisis took hold and he was unable to grill politicians face-to-face. However, the 71-year-old is now set to host his own flagship evening show on the 24-hour channel GB News, which plans to launch early next year on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media. The announcement will come as a blow to the BBC, as just a few weeks ago Mr Davie said the corporation is renewing its commitment to impartiality, with sources close to him disclosing he wants to reach out to "Brexit Britain".

Andrew Neil is launching a 24-hour TV channel to rival rolling news from the BBC and Sky. The broadcaster will be the face and chairman of GB News, 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 "underserved and unheard by their media", to launch early next year. As well as being appointed chairman, broadcaster and former Sunday Times editor Neil, 71, will host a flagship evening programme in primetime, leading the programming line-up. He said: "GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years. Neil, best known for The Andrew Neil Show, as well as This Week and Daily Politics on the BBC, added: "We've seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news.

It said at the time it was in discussions about a new interview series with Neil. The BBC thanked Neil for his work at the corporation and wished him luck in his new role. A statement 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. "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." In a statement posted on Twitter, Neil said he left the BBC with "no animosity or desire to settle scores".

He said: "With heavy heart I announce I will be leaving the BBC. "Despite sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities, it could not quite repair damage done when Andrew Neil Show cancelled early summer + Politics Live taken off air. The political interviewer and publisher recently dismissed speculation that he was in the running to be the next BBC chairman, saying on Twitter that he has "no interest in the job". At a time when the BBC and commercial media companies are cutting jobs, GB News said it hopes to create at least 120 positions. 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.

They plan for the channel to reach 96% of British television households via Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media. Sky launched a 24-hour news channel in 1989 and the BBC followed, in the UK, in 1997. GB News said that more announcements will be made in the coming weeks. Andrew Neil has quit the BBC to launch a new right-leaning opinionated rolling news channel which aims to start broadcasting early next year as a rival to the public broadcaster and Sky. Neil said: "We've seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news … GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years. He will leave the BBC, where he has fronted many of its leading politics programmes, after hosting the broadcaster's US general election coverage. He fell out with executives earlier this year after his own interview programme was cancelled, having already seen his contributions to Politics Live reduced and his late-night show This Week cancelled. The new BBC director general, Tim Davie, had attempted to win him back but Neil, who is also chairman of the rightwing Spectator magazine, has instead decided to jump ship. The veteran interviewer will be the face and chairman of the advertising-funded GB News, which already has a broadcasting licence and will be accessible in the vast majority of British homes via Freeview, Sky, and Virgin Media. British television executives have long been envious of the high ratings of opinion-led evening programmes on Fox News in the US which delivers sizeable profits. The BBC thanked Neil for his work on Friday night, saying in a statement: "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." In response, Neil tweeted: "With heavy heart I announce I will be leaving the BBC. Despite sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities, it could not quite repair damage done when Andrew Neil Show cancelled early summer and Politics Live taken off air. I look back on my 25 years doing live political programmes for the BBC with affection." A channel spokesperson said: "Andrew Neil epitomises what GB News is all about.