Becoming face of ‘Ukip tribute band’ GB News was huge mistake, says Andrew Neil

Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil said it was a “huge mistake” for him to become the face of GB News, and branded the channel as a “Ukip tribute band”.

The former BBC presenter said the channel was still haunted by the “shambles” of its launch and ran the risk of “falling into irrelevance and obscurity”.

Speaking at Freeview’s Outside the Box event, he discussed his short time at the channel with interviewer Beth Rigby.

Referring to his brief stint with GB News, he said: “The big mistake I made, and it was a huge mistake, and it did cause pain and aggravation, was that I put my name and face on the tin and yet quickly discovered that I really had no say in what was going into that tin.”

GB News
Mr Neil said GB News would be ‘haunted’ by its shambolic launch

Neil said he was in “no rush” to return to television but that he did not want GB News to be “the full stop in my broadcast career”.

He said his two main issues with GB News were its production values and ideological stance.

“My fundamental mistake was to get into bed with people who I thought shared my vision, but didn’t actually,” he said.

“What made it very stressful and very difficult was that in the public domain, understandably and quite rightly, it was Andrew Neil’s GB News, it was Andrew Neil’s channel, that was the brand of it.

“And yet it was doing things … that were not me.”

Guest Nigel Farage in the green room, during the launch event for new TV channel GB News at The Point in Paddington, London. Picture date: Sunday June 13, 2021.
Guest Nigel Farage in the green room, during the launch event for new TV channel GB News at The Point in Paddington, London. Picture date: Sunday June 13, 2021.

“It became apparent to me as the months of this year went on that a combination of the board and the founding members, that this was basically a Ukip tribute band, and that’s what they really wanted.”

Mr Neil added that GB News’ disastrous launch in June 2021 would be remembered.

“(The channel) has a danger, if it doesn’t get on top of its production value and its ratings, it will just slide into irrelevance and obscurity,” he said.

“Most launches don’t go very well, but there are some launches which go well enough to allow recovery.

“There are other launches that go so badly they haunt you for months and months afterwards.

“I think GB News is still haunted by the shambles of the launch, and that will take a long while to overcome.

Speaking of experiencing technical problems while broadcasting for the channel he added: “It’s not just embarrassing, it’s heart-stopping when you’re … about to go live and you’re told in your ear every single link has gone down.”

But Mr Neil admitted that even at such a late stage in his career with extensive experience in the industry it was still possible to make mistakes and learn from them.

“You think you know everything because you’ve done everything and you don’t, and you can still make what was, on my part, probably the single biggest mistake of my career, to get into that position.”

On returning to broadcast journalism, he said: “I’m in no rush to come back to television at all. I’d like to do something on the TV front … for one major reason, and it’s entirely self-serving.

“I don’t want GB news to be the full stop in my broadcasting career.”