Andrew Neil says it was a 'huge mistake' to become face of GB News

Andrew Neil says it was a ‘huge mistake’ for him to become face of GB News and claims channel is ‘UKIP tribute band’

  • The former BBC presenter’s comments came during an interview on Wednesday
  • He said that he is still haunted by the ‘shambles’ of the launch of GB News in June
  • The veteran broadcaster left the channel thee months later in September
  • Neil said he is in no rush to return to TV with speculation rife over his future

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  and Sky News’ Political Editor 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.’

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, citing Nigel Farage being given a nightly show months after launch.

Veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil said on Wednesday it was a ‘huge mistake’ for him to become the face of GB News, and branded the channel as a ‘Ukip tribute band’

‘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.’

‘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.

Pictured: Presenter Andrew Neil prepares to broadcast from a studio during the launch event for new TV channel GB News at The Point in Paddington, London in June 2021

Pictured: GB News presenters (left to right) Kirsty Gallacher, Andrew Doyle, Neil Oliver, Darren McCaffrey, Alex Phillips, Rebecca Hutson, Simon McCoy, Nana Akua, Liam Halligan, Gloria De Piero, Dan Wootton, Andrew Neil, Michelle Dewberry, Mercy Muroki, Tom Harwood, Colin Brazier, Inaya Folarin Iman, Alastair Stewart. GB News launches on Sunday evening with a special programme called Welcome To GB News on Sunday June 13, 2021

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.’ 

The presenter, who was also chairman at GB news, said he still believed that there was in Britain still a gap in the market for a ‘centre right’ news alternative, without the need to drift towards ‘Fox News to the right’.

Andrew Neil  launched GB News in June with Neil saying it would not ‘slavishly follow the existing news agenda’ but quit with this fleeting Tweet in September

However, he said that the BBC under Director-General Tim Davie was right to put impartiality at the heart of its news coverage.

Asked whether he would return to the BBC having held discussions with Mr Davie, Neil said that while no roles are immediately available at the broadcaster, the door remains open.

While he likely held political beliefs to the right of most BBC journalists, he said he would ‘leave those at the studio door’ and give politicians from all sides of the spectrum and ‘equal opportunity thumping.’

Neil also criticised ‘mainstream’ UK news channels for – in his eyes – failing to challenge stories that appeal to more ‘liberal’ sensibilities of journalists and editors.

‘We’re no longer journalists, we’ve become the PR department of Greenpeace,’ Neil said, specifically of the coverage of COP26 summit in Glasgow in recent weeks.   

Andrew Neil ‘could return to the BBC’ after meeting Director-General Tim Davie for a ‘constructive conversation’ in the wake of quitting GB News 

By Lizzie May for MailOnline

Andrew Neil could join the BBC once again after a meeting with Director-General Tim Davie in the wake of quitting as chairman and presenter of GB News.

Davie met Neil in the aftermath of his dramatic GB News exit, when the pair enjoyed a ‘constructive conversation’.

Although no job offers were made, the talks suggested that Davie could clear a path for the presenter to return.

According to The Times, the discussion proved to help build back a relationship after Neil left the BBC under a cloud last year by Davie’s decision to axe The Andrew Neil Show.

Neil said he could not repair the ‘damage done’.

In an attempt to shore up the BBC’s impartiality credentials, the Director-General is said to be ‘keen’ to hire from all sides of the political spectrum.

One insider said: ‘He was the token right-winger at the BBC.

‘There’s always been an argument that Davie’s error in allowing him to leave could only be rectified by his return.’

Director-General Tim Davie is said to be ‘keen’ to hire from all sides of the political spectrum in an attempt to shore up the BBC’s impartiality credentials

The BBC’s Director of News and Current Affairs, Fran Unsworth, quit in September amid a ‘bias row’ over the appointment of left-winger Jess Brammar as executive news editor. 

Whoever takes Unsworth’s position will be crucial in the restoration of Neil and his Wednesday evening show.  

Andrew Neil hosted just eight shows on GB News before confirming he had left the channel in September, three months after its launch.

The 72-year-old broadcaster initially told viewers he was taking a break from the channel, less than two weeks after going on air.

GB News would not ‘slavishly follow the existing news agenda’, said Neil, and instead would cover ‘the stories that matter to you and those that have been neglected’.

He added that the channel would deliver ‘a huge range of voices that reflect the views and values of our United Kingdom’.  

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