GB News Making Losses but Has Beaten Talk TV

Nigel Farage on GB News

For a while, it was tempting just to ignore GB News, the British right-wing TV channel. The production was bad, the audience was small. All-in-all, it wasn’t really making much of a difference to anything. Back when it launched in June 2021, there was the distinct possibility it would crash and burn very quickly. This sense was only exacerbated by Andrew Neil’s fast exit.

Almost three years on, the station has landed big-name presenters, often Conservative politicians, and kept a small but loyal viewership that has helped it see off competition from News UK’s Talk TV. 

That channel is set to come off linear TV in the summer, per Sky News. Despite being backed by one of the world’s biggest media companies, it has never really landed a blow and today’s news seemed inevitable after star host Piers Morgan moved his show to YouTube. The move to digital might make sense, but it is also undoubtedly a sign of failure – Talk TV was not intended to be a digital outlet.

That’s not to say GB News doesn’t care about digital. In the company’s latest accounts, made public via Companies House today, the directors write:

The most significant growth has been in digital, where both the Company’s owned and operated sites as well as Social Media have been strong; Unique views and page views on the Group’s website and app have increased by more than 5-times and 4-times respectively compared to May last year, whilst reach on Facebook and YouTube has tripled with aggregate subscribers across all the major Social Media platforms increasing by over 1m to nearly 2.5m subscribers.

However, holding on to its linear TV berth is undoubtedly a status symbol.

Massive GB News Losses

None of this has turned into profits though. Those accounts reveal that operating losses in the year to May 2023 hit £42.4 million. The total losses since the station launched have now hit an eye-watering £76 million. Daniel Thomas at the Financial Times reported that owner and hedge fund owner Sir Paul Marshall is ploughing a further £41 million into the broadcaster. 

And money isn’t the only issue plaguing GB News. It is the subject of numerous ongoing Ofcom investigations. 

Just on Monday, the regulator found that comments made by former actor Laurence Fox on the “Dan Wootton Tonight” show about political journalist Ava Evans violated offence rules. Ofcom said that it has “significant concerns about GB News’ editorial control of its live output” and has requested a meeting at its offices with the outlet. 

One of the still ongoing investigations is into the due impartiality of Nigel Farage’s weeknight programme. (Ofcom is also investigating Sir Jake Berry on Talk TV for the same issues.) Farage is clear he denies the allegation, arguing he is currently not an active politician.

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Election Ready

The UK General Elections is likely to take place around October this year and will be a significant moment for GB News. Can it make an impact by hosting big interviews, debates and election night coverage? Some of its biggest names such as Sir Jacob Rees Mogg will surely have to come off air, given they will be standing. 

I have no doubt it wants to try its hand at covering the US election too, not least because it has avowed Trumpite Farage on its books. 

The question is whether it can keep the show on the road until then. The short answer is… probably. 

Given the latest cash injection, it seems like key investors are happy to be in it for the long haul. Indeed, the director’s report notes that the company has a “stated ambition of becoming the UK’s largest news channel by 2028.”

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Will the regulators get to GB News instead? Unlikely. Ofcom basically never takes channels off air. The last time it happened was May 2022 when Russia Today (RT) had its licence revoked following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That was about a year after Chinese state broadcaster CGTN lost its licence. Those are very different beasts that posed very different issues to GB News. Taking such drastic action against a UK outlet in an election would undoubtedly prompt a political backlash.

It is making losses and under huge regulatory pressure, but GB News is going nowhere. 

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