GB News, the new UK news network, launched this week.
There has been a lot of comment on social media, most of it based on witheringly negative assessments of the studio, the production values and other aspects of the channel. There is also already a campaign to persuade corporations to pull advertising.
The old era of media outlets being owned by corporations and hands-off old-money owners is over. The new generation of newspaper owners are not in it for higher ideals. They are a mixture of hedge funds, which expect a quick return on investment, or they will revert to slash and burn management, and oligarchs operating via front companies.
Oligarchs expect their media properties to be their personal mouthpieces. Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas-based casino mogul, bought his local paper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, for $140 million in 2015 via News + Media Capital Group LLC, a front company. The newspaper promptly became his personal mouthpiece. Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for $250m in 2013, which for one of the richest men in the world, was chump change. There is a pattern here.
In the current world in which we live, with the ease of creating internet-based TV streaming channels, a newly-minted oligarch with $100m a year to burn can easily afford to fund an entire operation the current size of GB News. As I am fond of saying, disinformation networks are a lot cheaper to run than an aircraft carrier with a squadron of F-35s. The real world war is the Information War, and the West is currently losing. Some of the oligarchs and plutocrats operating in the disinformation space are almost certainly acting as fronts for governments.
The funding for GB News should be a big Tell as to its intended positioning. The majority of the funding is from corporations not domiciled in the UK, and a lot of the funding comes from the “front” corporations of oligarchs and plutocrats. This is not a benign news channel, trying to thread the needle down the middle, or engaging in fearless investigate reporting. It was intended as a propaganda channel for pluto-populism. Its presenter roster is dominated by a combination of established UK tabloid blusterers, and newer internet-based provocateurs, long on mouth and short on information.
As for the crappy production values…the cynic in me says that GBNews doesn’t mind having YouTube production values, since it is appealing to people who mostly get their news from YouTube.
GB News is not competing with the BBC, Channel 4, Sky or any of the other established UK news channels. It is a propaganda outlet largely funded by oligarchs, designed to generate dopamine clickbait for nativists and fans of plutocrat-controlled fascism. Comparing it with those channels is tempting and easy, but misses the entire picture in terms of its underlying objectives and market positioning.
The campaign to pull advertising may well succeed. However, like Fox News in the USA, the funding model of GB News is not dependent on advertising. If all they have are gold and crypto-currency snake oil salesmen as advertisers, they won’t care. The purpose of the network is not to be a commercially successful news channel with blue-chip corporate advertisers. This is already obvious from the decision by the network to launch a smear attack on Ikea, one of the corporations that pulled its advertising. Ikea is a European corporation headquartered in an EU country. Attacking a European corporation ticks all the right boxes when your intended audience is nativists, and nationalists.