Any attempt to shut down GB News is a futile mistake - Euan McColm

In the months preceding its launch, members of staff of GB News promised that their channel would offer the viewer something different. Unlike their rivals at Sky and the BBC, they would concentrate on the stories that mattered to people in all the forgotten corners of the country. GB News, they told us, would shake up the media landscape.

GB News has been on air for a week
GB News has been on air for a week

A week after the channel hit our screens, I think we must agree that it truly is different. There is, for example, the bold aesthetic decision to use a set that make it look as if presenters including Andrew Neil are broadcasting from inside a shipping container.

And then there’s the gorgeously shambolic approach to matters technical which means interviewees have frequently been inaudible and presenters have often appeared like rabbits staring down an approaching Volvo.

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But the highlight, if we may call it that, of the new channel’s first week came during Tuesday evening’s edition of the Dan Wooton show.

In his regular “Big Question” section, during which guests were asked to discuss “How should the Royal Family deal with Harry and Megan?”, Wooton asked whether, in fact, Prince Andrew, through his friendship with the paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, had done more to damage the reputation of the House of Windsor.

Royal commentator and crank Lady Colin Campbell wasn’t having this. Paedophile, she explained, was a medical term and so was hebephile and so was ephebophile.

Campbell went on explain that “paedophile is pre-pubescent, hebephile is transitional into adolescence, and post pubescent is ephebophile. He was an ephebophile.”

This truly was a case of GB News doing things differently. I mean, when was the last time a guest on Sky News so eloquently explained the different categories of child abuser as part of the argument that Harry and Megan have damaged the Royals?

It is, of course, easy to sneer at GB News. It’s easy because so many of its presenters seem woefully out of their depth, easy because its reporters seem to spend less time breaking stories than they do explaining that the channel is doing things differently, and easy because it appears to have hired a production team that doesn’t know what any of the buttons in the control room does.

But GB news isn’t for sneering metropolitan liberals like me. It’s for people who despise sneering metropolitan liberals like me, and there are plenty of those.

Some of those sneering metropolitan liberals spent much of the past week running a social media campaign urging advertisers to boycott the new channel on the grounds that they were “funding hate”.

A number of companies, including Ikea, Bosch, and Vodaphone, responded by pulling planned commercials.

I’m not sure this was the triumph those campaigners might think.

GB News has identified an audience among people who reject a “woke” liberal agenda and all that those calling for a boycott have done is confirm to GB News viewers that this new channel is necessary.

Furthermore, through its decision to pull, Ikea provided supporters of GB News an opportunity to point out that the company’s founder, Ingvar Kamorad, was once an active member of a Swedish Nazi group.

Of course, the right to free speech includes the right to ask advertisers to boycott GB News but this is a dangerous game to get into.

If we think it acceptable to try to shut up those with whom we disagree, do we retain the right to feel outrage if others try to shut us up? Do we truly believe in free speech or do we believe only in the freedom of those with whom we agree to speak?

GB News is pitched to a viewer who is likely to have voted for Brexit and who thinks that the modern media is out of touch with their concerns. The result of the 2016 referendum tells us that there are plenty of potential viewers.

For every company that bows to pressure to withdraw advertising, there will be many more that believe there’s a rich seam of potential customers to be mined.

We sneering metropolitan liberals seem to have learned little in the five years since the UK voted to leave the European Union.

We shouted down those who voted for it, demanded a re-run of the referendum, and then watched as Brexit’s architect, Boris Johnson, became Prime Minister.

We lost the argument – and then compounded that failure by reckoning those who beat us might see the light if only we denounced them loudly enough.

It was as if we thought that if we repeatedly called people idiots, they’d come round to our way of thinking.

By focussing their efforts on shutting down GB News, campaigners may win credibility points on social media but they’re not really doing anything to change the culture of the United Kingdom.

Their time would be better spend working to build a credible political opposition to the current government, an opposition that can present a story of progressive patriotism, that can persuade voters that a UK which unites with fellow nations across Europe and the rest of the world is stronger for those ties.

You may think GB News a dreadful, corrosive new player in our national debate and I may agree with that analysis but trying to shut it down will only fuel the sort of resentment that created the circumstances for Brexit.

For as long as its financial backers maintain their support, GB News is here to stay. By all means, exercise your right not to watch or to boycott those who advertise on the channel. But if you think those actions are going to do anything to ameliorate the societal tensions that helped birth GB News, you are wrong.