Andrew Neil has responded to the leftist-organized campaign pushing advertisers to boycott GB News, saying that they will review if brands are fit to advertise with them.
GB News, the new right-leaning British news channel, was launched this week by veteran British journalist Andrew Neil. GB News is competing with the mainstream channels like BBC and Sky News – Neil declared in his launch show that GB News would not be “yet another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of our media.”
Unsurprisingly, despite the fact that Neil, who is well known by many for taking a strong devil’s advocate position when interviewing and trying to be as fair and balanced as possible, leftist activists including groups like “Stop Funding Hate” decided to start a campaign to force advertisers to boycott GB News, likely because much of their earlier content has included debates where lockdown was criticized, and others where right-wing commentators were treated just as fairly as those on the left usually are by mainstream sources.
Andrew Neil: The pandemic has blown a huge hole in the public finances. pic.twitter.com/Zpw7eHziia
— GB News (@GBNEWS) June 16, 2021
Following the push on social media from Stop Funding Hate and the newly set up “Boycott GB News” website, which was created by a former BBC executive, a number of brands bowed to the pressure and declared less than 48 hours of the channel had officially kicked off, that they would no longer advertise with them. Ikea, the Swedish furniture store, said that GB News “was not in line with our humanistic values,” while Grolsch, the beer company, said that they would do everything they can to stop their ads appearing on GB News again. Around 12 others including Pintrest and jobs site Indeed also joined in.
“IKEA has not knowingly advertised on GB News. We have safeguards in place to prevent our advertising from appearing on platforms that are not in line with our humanistic values and vision to side with the many people.
— IKEA UK Support (@IKEAUKSupport) June 15, 2021
The brands may face backlash from the public for participating in the boycott of GB News, especially with those who did not back down. Conservative MP Craig McKinlay said that the boycott was “mad,” and that he was now “putting together a list of beers and household products that I will not be buying. This is all part of the closing down of free speech campaign which I am afraid we are seeing across our society. It must be resisted. It is an absolute abomination.”
However, some of those brands, including Ikea, later changed their mind, with Ikea claiming that the decision to pull advertising “was taken too quickly,” after social media backlash, including from Neil, pointed out their humanistic values included spying on their staff in France. Others including Octopus Energy and Money Supermarket said that the advertising pull was “merely a pause” while the channel was assessed before they would allow adverts on.
Neil took issue with this line of argument. In a conversation on Twitter with the CEO of Octopus Energy, Neil asked him if there were any times when his brand (or others) had ever taken the time to watch a new channel before deciding to place advertising with them. He declared that GB News “will be looking at brands to decide if they are fit to advertise with us,” in a massive reversal of the usual advertising boycotts.
Speaking on his show on Thursday night, Neil declared that there was “not an iota of hate in sight” on GB News, adding that those who decided to engage in the advertising boycott had “bowed to pressure” from and “taken the knee” to Stop Funding Hate, which he slammed as being a “fringe group.” Stop Funding Hate is “dominated by far-left agitators and kranks,” Neil said, and that if advertisers “want to see real hate, they should look at the social media posts of SFH supporters.”
“Through fear or ignorance some companies do as SFH bids,” Neil continued, saying that “woke nonsense has reached the boardroom,” and the executives are their “useful idiots.” Neil noted the backlash from GB News viewers, who had already written to advertisers to complain about the boycott. “All these brands should understand this boycott business should go both ways,” he added. He concluded by inviting any of the executives to come on air with him and discuss where the supposed hate was. “You’re in the politics business now,” he said, “and like politicians, you have to be held to account.”