GB News chief Neil quits after 8 shows ... and 11 weeks off
As star presenter goes, others tipped to follow
ANDREW Neil dramatically resigned from GB News last night amid growing turmoil at the news channel.
The broadcaster announced Mr Neil, who had been both its most recognisable presenter and chairman, ‘stepped down’ from both roles.
He was known to be deeply unhappy about the chaotic launch of the channel and was thought not to support plans to make it more like the controversial and opinionated Fox News in the US.
With ratings dropping, senior staff quitting and continued production issues, Mr Neil’s departure is adding to a perception of crisis at the channel.
The former BBC political interviewer was only on GB News as a presenter for about two weeks, when it launched in June, before he went on a break, which he had not returned from ahead of last night’s announcement.
Other presenters are thought likely to follow, with former BBC lunchtime news host Simon McCoy one of those that could depart and question marks surrounding others such as Kirsty Gallacher.
A GB News statement last night said the board of the broadcaster had ‘accepted his resignation and thanked him for his contribution over the past year’.
As part of the statement, Mr Neil said: ‘I am sorry to go but I have concluded it’s time to reduce my commitments on a number of fronts. Over the summer I’ve had time to reflect on my extensive portfolio of interests and decided it was time it was time to cut back.’
He added: ‘I wish GB News well in continuing to fulfil its founding promise and mission to reach audiences currently underserved by existing news broadcasters.’
Mr Neil was one of the star names that had spearheaded the launch of the service, which was aiming to be an alternative to Left-leaning broadcasters such as the BBC.
But he only presented eight editions of his show. He had initially taken a break to ‘replenish my batteries after the rigours of launch’.
But as the weeks went on it became increasingly likely he was not going to return to his previous roles.
Last night he appeared on Nigel Farage’s programme on the channel shortly after the announcement was made. He was described as having a ‘change of role’ and as a ‘contributor and commentator’ who would be regularly appearing on Mr Farage’s show – but his departure was not otherwise discussed.
The company said: ‘Andrew is without doubt one of the finest journalists and interviewers in this country. GB News thanks him for his 12 months of leadership, wisdom and advice and we wish him well.’
GB News sources at the company’s Paddington base last night said that Mr Neil had been appalled by the way the channel had been launched and felt it had never recovered. It is thought he believed the channel went on air before it was ready.
These sources added Mr Neil would also not have wanted to be part of a channel which is moving towards being a British version of Fox News. There was also reportedly a rift between him and GB News chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos.
Sources last night also suggested that McCoy was also close to leaving, having become frustrated by both the technical issues and the direction the channel is moving. GB News is also understood to have, so far unsuccessfully, attempted to lure Piers Morgan aboard.
The prospect of the channel becoming more like the Rightwing Fox News is understood to have led to two different camps emerging, with traditional TV journalists on one side and more opinionated voices on the other.
‘It never recovered’