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‘Farage has been a huge success… I thank Andrew Neil for that terrific idea’

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Handing a bigger platform to Farage attracted a barbed comment from Neil who branded the broadcaster “UKIP TV” in an interview with the Financial Times. 

Frangopoulos is surprised by the comment. “Nigel has been a huge success at 7pm, and I thank Andrew Neil for that terrific idea,” he adds. “We all thought [Andrew’s suggestion] was so great that we did it.”

The broadcasting success of the former UKIP leader has helped fuel speculation that the board will now take GB News further to the right by re-fashioning the channel in the guise of America’s Fox News and the executive’s former channel Sky News Australia.

Yet, even suggesting the idea is enough to make Frangopoulos bristle. “That is absolute rubbish,” he says. “The suggestion we have shifted to the right is someone’s fantasy.

“The bottom line is actually we’ve doubled down on journalism that is punching above its weight. If we shift to the right why are we at the Labour conference for the entire week, why have we got Len McCluskey. [the general secretary of Unite the Union] on the screen.

“To have opinionated TV you need to have a variety of opinions and you need to express those opinions. You cannot have a one-sided debate.”

With Neil gone and the noise surrounding GB News’ troubled beginnings starting to fade, Frangopoulos has the chance to shift the focus towards his vision of disruption.

GB News has recently introduced 16 political programmes a week, brought in the former Sunday Times political editor Isabel Oakeshott as a presenter and broadcast live from the Labour and Tory party conferences.

From Monday, a new team will bring 182 news bulletins a week after viewers called for headline updates between the channel’s welter of opinionated programming. 

A further 60 staff will be added to its 120-strong team of journalists to support the channel’s digital push to reach even more viewers on social media platforms. 

Meanwhile, the ground is also being prepared for a huge marketing blitz outside of the M25 in an attempt to draw more viewers in the regions. 

To support his claims that GB News is gathering momentum online, Frangopoulos pulls out his smartphone and begins scrolling through Youtube.

He settles on TalkRadio, the radio station owned by Rupert Murdoch, from which GB News has poached a number of presenters. He points to the 275,000 subscribers TalkRadio has amassed on the video-sharing service since 2016. GB News, meanwhile, has pulled in the same amount over the past four months. The channel also has 170,000 subscribers on TikTok, the youthful video scrolling app. 

While he says the TV audience data helps shape decisions of what shows work and what doesn’t, it is the digital data that has proved “really compelling”.

“When you start a new company, you launch on a set of assumptions, but the wonderful thing about a business like ours is you can pivot really fast. The success we have had on digital has really exceeded our expectations.”

Turning those growth numbers into sustainable income is the ultimate goal, a task made easier now the advertising industry is bouncing back strongly from the pandemic.

Frangopoulos wants to turn a profit “sooner rather than later” but says he has years before its financial runway has run out. 

The investors – including Sir Paul, who has taken over from Neil as interim chairman – are very supportive because they can see the disruption is working. 

GB News’ potential is already prompting a reaction from its rivals. Murdoch’s decision to launch TalkTV, an insurgent current affairs channel spearheaded by Piers Morgan, is “absolutely defensive”, according to Frangopoulos.

Read More: ‘Farage has been a huge success… I thank Andrew Neil for that terrific idea’

2021-10-15 12:52:00

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