The week in media: only one winner from the GB News ad boycott

The week in media: only one winner from the GB News ad boycott

While advertisers lost their heads over GB News, one brand showed more integrity and bravery than most, says Mediatel News’ editor

Everyone seems to have had their say this week on GBNews, the new 24-hour news channel fronted by Andrew Neil that launched last Sunday.

Raymond Snoddy predicted that the viewers of GB News “will be bored to death than stirred-up into an anti-woke, right-wing insurrection”.

Dominic Mills described it as “pretty mainstream” and being “miles” away from the hyperpartisan Fox News in the US.

Mu Ali, writing as part of our new “media on media” series, advised people to give the new channel a chance to overcome the many technical hitches the channel has suffered.

A dedicated Twitter account @GBNewsFails, which diligently catalogues the various and bizarre mishaps on GB News, has already amassed 60,000 followers.

I shouldn’t need to remind people that we need a diverse range of views in our news media, but the aggressive and bullying manner in which campaigners have urged brands to boycott GB News is worrying. Such fanatical behaviour has become an unhealthy feature of social media – ever quicker to blame and punish, but ever slower to be considerate and patient.

While many brands quickly pulled their ads off GB News in response to the boycott, one advertiser had the bravery and integrity to say no to these demands and explain why.

The Co-op – hardly a bastion of “hate” given its longstanding associations with community organisations, education and the Labour Party – already had a policy in place after consulting its members about its advertising approach.

It made a statement reminding us of its approach and its three principles:

  • We will not seek to affect the editorial independence of publications or channels;
  • We will not undermine the commercial value of our society for our members; and
  • We will ensure our values and principles are clear and undiminished regardless of surrounding content.

How refreshing that a brand was able to show a) it has already been thinking about this issue for a while; b) it took full responsibility for placing the ad on GBNews; and c) it has a clear regard for the importance of news media and a diversity of opinions.

It’s a lot braver than the likes of Kopparberg, which pleaded ignorance that its ads had run on GB News.

While this is true factually – ads on GB News are bought programmatically across different channels through Sky Media – we should expect brands to take more responsibility than this.

Brands and their media agencies benefit massively from a programmatic TV-buying system, in which their ads can reach large audiences and get extremely good value. Like it or not, audiences are getting more and more fragmented with each passing year and buying media will get extremely expensive without programmatic.

It’s not fair to implicitly blame this system when there’s a brand-safety issue. After all, GB News is regulated by Ofcom, its ads are sold by Sky Media, and the channel is backed by Discovery. If a media owner with these credentials can’t be given the presumption of being brand-safe, then maybe we really are in trouble.


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