Andrew Neil has resigned as lead presenter and chairman of GB News following differences in the direction of the rightwing channel.
The ex-BBC host was the face of GB News before it went on air in June but has left after presenting just eight programmes in three months. He was unhappy with technical mistakes, the loss of key staff and its political direction.
The terms of his departure were unknown, although multiple GB News sources claim the process was the subject of lengthy legal wrangling.
In the end Neil was outmanoeuvred by the former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, who is now the channel’s best-known figure, along with a number of more stridently rightwing hires keen to address culture war issues.
Despite being the channel’s chairman, Neil spent most of the summer at his home in the south of France, watching as his close ally and director of programming, John McAndrew, left amid pressure to put more focus on culture war issues.
As a result power was concentrated in the hands of the channel’s Australian chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos, who has led the push to hire more radical rightwing presenters who will deliver state-of-the-nation monologues.
Addressing Neil’s departure in an internal email to staff, Frangopoulos said: I know many of you will feel incredibly disappointed by this, as I do. Andrew joined GB News 12 months ago and signed a multi-year contract so we hoped he’d stay longer.”
Many of the young behind-the-scenes staff who keep the channel on the air are believed to have become increasingly demoralised by its direction in recent weeks. Some joined due to Neil’s repeated promises that GB News would be a mainstream news channel with a right-leaning slant rather than a British version of Fox News. However, it is continuing to lose staff as it leans into culture war topics, with several senior producers quitting in recent days.
Neil’s decision last year to leave his longstanding job at the BBC and become the face of the channel played a key role in convincing major investors to sink £60m into the GB News project. Since then it has endured low ratings and an advertiser boycott.
Neil said: “I am sorry to go but I have concluded that it is 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 to cut back. I wish GB News well in continuing to fulfil its founding promise and mission to reach audiences currently underserved by existing news broadcasters.”
Neil said he would remain as a twice-weekly contributor to Farage’s nightly 7pm show and would make his first appearance on Monday night’s programme. He will also return to the BBC as a panellist on Thursday night’s episode of Question Time.
While GB News has struggled in the ratings, with some programmes registering as having zero viewers, it has had some successes on social media, with one recent monologue attacking the US president, Joe Biden, attracting 10m views on TikTok.
It has also reduced the number of technical issues that plagued its early days, although the channel’s short life has involved a total rebuild of the studio and trying to avoid a viewer boycott after a presenter took the knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.