The problem with GB News

Sunday 13th June 2021, 8pm, Andrew Neil provides us with a long monologue as to why GB News will be different to the mainstream media, their aims and their beliefs, then begins to introduce us to the faces behind the names to grace the schedule.

Now, before I tell you what the problem with GB news is, I’ll just make this clear – it is good to see a channel that will bring something different to that of the mainstream media. They’re not a rolling news channel, it’s more of a conversational, discussion, debate based channel. Whilst I may not agree with their opinions or those of their guests, everyone is welcome to their opinion and I respect that, each to their own and all that. 

The problem however is more front facing, it’s the technical issues, the audio issues, the visuals and even the graphics (Because it wouldn’t be an opinion blog on here without something design related, right).

From the offset, there were problems. Andrew Neil looked like he was using a camcorder from the 90s to record his monologue into, even on HD and online, the grains were noticeable. Heck, if someone had tripped off the set, that would have been £250 to You’ve Been Framed and likely watermarked as the 90s! Having watched for a few more days though, it does look like this has improved somewhat, either that or, I’m used to it. 

Hand in hand with the poor camera set up, is the poor lighting on set. Those black back drops don’t make things any better and the view of the gallery behind the set in some shots is quite distracting. I’m a tech geek and I love a good behind the scenes shot as much as the next guy, but seeing the autocue in the reflection is somewhat distracting. 

Sound levels are appalling – microphones aren’t faded up on time, or at all, while on occasion they’re left up for too long and you can hear people walking around the new studios based in Paddington, Whilst the distortion on these microphones has improved, there are still flare ups of hearing the gallery, guests when you don’t need to hear them and more.

Presenter wise, many are well established journalists and broadcasters, I can only imagine the stress they have on set when all of the above goes wrong. However, when it comes to editorial decisions on what gets read out on air from the viewers, it seems that these presenters have some kind of free rein, or the producers behind the scenes pick and choose what gets read out on air.

Either way, the public teased GB News with many classic ‘pun’ names and sadly, the presenters have fallen foul at the first hurdle. I noticed Michelle Dewsbury fall over ‘Mike Hunt’ Sure, that might be a real name, but when Mike Oxlong messages a few hours before, there has to be some doubt. Take a look…

I mean, Michelle stated during her introduction on Sunday night that she’s not a journalist by trade. In fact, you’ll probably know her best from The Apprentice, so I don’t believe she’s fully to blame for this mishap. Rather the producers behind the scenes, who failed to see the ‘pun’ in the name. Since that incident though, hosts have been told not to read surnames out, so its mainly first names only from hereon in, which can only be a good thing to stop this from happening again. Though, it is pretty much rule 101 of broadcast.

Then we come onto the graphics. The more the titles play out, the ad-bumpers and programme titles, many are well produced and you can tell there’s a sense of Great Britain, but more often than not, they’re not utilised correctly. 

I don’t really understand why they put multiple speakers in multiple boxes on screen in the way they do (One medium, two small for example), especially when the main host just stares blankly at the camera as if to say ‘Get me off, I want to drink’. Some of the shots chosen for different interviews, scenes and settings seem a little off based on some of the content.

It’s likely not to be the smoothest launch those that funded the channel, or the presenters, would have wanted. You can forgive a few technical mishaps on the first day, that’s to be expected, but some of the stuff that’s going wrong, to me, should be pretty basic knowledge and fixable in the world of TV. 

To the average viewer, these technical mishaps are likely to be distracting from the real point of the channel.You would have thought rehearsals would have highlighted these issues, which could have then be rectified before the launch. Staff should have had plenty of time to learn the set and learn the technology, but we find ourselves in a situation where presenters are blaming the ‘new technology’ live on air and attempt to cover up any mistakes by simply glaring into the camera, or in some cases, actively removing earpieces and showing their annoyances.

I’m no expert in TV, but I have friends who know a thing about gallery production, set design and direction. I I have no doubt the issues I’ve raised above will be sorted over time, but in reality, they shouldn’t be issues in the first place – not least four days after launch.

When you market a channel with such big names & personalities and make a point of how it’s different to the mainstream media, this shouldn’t reflect in the way you technically broadcast. This channel should start to succeed, based on the initial viewing figures from launch. 

Look, as I said at the start, to have another ‘news’ channel for the public to choose from is refreshing, even if you don’t agree with their views. Variation in opinion is needed and I’m sure GB News will provide this platform to viewers, so long as they fix up on the technicalities first.

Update: As I’ve been sat here writing this piece during the evening, it’s noticeable some changes have begun to happen. Andrew Neil’s interview with Rishi Sunak aired without any real problems and the transitions between programmes are much smoother. Let’s hope this is a turning point and we don’t revert back to bedlam tomorrow.