Arlene Foster and GB News seems like a marriage made in broadcasting heaven. There has been much talk this week about Andrew Neil hiring the former DUP leader and letting her loose with Nigel Farage. I can see the wisdom in Arlene’s move. She made her name as a politician and now in search of a new career, she is using her communication skills to engage with the nation.
There are many like her on GB News. The schedule is crammed with former politicians and newspaper hacks talking incessantly about topical issues.
The GB could stand for General Blether. There is however little justification for including News in the title. It’s unlikely if there was a breaking or developing story viewers would turn to the channel.
They may have some of the finest names on the payroll but switch over and you’ll see three or four people sitting uncomfortably on a brown leather sofa which would be more at home in a doctor’s waiting room. The set looks cramped and cheap and how things look on TV can make or break a plan.
The panoramic shots of the beating heart of BBC News, the slick studio presentation from ITV and the perfect mix of glamour and substance that sums up Sky News are all missing from the GB formula. Yes, they may have some big names who dominated those channels now working for them but the arrival of Alastair Stewart, Simon McCoy and Colin Brazier reminded me of Rio Ferdinand joining QPR. The Manchester United legend signing up for one last pay day before hanging up the boots. Good luck to them if there is a juicy financial carrot but it would be a shame if outstanding news journalists are remembered for Bugs Bunny TV.
Andrew Neil (who has taken a well publicised break from the station) should know better. He spent a lifetime as one of the most incisive interrogators on television. If he had asked a few simple questions of the public they would have told him to do it differently. TV news should be like gliding across a lake not treading through treacle. The content needs to be shorter and sharper and some trust should be given to young on screen talent.
There are excellent young journalists craving an opportunity but I’m not convinced very many are fully committed to taking a career risk with GB News. In the meantime it’s like a retirement home for both the popular and the not so popular.
The station set out with a promise to bring us something different and he has done that but being different does not mean being better and in this case it’s simply not as good as what is already on offer.
Bringing in Nigel Farage could be a master stroke. You may remember in the 1980s a popular rat saved TVAM. Sometimes a strange move can be a clever one. Nigel, Arlene, Dan Wootton and suddenly you have the makings of a winning team, or do you? I don’t think so. It’s the mistake Harry Redknapp made when he signed Rio. There is only so much value in past glory.
This week Arlene claimed she was doing it to bring “Northern Ireland into the mainstream of UK politics”. Will it be balanced commentary? Who am I to judge? While Arlene was making the headlines something else here was barely reported. The Northern Ireland correspondent for GB News was packing his camera kit and handing in his notice. Conchúr Dowds decided after just six weeks that this particular national news platform isn’t for him. It is a courageous move from someone with natural talent and a golden opportunity to shine. He has his turned his back on it and I presume it’s partly down to it not really being a news outlet. I think other channel bosses will admire his decision and snap him up. It’s probably a better place to end a career than to start one.
Frank presents U105 Phone In Monday-Friday from 9am-noon