Back in September, a ratings analysis found that GB News had lost 60% of its audience since its launch in June.
A recent interview with Donald Trump conducted by Nigel Farage boosted the ratings for the crisis-hit channel with around 190,000 people tuning in. Although that figure was small – a mere 1.3% of British TV viewers – it did mark a victory of sorts for GB News as it beat both BBC and Sky News during that time slot.
Farage’s loyal fan-base aside, the ‘anti-woke’ channel has been dogged by problems since its launch. Flagship presenter Andrew Neil walked away following a huge row with his bosses, technical hitches kept arising and the channel faced the possibility of a boycott by viewers after a presenter took the knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter Movement.
The lowest point came when several programmes recorded zero viewing figures.
Eamonn Holmes’ decision to join GB News, where he will host his own show in the New Year might, therefore, be considered a huge risk.
But it’s a calculated risk.
As he said himself when the news was confirmed on Friday, he has spent his career on ‘broadcasting firsts and start-ups'. Shaking things up is nothing new to the seasoned broadcaster. As those who know him will testify, he doesn’t like to rest on his laurels when it comes to his career.
At the time of his departure from Sky News in 2016, the Belfast man was accredited with having helped turn Sunrise into a show that had become a ‘morning must-watch' and for building up a ‘faithful following’ of viewers tuning in every day.
Praising his journalism at the time, John Ryley, the head of Sky News, said: “There are very few presenters who can challenge their interviewee with acute questions combined with infectious charm – Eamonn does that. A true pro.”
When he and wife Ruth Langsford were dropped from their regular Friday slot on ITV’s This Morning (but kept on for holiday cover), many viewers were outraged.
There were calls for the couple, who were replaced by Dermot O’Leary and Alison Hammond, to be reinstated. Holmes was a fan favourite because he was admired for his professionalism and experience as a hard-hitting journalist. And it is this experience which GB News bosses will be hoping helps to raise ratings.
At This Morning, Holmes found himself caught up in controversy last year when he cast doubt on media outlets which had debunked the myth that 5G causes Covid-19. His comments were said to be ‘ambiguous’ and ‘ill-judged' by broadcasting regulator Ofcom. There was further contention when he compared the hair of This Morning medical expert Dr Zoe Williams to an alpaca, a comment which he later apologised for.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph a few months ago, 62-year-old Holmes described live television as a ‘dangerous place’ and admitted he had to think carefully now before speaking.
“I’m not the same broadcaster I used to be,” he said.
With greater control over his latest venture with GB News, Holmes may feel more at home and that he can get back to doing what he does best – being a journalist. Whether or not the risk pays off remains to be seen. But the Midas touch he once provided at Sky may yet prove to be GB News’ saving grace.