GB News ‘sees zero viewers’ after boycott over presenter taking knee

GB News ‘sees zero viewers’ after boycott over presenter taking knee
‘Anti-woke’ channel hit by plummeting ratings amid technical difficulties and audience backlash

Some GB News programmes attracted zero viewers this week after its audience reacted angrily to one of its presenters taking the knee in support of England’s national football team, according to official viewing figures.

Data produced by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (Barb), seen by the Guardian, showed that no measurable audience was recorded between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday, while BBC News and Sky News recorded 62,000 and 50,000 viewers respectively.

No measurable audience was also briefly recorded again at 5pm during a programme hosted by former BBC newsreader Simon McCoy and former Brexit Party MEP Alex Phillips, according to the report.

It came after GB News presenter Guto Harri received backlash from viewers when he took the knee on air and described the anti-racism protest as an “important gesture”.

In a statement published on Thursday evening, the channel said that it did not have a policy on taking the knee but described Mr Harri’s actions as “an unacceptable breach of [their] standards”.

“GB News stands four square against racism in all its forms. We do not have a company line on taking the knee. Some of our guests have been in favour, some against. All are anti-racist. We have editorial standards that all GB News journalists uphold,” it said.

“On Tuesday, a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards.

“We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue.”

Barb data is collected through monitoring boxes attached to thousands of homes which aim to be representative of households across the UK.

The figures follow a difficult first few weeks for the channel, which launched in June as an “anti-woke” alternative to mainstream channels like BBC News and Sky News.

Despite recording strong viewing figures in its first days, GB News has struggled with technical problems, such as poor lighting and out-of-sync audio, and an advertising boycott from some brands since its launch.

Last month, Welsh news outlets reported that the channel’s flagship shows had recorded substantially fewer viewers than the Welsh-language version of the children’s show Paw Patrol.

It was also announced recently that the channel’s star presenter, former BBC host Andrew Neil, was taking time off after less than two weeks on air, as he admitted that the channel had got off to a “rocky start”.

Although Mr Neil has promised to return “before the summer is out”, there is no public return date yet for his show.