GB News scandals: history of right-wing TV station’s controversies from Ofcom probes to Dan Wootton affair

Several top GB News presenters from Andrew Neil to Guto Harri quit within months of the channel’s launch in 2021
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Right-wing news and current affairs channel GB News may have only been on air for two years, but it’s already been at the centre of several scandals.

Whether it’s hiring Conservative MPs to front its shows or getting into hot water over coverage of the Covid pandemic, the station may be generating almost as much news as it reports.

Though the channel reported a £30m loss in its first year, its reach has grown substantially, with 3.44 million monthly viewers as of June 2023, ahead of Talk TV, but behind Sky Sports News, Sky News, and BBC News.

It’s been a rocky road for the channel to get to the point where it can rival some of the biggest news channels in the country, and GB News faces ongoing challenges, with four new Ofcom investigations launched this month alone.

With GB News now in its third year of broadcasting, we look back over the station’s potted history and biggest controversies.

GB New host Dan Wootton denies claims made by The Byline Times that he paid adult film stars to secretly film themselves having sex with men he had spoken to onlineGB New host Dan Wootton denies claims made by The Byline Times that he paid adult film stars to secretly film themselves having sex with men he had spoken to online
GB New host Dan Wootton denies claims made by The Byline Times that he paid adult film stars to secretly film themselves having sex with men he had spoken to online

Which presenters have quit GB News?

GB News did not get off to an auspicious start when it launched in June 2021. Guto Harri, who had spent 18 years at the BBC before coming to GB News to co-host a weekly news and discussion show, resigned within a month. He had taken the knee on air in a show of support for the England football team who took a knee before their matches in an act of anti-racism. 

GB News suspended Harri for the move over his failure to maintain the station’s editorial standards, and Harri later decided to resign. He later criticised GB News in the Sunday Times, writing that the channel had become an ‘absurd parody’ of cancel culture.

The channel’s biggest presenter, and its chairman Andrew Neil, who had been poached from the BBC, quit GB News three months after its launch. Neil cited creative differences with the channel and said that by the end he had felt like a ‘minority of one’. By the time he left he had presented just eight shows for the channel.

Neil was followed out the door by several prominent news readers, among them Simon McCoy, another BBC alumnus, who joined GB News in July 2021 but left that December, citing personal reasons.

A more recent departure was radio and TV presenter Mark Steyn - the host had been investigated by Ofcom over his coverage of the Covid pandemic, although no action was taken. After the investigation, GB News told Steyn that he would have to pay any fines the company received for his content, despite the fact that fines are levelled at the company, not individual staff. He quit the channel in February 2023. 

GB News chairman and presenter Andrew Neil quit the channel after three monthsGB News chairman and presenter Andrew Neil quit the channel after three months
GB News chairman and presenter Andrew Neil quit the channel after three months

What controversies has GB News been involved in?

More than 4,500 complaints were launched against GB News by audiences within the first two years of its launch and it has been investigated by Ofcom several times. In the first year of broadcasting, Ofcom launched five investigations into the channel. 

Additionally, a programme of Tonight Live, in which host Dan Wootton railed against the extension of pandemic lockdowns received more than 370 complaints, though Ofcom did not carry out an investigation, stating that the monologue was covered by freedom of expression. 

Ofcom found GB News to have breached its licence on three occasions since its launch, but did not follow through with sanctions such as a fine, or request an on-air clarification or apology. 

Last month, Ofcom launched a further four investigations into the channel - these are over potential breaches of impartiality rules on episodes of programmes hosted by Conservative MPs Lee Anderson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and Philip Davies and Esther McVey, as well as an episode of Laurence Fox’s show hosted by former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney.

Another major scandal plaguing GB News right now is over the conduct of former Sun journalist Dan Wootton who is now one of the channel’s star presenters.

The Byline Times published several stories in which it was alleged that Wootton created fake online profiles to trick men into sending him sexually explicit photos, that he paid male adult film actors to secretly film themselves having sex with men Wootton had spoken to online, and that he oversaw a toxic culture of sexual harassment during his time at The Sun.

Wootton has dismissed all of these allegations as untrue, and the result of a smear campaign by a ‘hard left blog’ - a description which the Byline Times, which says it has spoken to many of the people involved, rejects. The Metropolitan Police are assessing information to see whether any criminal activity has taken place, but no police investigation into Wootton is currently taking place.  

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