BBC accused of attempting to shut out GB News at 11th-hour

·3 min read
Andrew Neil - Clara Molden for The Telegraph
Andrew Neil - Clara Molden for The Telegraph

The BBC has been accused of an eleventh-hour "ambush" intended to "damage" Sunday's launch of the right-leaning television network GB News.

The corporation is alleged to have been pushing to bar GB News from accessing footage of public events via a "pooling" system run by the country's three main broadcasters.

The move would leave the new channel unable to broadcast many major events where there is only space for one camera.

A GB News spokesman said: "This is an ambush by the BBC designed to damage the launch of GB News and protect their dominance of UK news broadcasting. We will fight it. And our launch continues."

The move reignites a row that surfaced in 2010 when the Press Association, the national news agency, complained that it was unable to access footage from "single camera assignments" filmed as part of the UK Broadcast Pool, which comprises the BBC, Sky News and ITN.

At the time, the Commons culture committee urged the Government to "ensure the right of access for the Press Association" alongside the pool camera at national events, "if the members of the broadcast pool are not prepared to make the content available to the Press Association at a reasonable cost".

GB News claims that the BBC has been pushing for its new rival to be barred from receiving pooled footage from national events under a change to the pool's rules which would take effect from Monday - the first full day of broadcasting for the new channel.

It is understood, however, that some members of the pool have expressed a willingness to license pooled material to GB News on "fair" terms. But GB News said it had not received any contact from any of the three broadcasters. It had signed a deal with Reuters for access to clips. A source said the news agency had been made “piggy in the middle” of the dispute.

In 2010, Helen Boaden, the then director of BBC News, described the UK Broadcast Pool as an "informal working arrangement whereby the television broadcasters combine their resources to cover events (sometimes very expensive and international) in a cost effective way.

"Each broadcaster either contributes equipment or funds, or takes a turn at covering an event for other members of the pool.

"The number of cameras allowed at events is at the discretion of the event organisers."

The BBC, Sky News and ITN declined to comment.

GB News presenters will include Neil, former ITN newsreader Alastair Stewart, who will present a weekend show; and Simon McCoy, the former BBC and Sky News presenter who will host an afternoon programme with Alexandra Phillips, a former Brexit Party MEP and head of media for the party.

Meanwhile Gloria de Piero - the former Labour MP and Good Morning Britain political editor - will present a lunchtime show with Telegraph columnist Liam Halligan.

Neil has said that viewers will benefit from the additional competition that a new broadcaster provides for the existing channels.

"We are in a competitive environment, they know that," he said last week. "I suspect [our rival TV channels] will up their game, that’s fine, the only winner is the viewer."

Will you be watching GB News? Let us know what you're expecting from the new channel in the comments section below.