Event with Rhys Gunter at GB News
As the anniversary of GB News’ launch looms, Senior Producer Rhys Gunter spoke with Broadcast Revolution’s Head of News, Mike Young. Here’s a little of what he had to say.
A bit about Rhys
Now the Senior Producer of Dan Wootton Tonight, Rhys Gunter produced entertainment and booked guests at talkRADIO for three years and freelanced for both The Telegraph and BBC. When GB News appeared on the scene Rhys felt it promised to rewrite the rulebook and fill a gap in the market. It was set to feature strong presenters with experienced producers it was “just a thing I couldn’t say no to”.
13th June 2021: The Launch of GB News
The launch of the channel was a “rollercoaster”, fraught with controversy as negative press was circulating long before the air date. With a strong focus on automation, the team at GB News were determined to pilot operating without a sound team and had to navigate the technical gremlins which came with this. Rhys noted that they were a start-up doing their best in the middle of a pandemic but even in trying conditions under such pressure from the press “maybe that was one of the reasons that a TV channel hadn’t launched in 33 years”. GB News has now established a radio station which simulcasts it’s TV content directly so their audience can take them along wherever they go.
Navigating the hate
The team at GB News believe that any hatred they receive online and in the media comes from a metropolitan elite “directly inside the M25”. Concerns over Americanisation of British media have dominated criticism of the channel but as Rhys himself explained “we are not the Fox News of the UK” and “I wouldn’t want to work for them”. The channel provides a platform for a wide range of presenters from Nigel Farage on the one hand to former Labour front bencher Gloria De Piero on the other. They welcome guests from across the political and socioeconomic spectrum. Ministers feature frequently. And while they are yet to interview the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister has been on the channel three times already. Part of the production ethos at GB News is that strong opinions are encouraged, on the condition that they can be balanced. Their team of largely young presenters are vocal in their political beliefs but open to hearing those which they disagree with.
Managing major departures
Internally there have been a few kicks in the teeth as big-name presenters such as Simon McCoy and Andrew Neil have departed the channel alongside editorial supremo John McAndrew. Producers like Rhys have been left to try and steer the programming. But it has been a revolving door which has seen the team welcome the likes of Eamonn Holmes and potentially some more new faces are on the way (on which Rhys would not comment further).
Engaging with the masses
Key to their strategy, the 180 strong team at GB News is made up of many people who don’t have Television backgrounds. The focus on a multimedia approach which has given them healthy impression numbers on Twitter, YouTube and TikTok is very much a core element of the GB News strategy. This speaks to the new age of journalism we find ourselves in where good content will be repackaged – creating the maximum amount of exposure possible for stories.
Turning the corner
In the station’s first eight months they have gone from from 7 to 13 daily programmes. GB News will be the first to say that they don’t look or sound like BBC or Sky News – and they don’t want to as they are looking for a different audience. Ultimately, it is the regional voices that they wish to shine a spotlight on, and they have over a dozen reporters designated to patches across the UK to help them do this.
What’s up next
It seems that their time as the new kid on the block has been short lived as talkTV is set to launch as early as this spring. Rhys believes the establishment of talkTV is a direct result of the success of GB News. Though he doesn’t think it is a threat as “we know what we’re doing, they know what they’re doing”. When it comes to guests, GB News producers are on the lookout for a bit of everything. Rhys explained that they would never turn down a CEO of a high street brand – that’s where their viewers shop. They also need academics for niche expertise. Above all, at the end of the day they need variety and will likely take the voices of those who might not make it on to the BBC and Sky News. As Rhys says “we welcome confrontation, we welcome debate and we welcome opinion”.
Rhys’s key points for those in PR
• Negativity often comes from those who don’t watch the channel – take some time to review the broadcast output yourself before deciding what’s right for your agency and your client
• Celebrate the regional voices you have access to and lead with these when you pitch
• Note that it’s never too late to get in touch, if a story is of interest, the producers can turn something around in as little as ten minutes