Director of programming at TV channel resigns and Guto Harri taken off air after viewer backlash
00:22GB News host takes the knee on air in solidarity with England football team – videoJim Waterson
First published on Fri 16 Jul 2021 12.30 BST
GB News has been plunged into crisis as news of a senior executive’s resignation emerged hours after a presenter was taken off air for symbolically taking the knee on screen, the Guardian has learned.
The rightwing TV channel is contending with other staff considering leaving amid management upheaval, collapsing ratings and plans for a relaunch after Guto Harri was “cancelled” by its viewers.
John McAndrew, the channel’s director of programming, has also quit the station, sources told the Guardian. McAndrew, a well-known figure in the television news industry who has a long track record at mainstream outlets including Sky News and Euronews, was considered to be the channel’s second-in-command and played a key role in convincing many of the more established mainstream presenters to join.Advertisement
Sources suggested he had come under pressure to dial down the focus on local reporting and free debate in favour of full-blooded culture war topics, so chose to resign.
GB News was unable to withstand the strong and sustained viewer backlash to Harri’s display of solidarity against the racist abuse suffered by the England football team.
The channel, set up on the basis that free and open debate is no longer possible in the mainstream media due to an all-pervasive “cancel culture”, was overwhelmed with complaints that after only a few weeks on air it had gone “woke” and its content was not sufficiently rightwing.
After three days and a growing boycott, which led to some shows attracting zero viewers, the channel’s management felt the need to cut Harri loose. In a statement, GB News said it was “unacceptable” for any presenter to take the knee, a symbol associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, and said Harri had broken the channel’s editorial code.
Friends of Harri said: “GB News is becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaimed to be – not defending free speech and combatting cancel culture but replicating it on the far right. Nasty.
“It’s ridiculous to say he’s breached editorial standards and almost certainly defamatory. In reality it wasn’t a breach of editorial code but ‘sacked for offending the lynch mob’.”