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GB News is letting the British public down with its sceptical climate crisis coverage

Britons are smart – they know the climate crisis is real, happening, and demands a serious response. Until the channel recognises this, it will be stuck on the fringes, where its science-denying guests remain

Mat Hope
Monday 28 June 2021 13:38 BST
<p>Presenter Andrew Neil prepares to broadcast from a studio during the launch event for GB News</p>

Presenter Andrew Neil prepares to broadcast from a studio during the launch event for GB News

A new voice has graced British broadcasting. But far from being the “voice of the people” it promised, the new right-leaning, explicitly opinionated GB News channel has chosen to represent the few over the many – on climate change at least.

On the channel’s launch, it’s lead presenter, chairman and “big beast”, Andrew Neil, promised GB News would present “a huge range of voices that reflect the views and values of our United Kingdom”. That’s a big promise. And on environmental issues, one that it has so far failed to keep.

Environmental campaigners were keen to give GB News the benefit of the doubt. After all, if there is one issue that all sides of the political spectrum can surely unite around, it’s the prospect of planetary catastrophe, right?

And if GB News was true to its word, setting out to represent views of the British public – the vast majority of whom think climate change is a problem – then surely its coverage would reflect that?

Alas, as analysis by my organisation DeSmog showed, within its first week GB News twice invited guests from the UK’s principal climate science denial group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), onto its shows, with its environmental coverage being similarly skewed towards the costs (rather than the significant and well-established benefits) of climate action.

Sure, there was a puff piece about David Attenborough and mention of Britons’ general support for electric vehicles. But balanced, representative, environmental news this was not.

Of course, GB News can invite whoever it wants onto its shows. And it makes no secret of its plans to present opinion-led, rather than fact-based, news. But it is doing viewers a disservice if it isn’t honest about the expertise (or lack thereof) of its interviewees, and fails to be transparent about its editorial stance on climate change.

A number of advertisers have already been spooked by what they perceive as GB News’s value-led reporting. This perhaps isn’t a surprise given the personnel involved.

Neil’s former BBC show was once described as a “favourite stomping ground for sceptics”. Dan Wootton, another GB News presenter, formerly of The Sun, has regularly used his platform to attack environmental campaigners, and once called a Channel 4 leaders’ debate on climate change a “vehicle for Corbynistas and Extinction Rebellion nutters”.

And Neil Oliver, up to now best known for wandering the UK’s coastline, has promoted the work of Professor Valentina Zharkova (another GWPF favourite), who has been criticised by other climate scientists for errors in her research.

GB News had the opportunity to show that a right-leaning, populist, news-slash-opinion channel could do climate coverage well. So far, it has failed.

That presents its competitors with a great opportunity. GB News’s position is completely out of step with contemporary media coverage on climate change.

The Independent is leading the way with its “Stop fuelling the climate crisis” campaign. More unexpected voices such as The Sun and Daily Express, once synonymous with questionable coverage of climate change, are likewise tapping into popular desire for climate action with their own campaigns.

Even Sky News, perhaps GB News’s closest competitor, now has a dedicated climate reporter.

GB News claims to be making a play for the hearts and minds of the UK public. But Britons are smart – they know climate change is real, happening, and demands a serious response. Until the channel recognises this, it will be stuck on the fringes, where its climate science-denying guests remain.

Mat Hope is special projects editor of environmental investigations outlet DeSmog

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