Just three weeks ago, Zelo Street asked if the Beeb had binned Brillo. Now we have the answer: Andrew Neil is to leave the BBC later this year, staying to anchor coverage of the US Presidential Election in early November. Did he jump? Was he pushed? Does it matter? What does matter is that his next berth is already being shamelessly promoted by those out there on the right, and discussed widely elsewhere.
There had to be another big payday, whether he needed the money or not. He had to show that he was still strong. He cites “sterling efforts by new DG to come up with other programming opportunities”, but this has a hollow ring about it. More likely is that someone else waved a bigger wad of dosh at him than the Beeb was prepared to yield.
So, as the Guardian reported yesterday evening, “Andrew Neil is launching a 24-hour, TV channel to rival rolling news from the BBC and Sky. The broadcaster will be the face and chairman of GB News … As well as being appointed chairman, the 71-year-old broadcaster and former Sunday Times editor will host a flagship evening programme”.
And GB News is already familiar to those who look in regularly on Zelo Street: as I noted last month, banging the gong for this new enterprise has been Robbie Gibb, whose tenure at the BBC did so much of the damage. A source that sounded rather like him told the Mail on Sunday “The channel will be a truly impartial source of news, unlike the woke, wet BBC. It will deliver the facts, not opinion dressed up as news”. Ho ho ho.
Go back to Neil’s time as editor of the Murdoch Sunday Times: the ineptitude that caused the paper to lose Mordechai Vanunu, their key source for the story about Israel’s nuclear weapons capability. The insistence that HIV had no link to AIDS. The trashing of the Insight team’s reputation in an (ultimately unsuccessful) attempt to discredit Thames Television’s documentary Death on the Rock, and its key witness Carmen Proetta.
All that is left is Brillo’s reputation as an interviewer. But for the foreseeable future, GB News will be such an insignificant presence that it will have to rely on its pals in the media talking up its content and packaging up video clips to garner interest in its product. Who is going to stop by and be interviewed if hardly anyone is watching?
The new entrant will burn money at some rate - as Sky News has done - with its USP that it’s fronted by an ageing media insider whose industry pals think is some kind of star.
But Brillo will have his wallet well stuffed in the process, so that’s all right, then.