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Andrew Neil says GB News experience left him ‘close to a breakdown’

·3 min read
Andrew Neil - Yui Mok/PA Wire
Andrew Neil - Yui Mok/PA Wire

Andrew Neil has described how he “came close to a breakdown” during his period at GB News, as a bitter row between the veteran broadcaster and the channel he helped create intensified.

The former BBC interviewer said continuing at the broadcaster “would have killed me”, adding that he would not have done the job for 10 times the £4m contract he signed.

Mr Neil told the Daily Mail that he was angry about what the increasingly Right-leaning station’s managers had done to a “beautiful dream”.

He revealed more details of his row with GB News boss Angelos Frangopoulos, claiming the chief executive had sidelined him during the channel’s development.

He said: “it suddenly became clear in February that this CEO was just going ahead and doing his own thing – taking big decisions when the consultation with me was either cursory or didn’t exist.”

Mr Neil, who was GB News’ lead presenter and chairman, said he was not consulted during the appointment of Darren McCaffrey, the channel’s political editor, or the hiring of his own researcher.

The 72-year-old former Sunday Times editor vowed to never appear on the channel again on Wednesday, accusing GB News of “smear/lies” following an article in the Mail on Sunday that suggested he had been set to be sacked before announcing plans to step down earlier this month.

Mr Neil took a break from the channel after just eight shows as its flagship presenter, and announced he had retired on September 13th.

The channel’s launch was plagued with severe technical issues including sound and lighting problems. Sources told The Telegraph in August that Mr Neil had grown frustrated by the mayhem on-set.

“When I do look back, the one thing I will say is I wish I’d been more publicly demonstrative about not launching on June 13,” Mr Neil said.

The channel has turned further to the right since Mr Neil first stepped back, including bringing on former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage as a presenter.

Mr Neil said he was worried about the presence of “shock jocks” including presenters Mark Dolan, Patrick Christys and Dan Wootton, and described objections to programming ideas. He said GB News had wanted to conduct televised “trials” of “the guilty men of Brexit”, naming Remain supporters Lord Adonis and Nick Clegg. Another floated suggestion was to place secret cameras in classrooms to see “how left-wing the teachers were”.

In the interview, he said he had demanded further decision-making powers as executive chairman during a “terrible, terrible” summer of legal wrangling.

Mr Neil said these demands were rebuffed, with GB News offering to keep him as presenter but without his chairmanship.

He told the Mail that he replied: “I’m only prepared to do that on a four-month contract until I see the lie of the land because if I’m no longer chairman I have no power to stop you becoming Fox News.”

In a statement to the Mail, a GB News spokesperson disputed parts of Mr Neil’s account, saying: “At no point did Andrew raise concerns of the editorial direction of GB News moving to the right. As with all companies, decision-making rests with the board, and GB News is no different. As a member of the board, Andrew had the same rights and abilities to raise concerns, and he was privy to all decisions.”

They added: “The board allowed Andrew time off over the summer to recharge his batteries. He subsequently asked to leave and the board agreed to this request. The terms of his departure were properly negotiated and documented, with Andrew taking legal advice throughout.

“The fact that he has chosen to ignore these terms and make his departure unnecessarily contentious and public is a decision he will have to live with.”

GB News has been contacted for comment.

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