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Andrew Neil recalls "ramshackle" launch of GB News

Andrew Neil recalls
© GB News
Andrew Neil describes the launch of GB News in June as "ramshackle".

Andrew Neil has claimed that he warned the executives at GB News that the channel was not in a fit state to go live in June.

The 72-year-old presented the first ever programme on the station on June 13, then hosted two weeks of his flagship primetime show before going on a summer break.

The early weeks of the channel were fraught with technical issues - from lighting and sound to misfiring autocues and misspelled chyrons - which brought much mockery and derision on social media.

Neil has now stepped down from all of his duties with GB News, including his role as chairman, and in an interview with the Daily Mail he has revealed that those technical mishaps prompted him to leave his show after a fortnight.

"That stress was just huge. It meant you couldn't think about the journalism. You were just constantly wondering: 'Will we make it through the hour?'" he told the newspaper.

"By the end of that first week, I knew I had to get out. It was really beginning to affect my health. I wasn't sleeping. I was waking up at two or three in the morning.

"I had a constant knot in my stomach. When I did wake up I'd feel fine, then remember all the problems I had with GB News and this knot would come and wouldn't leave me for the whole day."

Talking about the build-up to launch, he continued: "At Sky, we'd had three weeks of rehearsals before going on air. GB News barely had a week and there were so many hitches with the technology. The CEO wanted to get on air, even if it was ramshackle, and then improve things.

"At one stage, about a month before the launch, he said: 'We're launching a boat that's only half-built. We'll build the rest when it's floating.' I said: 'I'm not a shipbuilder, but it seems to me if you launch a boat that's only half-built it will sink.'

"I'd warned them we couldn't only have one studio because that means nobody can rehearse. You need two studios to do the proper handover; in news channels you never say goodbye, you hand over to the incoming presenter in the other studio with a bit of happy talk so it's seamless. We didn't just launch with only one studio. We launched with one studio and most of it didn't work."

Following the publication of the interview, a GB News spokesperson has accused Neil of making his departure from the broadcaster "unnecessarily contentious".

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Andrew Neil on GB News on June 15, 2021
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