John Ryley, the former head of Sky News, has criticised advertisers for boycotting GB News on ideological grounds.
The station launched just over two years ago with programming prioritising debate and discussion over straight news, but has been perceived by some to be giving too much airtime to supposedly 'right-wing' points of view.
Major brands such as Tesco, Ford, British Gas and Kia are thought to be among those who have decided not to place ad spend on GB News, despite the channel carving out a solid audience share of 0.62% (BBC News 1.05%, Sky News 0.81%, Aug 2023).
Ryley, who ran Sky News for 17 years until May, told agencies at the Conscious Advertising Network: "This action represents a threat to free speech, putting the business model of this start-up in jeopardy.
"Freedom of expression is vital to our democracy. The regulator Ofcom has been adamant broadcasters are free to include controversial or offensive content provided they reflect alternative viewpoints. And let's be clear – the new news channels have been launched to satisfy an increasing thirst in the UK for a diversity of opinions."
In quotes reported by the Press Gazette, he added: "It's an awkward fact for some – GB News's audience is growing. We should value a free and fair media that offers accurate impartial news and current affairs, that offers a plurality of news providers.
"The British public have the right to hear the full range of political perspectives. The advertising boycott of GB News should end. It is an insult to the British people."
Campaigning website 'Boycott GB News' has previously accused the broadcaster of "biased" and "fake" news and actively encourages its supporters to complain to brands who place ads on the channel.
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