It’s no secret that GB News got off to a bumpy start when it debuted in June, with former chairman Andrew Neil detailing some of the behind-the-scenes drama that blighted his time with the station in a new interview following his departure.
After initially announcing a short break from the ill-fated broadcaster two weeks after its launch in the summer, it was confirmed two weeks ago that the former BBC presenter would not be returning to GB News.
In a new interview with the Daily Mail – during which he reportedly broke down in tears – Andrew spoke out about his time at GB News, explaining that working at the station brought him “close to a breakdown”.
Referring to GB News’ many technical blunders, he recalled: “Live TV is stressful at the best of times but not knowing whether or not the technology would work...
“It just got worse and worse. At one stage, we were waiting to go on air and the whole system went down. It had to be rebooted and we only managed it with 15 seconds to spare. 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 continued: “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.”
Referring to some of the station’s specific issues, he stated: “The studio had four areas. One was the digital wall, another was the breakfast table area – which I thought looked rather good – the other was the sofa, which looked like a Habitat sofa we’d picked up off a skip in Notting Hill, and the fourth, which was where I did my show from, was so black I had to take my jacket off and wear a white shirt.”
“We only had a floor manager because I’d insisted,” he claimed. “We were meant to operate our own autocue and do our own make-up. It makes student TV look well-financed.”
Andrew added that despite broadcasting from “the most diverse, multi-ethnic city in the world”, the team was not able to provide appropriate lighting for people of colour.
“I raised the issue that the reputational damage we were risking was monumental,” he told the Mail. “I said it was a disaster. There were endless things and, by the second week, things weren’t getting any better. Some things were getting worse. It was terrible.
“I came off air one night and I looked straight at [GB News’ CEO Angelos Frangopoulos], I said: ‘This is a disaster and it’s my reputation that’s on the line’.
“That’s what really did me in the end – and it’s my own stupidity for getting into it – the fact that everybody saw my face on the tin. It was Andrew Neil’s channel. That’s what everyone talked about.
“What nobody knew was [before the June launch] in March, April, May... my face was still on the tin but I had no say over what was going into the tin. That’s what was unsustainable for me.”
In leaving GB News, the Mail reports that Andrew “walked away from a £4 million contract”, though he insisted: “It was a big decision but I frankly couldn’t care if it was £40 million. This would have killed me if I’d carried on.”
A statement from GB News issued to the Daily Mail said: “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.”
Their spokesperson 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.”
HuffPost UK has contacted GB News for additional comment.