Quarter of Britons Aware of GB News Launch, With Pluralities Unsure Regarding Impartiality of UK News Channels

June 11, 2021
R&WS Research Team
BBC | Media & Press

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New television channel GB News is set to start broadcasting on 13 June 2021. The channel promises ‘a new approach to news, opinion and debate, sharing the stories that matter to you and everyone in the UK.’ According to chair Andrew Neil, the network is aimed at those disillusioned with the ‘woke and out of touch’ news coverage of mainstream media. Ahead of its launch next week, we found that a quarter (26%) of the British public is aware of the new channel, while a majority (67%) of Britons say they are not aware that GB News is launching on 13 June.

Interestingly, political leaning is an insignificant factor in these findings: the same proportion of 2019 Conservative voters (29%) and 2019 Labour voters (29%) are aware of the launch. Instead, age is an important predictor. Those aged 65 and over are most likely to say they are aware, with over a third (36%) being aware of the launch. By contrast, only 19% of 18-to-24-year-olds and a quarter (25%) of 25-to-34-year-olds say they are aware of GB News’ launch—perhaps indicative of the greater likelihood of those in older age groups to get their news from television: 68% of those aged 65 and over say that they get their news from television either ‘a great deal’ or ‘quite a lot.’ This proportion drops to 58% among 18-to-24-year-olds and 55% among 25-to-34-year-olds.

Many Britons are undecided whether to tune in to the GB News launch. In fact, when asked if they would be watching GB News on 13 June, 37% of respondents say no, and 37% say they do not know. Around a quarter (26%) say they will be watching GB News on 13 June. However, those who think that the UK public made the right decision in leaving the European Union are slightly more likely to say they will be watching (35%), potentially reflecting the somewhat greater appeal of Andrew Neil’s news channel to pro-Brexit voters.

18-to-24-year-olds are the most likely to respond in the negative, with half (50%) saying that they will not be watching GB News on 13 June. Instead, the channel can expect the highest viewership from those aged 35 to 44 (33%) and those aged 25 to 34 (30%). Among the demographic most aware of the launch—those aged 65 and over—a quarter (23%) indicate an intention to watch GB News on 13 June.

A similar proportion of 2019 Conversative voters (30%) and 2019 Labour voters (28%) say they will be watching GB News on 13 June. Of those remaining, however, Conversative voters are more likely to be undecided. In fact, a plurality (40%) do not know if they will watch. By contrast, a plurality (39%) of Labour voters say that they will not be watching, with 33% unsure. 

The founders of GB News claim that the bias of the existing media landscape necessitates a new broadcaster. Our research does not find widespread agreement with this claim. A plurality (47%) of the public does not think that there has been a genuine need for a new TV news broadcaster in the UK, although this disagreement may stem more from a lack of interest in television news rather than contentment with the current selection of broadcasters available. Meanwhile, a significant 36% of respondents think there has been such a need, and 17% do not know.

Again, we see a slight political divide over this question: among 2019 Conversative voters, the proportion of respondents who think there has been a need for a new broadcaster rises to a plurality of 43%. By contrast, 37% of 2019 Labour voters hold this view. Most notably, nearly half (49%) of respondents who think Brexit was the right decision feel that there has been a genuine need for a new broadcaster.

Indeed, a sizeable portion of the British public appears to lack confidence in current television broadcasting. At Redfield & Wilton Strategies, our weekly tracker poll asks the public how much trust they have in forms of media. Currently, one in five people (21%) has ‘very little’ confidence in TV news, and two in five people (40%) have only ‘some’ confidence in TV news. Nevertheless, television remains the more trusted news source over print media and online media.

Many Britons do express hesitance about the impartiality of mainstream news broadcasters. We asked the public whether, in the past year, news broadcasters have succeeded or failed at impartiality. Our results show that the public is largely unsure about the impartiality of Sky, Channel 5 and Channel 4 and is fiercely divided on the impartiality of the BBC. However, a plurality of respondents (42%) say that ITV has succeeded at being impartial.

The BBC appears to inspire the most division. 39% of the public say it has succeeded at impartiality, 39% say it has failed, and 22% say they are unsure. However, trust in the national broadcaster has increased since September 2020, when our research found that 48% of the public felt the BBC was failing to be impartial, with 58% saying they would support the licence fee being scrapped in favour of a subscription-based model

Trust in the impartiality of the BBC noticeably declines with age: whilst 51% of 18-to-24-year-olds say that it has succeeded at impartiality, only 35% of those aged 65 and over adopt the same view. In fact, age is a significant factor in overall levels of media trust. For four out of five broadcasters, those aged between 18 and 24 are the most likely to say the company has succeeded at being impartial. Those aged between 25 and 34 are the most likely to view Channel 4 as impartial, with a strong plurality (48%) holding this view. 

Overall, Conversative voters are more likely to express scepticism over media impartiality, especially regarding the BBC. Half (50%) of 2019 Conversative voters say that the BBC has failed at being impartial, compared to 35% of 2019 Labour voters. Similarly, comparatively more Labour voters believe in the impartiality of Channel 4 (49%), ITV (52%), Channel 5 (34%), and Sky (41%).

Our research shows that much of the British public is yet to make up their minds about GB News. Most Britons are unaware of the launch, while around a quarter say they intend to watch GB News on 13 June. The public is relatively split on whether the UK has a genuine need for a new broadcaster. Further, many Britons are unsure on the question of impartiality in mainstream media, though young people and 2019 Labour voters are the most likely to see media as impartial. Overall, a significant portion of the public remains undecided on the launch of the new channel, particularly Conversative voters.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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