GB News has branded taking the knee an “unacceptable breach of our standards” after an audience backlash over Guto Harri’s anti-racism gesture.
On Tuesday the contributing presenter took the knee live on air following the Euro2020 final which saw Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka subjected to appalling racist abuse.
Harri said it made “sense” that footballers should take the knee on the field and that racism has “no place in modern Britain”.
He said he had “underestimated how close to the surface” racism still is in the country.
“They deserve to lose what’s left of their diminishing viewers”
But his move was met with a torrent of bizarre and antagonistic condemnation from GB News’ audience, claiming the channel had fallen into the jaws of the “woke” agenda from which it supposedly sought to break free.
Anyone seeing a change in @GBNews?— Mr.Essex 🇬🇧 🍥 (@kieran1980_uk) July 13, 2021
Started off so well, but might as well be watching Sly News or the Beeb now!
Looks like they are being hijacked by Lefty Liberal Twat presenters.
Very disappointed 🙄
THOUSANDS TURN-OFF @GBNEWS AS THEY BEGIN VIRTUE-SIGNALLING TO VIEWERS AND TAKE-THE-KNEE!— Brexit Defence Alliance (@ActionBrexit) July 13, 2021
WHAT HAPPENED TO @afneil's PROMISE OF ANTI-WOKE JOURNALISM? #GBNEWS IS NO BETTER THAN THE BBC. THEY DESERVE TO LOSE WHAT'S LEFT OF THEIR DIMINISHING VIEWERS. pic.twitter.com/QaIKPrBzOO
According to official television audience figures produced by rating agency Barb, GB News attracted zero viewers during some of its broadcasts this week after the viewer boycott.
The channel has now said the decision of Guto Harri to make the on-air gesture on Tuesday in solidarity against the racist abuse suffered by English players was “an unacceptable breach of our standards”.
On Tuesday a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards.— GB News (@GBNEWS) July 15, 2021
Business editor Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon.
During the same timeslot the BBC News channel attracted 62,000 viewers, while Sky News had 50,000 people watching.
GB News’ audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.
Andrew Neil, the face of GB News and chair of its board, told viewers earlier that he was taking leave after just two weeks on air after what he described as a “rocky start” but would return “before the summer is out”.
The presenter is understood to have gone on holiday to his main residence in the south of France but there is no public return date for his flagship 8pm show.
There is speculation within the station that Neil could even present some of his GB News shows from his European base. A spokesperson for GB News said they did not know whether this was planned.
Multiple staff said Neil was visibly unhappy behind-the-scenes during channel’s first two weeks due to the technical problems which plagued its launch, with issues ranging from lighting so dark that some presenters could barely be seen to sound being out of sync and struggles with remote broadcasting.
One incident that summed up the channel’s problems was when McCoy presented a section on cute animal pictures but viewers were unable to see any of the pictures, leaving the exasperated presenter to describe them instead.