Cancel Culture

GB News Stands Up to U.K. Cancel Culture and Wins

Advertisers found that appeasing an illiberal mob wasn’t a safe choice after all.


It's a familiar story by now: somebody says something, or even hints that they might say something, that self-appointed thought police find offensive. Those hypersensitive types, who often aren't even part of the speaker's audience, then set out to intimidate third parties into cutting off funding so that the targeted speakers face financial ruin for voicing their thoughts. But this time, an up-start British TV news channel appears to be turning the table on its tormenters, converting an attempted cancelation into a marketing triumph.

"We will puncture the pomposity of our elites in politics, business, media, and academia, and expose their growing promotion of cancel culture for the threat to free speech and democracy that it is," Andrew Neil, formerly of the BBC and The Sunday Times and now chairman of GB News, announced in his opening monologue on the upstart TV channel earlier this month. "We will be more concerned with what will raise prosperity and create jobs in our left-behind towns than what some overprivileged and ahistoric students decide to hang on their walls in Oxford. Social mobility and a fair chance in life for all will matter more to us than the wasteland to nowhere that is identity politics."

That mission statement was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. As a media outfit explicitly founded to oppose cancel culture, it was inevitable that GB News would be targeted for immediate cancelation by the usual suspects.

"#StopFundingHate supporters began taking action in February, urging advertisers not to fund 'Fox News style' media in Britain," Richard Wilson, director of Stop Funding Hate, wrote in March before GB News even launched. "By engaging with advertisers in the run-up to the launch of GB News, Stop Funding Hate supporters have been working to reach as many brands as we can before final decisions have been made and advertising contracts agreed. We also hope to make companies aware of the scale of popular opposition to 'Fox News style' media – and the risk to their brand of aligning with any outlet that goes down that road."

Stop Funding Hate, a pressure group that boasts "We're making hate unprofitable by persuading advertisers to pull their support from publications that spread hate and division," published a list of companies that advertise on GB News for its supporters to pressure and threaten with boycotts. Many companies, averse to alienating their customers, complied.

"GB News, the television channel that launched this week with backing from pro-Brexit tycoons and a mission to produce 'anti-woke' US-style news content, is facing an advertiser backlash after big consumer brands including Ikea, Nivea and Grolsch said they would pull their adverts from the network," The Guardian reported.

But these pressure campaigns are based on the assumption that consumers speak with one voice, or that only one faction of the public cares enough to act on its beliefs and punish companies that fail to fall into line. In this case, GB News slapped back at its enemies. The channel's supporters, or people who just don't want to see dissenting media voices silenced, applied pressure of their own. Their efforts also achieved results.

"Moneysupermarket has become the first company to end a boycott of GB News as the price comparison website reversed a decision to 'pause' advertising on the new Right-leaning channel," The Telegraph noted on June 17. "Ikea has also rowed back on a decision to ban its ads from appearing on the station."

"Just to confirm that MoneySuperMarket is not boycotting its advertising on @GBNews, sorry for any confusion caused," the company tweeted.

Other companies vowed that they would avoid any advertising decisions that might undermine the editorial independence of media outlets. All of these moves (criticism, cancelation, counter-boycott, and backpedaling) were diligently reported by British media in what amounted to a free marketing campaign for a freshly launched news channel—with healthy ratings to match.

"Those who diligently fight the culture wars threw themselves at the barricades and tuned into GB News and those curious as to what the fuss was about turned it on too," City A.M.'s Sascha O'Sullivan mused. "Either way, only days after launch, GB News had achieved the holy grail status of 'cancelled', thus ensuring its survival."

The controversy was a gift in another way, too, since it overshadowed a plague of technical glitches that accompanied the channel's launch. Instead of stories wondering why a professional news operation looked more like the product of a high school AV club, coverage of GB News instead focused on efforts to muzzle its voice and the backlash against would-be arbiters of acceptable speech.

Most importantly, businesses across the U.K. were put on notice that it's not necessarily safe to surrender to an ideologically motivated mob. In the case of GB News, appeasing one faction infuriated opposing members of the public, leaving no cost-free option. 

Perhaps this was the inevitable outcome of oil-spill politics—the politicization of everything in life—with obvious lessons for Americans. When "Eighty-three percent of Millennials say it's important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values," according to a 2020 survey, every sector of society comes under enormous pressure to cater to those values. The pressure is that much more intense when "Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue," as a separate survey found in 2018.

If only one faction plays that game, institutions, businesses, and organizations face powerful incentives to align with that faction. But if multiple political groupings are willing to inflict economic pain on firms that pick sides in culture wars, neutrality might be the best tactic—or else brands will have to commit to picking sides and declaring war on the rest of the population.

Ideally, our culture will return to liberal values, accepting that the appropriate response to speakers you don't like is to tune them out, not to muzzle them. Until that day, though, the GB News battle puts everybody on notice that more than one political faction is willing to use its financial clout to target enemies and protect friends. If that's the only way to assure the survival of a diversity of viewpoints, so be it.

NEXT: Brickbat: Foiled Again

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. They are doomed. They are only focusing on 74% of the population, not the 1% that matter. (The other 25% are in seated fetal position speaking to bots on twitter and Instagram).

    1. Homes to stash her drugs. Bennett said he only bought some marijuana and used clothes from the woman. The raid caused $50,000 in damage to the home, and now the police are refusing to pay for repairs.more detail……….VISIT HERE.

      1. The bots are becoming smart enough to post in the wrong thread.

        1. “Smart” like humans are smart.

          1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
            on this page…..VISIT HERE

  2. The cancel-er’s become the canceled hopefully!

    1. Out here in the fields
      I fight for my meals
      Wearing the yoke of the woke
      They’re just a bad joke!
      Andrew Neil, he’s quite the bloke!
      With him, let’s go for broke!
      (But hatreds, don’t stoke)

        1. Brainless troglodyte hates Andrew Neil and defends the uber-woke! What a surprise!

  3. Say something fascist, offend people who aren’t pieces of living shit while delighting rightwing fascists. Rinse and repeat.

    1. Straz are you talking to Tuccille? I’m not sure I get what your trying to say with your grammar there.

      1. I think he’s saying “Facist!” for fun and signaling.

        1. I misspelled fascist once and you decided to remember that. Cool, here’s some more shit to take up your brain space. I don’t spell particalrly well probably because I was abused by my second grade teacher who was a total evil bitch or maybe it’s because I’m bilingual. Or maybe I have brain damage from living in a polluted state?

          1. It’s from all the lard you eat.

      2. Definitely not referring to Tuccille. Here’s the thing. I cancel shit all the time. I’m about to cancel my subscription to Prime for instance not because of politics but it’s getting fucking canceled. The point is canceling fascists or anything is fine by me. I haven’t clicked on a Fox News story in years. I canceled those mfers. So obviously I have no problem with other people trying to cancel some other version of Fox. It’s called freedom of speech and freedom of wtf I do with my money. And shit better than a two bit fake news fascist news site is canceled all day every day so why would I cry over a fascist fake news organization getting heat?

        1. So, are you canceling all fake news or just fake news that makes you sad?

        2. Don’t cry for us Argentina. You know what I mean.

        3. People are allowed their own opinions.

          It’s a problem when people start trying to impose their opinions on others.

    2. So, who said something fascist? Are the only two possibilities woke insanity and fascism?

      1. But woke insanity is fascism.

        1. Exactly.

    3. Say something fascist, offend people who aren’t pieces of living shit while delighting rightwing fascists. Rinse and repeat.

      Delicious tears.

  4. It’s notable that businesses universally do well when they stand up to the woke, but recurve nearly no benefit to negative benefit when they cave. I wonder if it’s a case of business degrees being bad at parsing when activists are pulling numbers out of their asses, or just years of being personally pressured by activist groups in person that makes them unable to see harm caused by their actions.

    1. The call is coming from inside the house.

      People really need to get over their dogma based misunderstanding of corporate America, and realize that these companies, and many of those in them, see pushing politics as their business.

      1. *corporate America used as a catchall term for globalist transnationals.
        Maybe should’ve just used that term instead.

        1. For years my hippy friends would say “the corporations” as their demonized enemy. They generally meant big transnationals, not realizing that the locally owned organic produce stand they thought was better than “the corporations” was a corporation.

          MOST local businesses are incorporated, especially here. It’s worth it the day you hire your first employee or open a storefront that might subject you to liability. But the loudest critics are the least likely to care about nuance. Gotta just make it bumper sticker simple.

    2. Look at Major League Baseball. They caved to a bunch of people who don’t even like sports, and now they’re circling the drain even faster than before. I’m a huge baseball fan, and was one of the few who watched regular season games outside of my media market, and I have not watched as much as a single pitch.

  5. Don’t know why businesses would bend over backwards for millennials, those that say nonsense like that don’t buy your products anyway, they are either over paid employees of tech firms that buy overpriced “green” products from locally sourced indigenous trans sex poc or they are living in their parent’s basements. The ones who patronize Ikea etc. are the ones actually working for a living and don’t have time to answer these silly pollsters.

    1. Don’t blame millennials. This is institutional wokeness that is bought and paid for by the oligrachy as a means to control the narrative.

      Much like most of the articles here, thanks Koch Brothers!

  6. “Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue,”

    I call bullshit. It doesn’t matter what comes out of their mouth, its what comes out of their wallets that counts. And most consumers will go with the best price per the quality of the product.

    1. I agree.

      People will complain about how much money Bezos has while giving his company money on a monthly subscription plan.

  7. Speaking of the struggle to publish, the Palestinian Authority arrested a man for complaining on Facebook about the Palestinian Authority arresting someone for political reasons. The PA kept him over night in a dingy cell before releasing him to face charges.

  8. “Eighty-three percent of Millennials say it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values,”

    And approximately 83% of millennials support Apple and Nike, which ought to tell you exactly what their beliefs and values are and should send you screaming in the other direction. Why the fuck would you be proud to support communists?

    1. They don’t. They just have been taught to answer the question “correctly” when asked. On their own, they are good greedy little capitalists even if they don’t realize it.

      1. I have long suspected this was true. It seemed so when former hippies because yuppies.

    2. Like most idiot children, they have a limited and distorted view of reality (racist corporate capitalists bad, my mommy good) and fall in love based on superficial understanding (Nike ran woke ads). But they actively resist learning fuller truths (Nike makes woke shoes in cooperation with CCP run state enterprises, who are true racist slavers).

    3. And approximately 83% of millennials support Apple and Nike, which ought to tell you exactly what their beliefs and values are and should send you screaming in the other direction. Why the fuck would you be proud to support communists?

      Quite the opposite is true (Apple is the epitome of the “big, powerful corporation” that the left declares to be evil, uses slave labor, does everything it can to avoid paying “it’s fair share” of taxes, etc.), which makes millenial love for these brands all the funnier.

  9. > Eighty-three percent of Millennials say it’s important for the companies they buy from to align with their beliefs and values

    Except that eighty-three percent of Millennials don’t have shared values. They’re saying the want to do businesses that don’t alienate them politically, they are NOT saying they are all on the same page. As such, Tory millennials will be frequenting Tory stores, Labour millennials will be frequenting Labour stores, etc.

    Ditto in the US. While the Woke faction of Millennials is pretty damned loud, most are NOT Woke and just want to get on with their lives, you just don’t hear from them because the Wokes are so fucking loud and hogged the microphone. While the nation is indeed more polarized than ever, it’s not all polarized on one pole.

    1. Agreed

  10. “the wasteland to nowhere that is identity politics”

    Wait, some Brit visited Portland or Minneapolis?

  11. “Ideally, our culture will return to liberal values, accepting that the appropriate response to speakers you don’t like is to tune them out, not to muzzle them.”

    Like the mute button; tres libertaire

  12. I was wondering when this would get covered. Well done.

  13. What’s Reason’s excuse for being dominated by woke losers?

    Oh yea, Koch money

  14. “…’Fox News style’ media…”

    CNN lies are just fine…

  15. Good for GB. Just like whenever the Woke crowd would go after Rush, Hannity, Carlson, etc. advertisers and an overwhelming response from their fans announcing their own boycott of the advertisers and the advertisers backed down.

    Same happened in Georgia once it was explained the Georgia law was almost identical to Colorado and more open voting the New York or Delaware. Coke even reassigned the legal counsel that promoted the boycott of their home state and whitewashed their site of the episode.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.