Andrew Neil has turned down the BBC to head up a new British television channel.
The leading journalist and broadcaster, regarded as television’s most forensic and feared political interviewer, will be chairman at GB News, founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider.
Neil has not been seen on the BBC since his programme, The Andrew Neil Show, was taken off air in March when the Covid-19 crisis took hold and he was unable to grill politicians face-to-face. It was formally axed in the summer.
The BBC’s new director-general, Tim Davie, has since tried to entice him back to the corporation and made him a series of offers via a Zoom call, The Telegraph previously disclosed.
However, the 71-year-old is now set to host his own flagship evening show on the 24-hour channel GB News, which plans to launch early next year on Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.
The announcement will come as a blow to the BBC, as just a few weeks ago Mr Davie said the corporation is renewing its commitment to impartiality, with sources close to him disclosing he wants to reach out to “Brexit Britain”.
Neil is known for his ferocious interviewing style of leaders across the political spectrum. In a video published last year, he memorably grilled a member of Extinction Rebellion over their tactics.
He said GB News was the “most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years”.
“We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area,” he said.
“We’ve seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news. GB News is aimed at the vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard by their media.”
He told The Telegraph that it was with a “heavy heart” that he parted ways with the BBC. Had the corporation reached out earlier in the summer before the GB News offer arrived, he said he would have accepted it.
Neil is chairman of The Spectator magazine and former editor of The Sunday Times.
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