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Editors air contrasting views over GB News ad boycott

Oliver DowdenRegional editors have aired differing views over the ongoing boycott of fledgling TV channel GB News by leading advertisers after a minister suggested their actions amounted to an attack on freedom of speech.

Around 11 advertisers are now confirmed to have suspended their marketing campaigns on the new channel, recently launched by ex-BBC veteran Andrew Neil.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden called the boycott “worrying” arguing that the new channel is a “welcome addition” to the diversity of the UK media.

Mr Dowden, pictured, told the Daily Mail: “One of the cornerstones of our liberties is our robust, free and diverse media and GB News is a welcome addition to that diversity.”

It brought a retort from Marc Reeves, Reach plc’s marketplace publisher for the Midlands, who commented: “Much as I would like the revenues, there is no law that obliges privately owned companies to advertise on specific platforms. How does exercising their freedom of choice over where they advertise impinge on anyone’s freedom of speech?”

And former Bath Chronicle deputy editor Paul Wiltshire, now journalism course leader at the University of Gloucestershire, added: “I don’t care whether brands advertise on GB News or not, but surely ‘one of the cornerstones of our liberties’ is that companies can choose how and where to spend their money?”

However John Wilson, editor of the Hereford Times, condemned the advertisers’ actions as “odious and undemocratic.”

In a column published on Thursday, John described the campaign group Stop Funding Hate, one of them organisations behind the boycott, as dangerous and misguided “zealots.”

Wrote John: “By seeking to deny the right of free speech to those whose views it finds disagreeable it undermines one of our greatest freedoms, and gives succour to the advocates of censorship and oppressive regulation.

“Anyone who values free speech should be wary of the sanctimonious cheerleaders of Stop Funding Hate. Their attempts to stifle GB News within days of its launch are odious and undemocratic.”