The Co-op Group is one of a number of businesses called on by pressure group Stop Funding Hate to withdraw its advertising from GB News, the controversial TV news channel which launched this week.
The channel – owned by US multinational TV company Discovery Inc, with other investors including include Dubai investment firm Legatum and Vote Leave-backing hedge fund manager Sir Paul Marshall – has been accused of a right-wing bias by critics.
The channel includes a ‘Woke Watch’ segment with presenter Andrew Neil and comedian Andrew Doyle. Mr Neil, the chair of the station, says GB News aims to be an alternative to “yet another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of our media”.
Critics of the channel have pointed to comments by pundits including former Sun journalist Dan Wooton. He attacked Covid-19 lockdowns, accusing the government, “paranoid health officials” and “doomsday scientists” of “scare campaigns”. He claimed that some in the government are aiming to build “an ultra-cautious biosecurity state, copying the likes of China”. He then condemned football players for the “political gesture” of taking the knee against racism.
The channel, which was beset by technical difficulties on its launch night, has already seen a number of brands withdraw advertising, citing concerns over content, including Ikea, Koppaberg, Grolsch, Nivea and Open University.
Octopus Energy, which operates Co-op Energy, wrote to customers on Tuesday night to tell them it had asked its agencies to suspend advertising on GB News.
“We’re not currently running ads on GB News,” the letter said. “We will monitor it, and only advertise if it proves to be genuinely balanced.”
Stop Funding Hate – which has previously targeted the Co-op Group for advertising with the Sun, Mail and Express newspapers, tweeted: “Britain’s press is already the least trusted in Europe. The last thing we need is the imposition of ‘Fox News style’ media standards in our TV and radio too”.
Asked by Co-op News to comment on its advertising policy, the Co-op Group said: “Just over three years ago and following engagement with our members, we developed a detailed and thoughtful advertising approach, which is driven by three policy principles.
- We will not seek to affect the editorial independence of publications or channels;
- We will not undermine the commercial value of our society for our members; and
- We will ensure our values and principles are clear and undiminished regardless of surrounding content.
“The Co-op Group has a long and distinguished history in supporting social justice and fairness in our country and our track record in this respect is second to none It would be wrong, however, for us to deviate away from our advertising policy, as doing so would compromise the key principles which underpin it.
“The Co-op will continue, however, to work hard through our campaigns and business activities to achieve a fairer and better world for all our members. This work will be undertaken in line with our vision and purpose and will have true impact and value – as can clearly be evidenced in what’s been achieved by our Co-op society in recent years.”
GB News has been contacted for comment. In its charter, GB News says: “We place all its communities at the heart of everything we do. We tackle the issues that matter across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland not just the nation’s metropolitan centres. We are balanced and fair in our coverage and ensure conversations are insightful, respectful and set an example by treating others the way would we expect to be treated.”