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GB News pulls Guto Harri off air after taking the knee39; row

GB News  pulls Guto Harri off air after taking the knee39; row
Guto Harri


GB News says presenter Guto Harri breached standards by taking … Fri, 16 Jul 2021 11:00:00 +0100-Sources say presenter has been 'cancelled' after his onscreen actions triggered viewer backlash.

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GB News pulls Guto Harri off air after ‘taking the knee’ row

July 16, 2021

Guto Harri has been indefinitely taken off air as a presenter on the rightwing channel GB News, sources at the station have told the Guardian, after being “cancelled” by its viewers because he symbolically took the knee on screen.

The channel is currently in crisis, with other staff considering leaving amid management upheaval, collapsing ratings and plans for a relaunch.

GB News was unable to withstand the strong and sustained viewer backlash to Harri’s display of solidarity with the racist abuse suffered by the England football team. The channel, set up on the basis that free and open debate is no longer possible in the mainstream media due to an all-pervasive “cancel culture”, was overwhelmed with complaints that after just a few weeks on air it had gone “woke” and its content was not sufficiently rightwing.

After three days and a growing boycott, which led to some shows attracting zero viewers, the channel’s management felt the need to cut Harri loose. In a statement GB News said it was “unacceptable” for any presenter to take the knee, a symbol associated with the Black Lives Matter movement, and said Harri had broken the channel’s editorial code.

Friends of Harri said: “GB News is becoming an absurd parody of what it proclaimed to be – not defending free speech and combatting cancel culture but replicating it on the far right. Nasty.

“It’s ridiculous to say he’s breached editorial standards and almost certainly defamatory. In reality it wasn’t a breach of editorial code but ‘sacked for offending the lynch mob’.”

It is unclear which part of the GB News editorial code Harri could have broken. The channel’s public editorial charter commits itself to core values including the “independence of our journalism”, “respect for opinions and those expressing them”, and “the right of every individual to form and share their views”.

A spokesperson for GB News was unable to immediately confirm whether Harri would be leaving the channel, or whether other key staff are still with the station.

The incident comes amid a growing crisis at the channel, which only launched four-and-a-half weeks ago. Some senior off-air staff are understood to have left in recent days amid ongoing turmoil following the channel’s disastrous launch, which was plagued by technical difficulties.

They include Gill Penlington, a respected and experienced producer at rolling news channels such as CNN and Sky News who was brought in as a senior figure ahead of its launch, only to leave earlier this week. The departure of other key off-air figures could be announced imminently, according to sources at the channel.

There is also strong speculation about Andrew Neil’s current relationship with the channel. He was involved with its creation and is chairman of its board, and the station was counting on his flagship 8pm show to bring in the viewers required to make it a success. However, after two weeks on air he has taken an extended holiday in the south of France. Despite posting dozens of tweets, he has not mentioned GB News in almost two weeks or shared any of its material.

The Harri incident has proved indicative of the issues facing GB News. Harri was a longserving BBC correspondent before moving into politics as Boris Johnson’s spokesperson during his first term as mayor of London. He then went to work for Rupert Murdoch’s News UK for several years yet has found himself portrayed by some GB News viewers as a dangerous leftwing Marxist sleeper agent.

There is particular upset among the GB News staff who publicly defended Harri’s right to freedom of speech earlier in the week, only to find their stance later contradicted publicly by management.

Staff describe a split between two broad camps. Some producers and presenters come from a mainstream broadcast journalism background and felt jumping ship to the new channel would give them a fresh challenge or a career boost. Others are approaching it from a more political angle with a personal commitment to culture war topics. In Neil’s absence, the only show with relatively healthy ratings has been Dan Wootton’s late-night show, which has lent heavily into culture war issues.

Neil had made clear before the channel’s launch that he did not want to be a “British Fox News” and would be committed to traditional journalism values albeit with a rightwing twist. However, this appears to be different to what its audience wanted. As David Kurten, a former Ukip politician who now leads the niche rightwing Heritage party, gleefully tweeted at the channel after Harri took the knee: “Go woke, go broke.”


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GB News pulls Guto Harri off air after 'taking the knee' row Fri, 16 Jul 2021 11:00:00 +0100-Guto Harri is not expected to appear for the rest of the summer after making the gesture on air.

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GB News says presenter Guto Harri breached standards by taking the knee

image captionHarri said: “I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now.”

GB News host Guto Harri is not expected to appear for the rest of the summer after the channel said he breached its standards by taking the knee on air in support of England footballers.

Harri was discussing the racist abuse against black players after England's defeat in the Euro 2020 final.

But his actions sparked a backlash and boycott threat from some viewers.

GB News said: “We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue.”

Harri, a former BBC correspondent who was an advisor to Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London, made the kneeling gesture on Tuesday, saying: “I've never understood why people find it offensive.

“Having seen over the last few days just how close to the surface, just how deep-rooted and hideously ugly racism in some English football fans is, I totally get it why the [football] squad thought we have to say, day in day out, that racism is not on.

“I may have underestimated how close to the surface the racism still was, so much so that I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now and just say it's an important gesture.

“It's not about me in the studio, but for them to do that as footballers on the field makes sense.”

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He later tweeted that GB News was “above all about free speech” and that he didn't believe England footballers were “endorsing the narrow divisive aims of BLM [Black Lives Matter”.

On Thursday, the channel responded with a tweet saying: “GB News stands four square against racism in all its forms. We do not have a company line on taking the knee.

“Some of our guests have been in favour, some against. All are anti-racist. We have editorial standards that all GB News journalists uphold.”

But a follow-up post continued: “On Tuesday a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards.”

The news channel, which launched last month, has not commented further.

Its editorial charter states: “We do not shy away from controversial issues. We will take a frank and honest look at the world, but we are sensitive to complex subjects and protect privacy unless compelling public interest outweighs this expectation.”

The act of taking the knee has become a prominent but controversial symbol in sport and during anti-racist protests in recent years, and England players have been adopting the stance at the start of their matches.

Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho were targeted after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

All three players received racist abuse on social media after the game and five people have been arrested, with Cheshire Police Chief Constable Mark Roberts calling the abuse was “utterly vile”.

image captionJadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were both abused after missing penalties

Hari, who GB News described as a “contributing presenter”, was working alongside Mercy Muroki on the channel's mid-morning programme, Brazier & Muroki, which is usually co-presented by Colin Brazier.

image captionHarri said: “I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now.”

GB News host Guto Harri is not expected to appear for the rest of the summer after the channel said he breached its standards by taking the knee on air in support of England footballers.

Harri was discussing the racist abuse against black players after England's defeat in the Euro 2020 final.

But his actions sparked a backlash and boycott threat from some viewers.

GB News said: “We let both sides of the argument down by oversimplifying a very complex issue.”

Harri, a former BBC correspondent who was an advisor to Boris Johnson when he was mayor of London, made the kneeling gesture on Tuesday, saying: “I've never understood why people find it offensive.

“Having seen over the last few days just how close to the surface, just how deep-rooted and hideously ugly racism in some English football fans is, I totally get it why the [football] squad thought we have to say, day in day out, that racism is not on.

“I may have underestimated how close to the surface the racism still was, so much so that I think we should all take the knee. In fact, why not take the knee now and just say it's an important gesture.

“It's not about me in the studio, but for them to do that as footballers on the field makes sense.”

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He later tweeted that GB News was “above all about free speech” and that he didn't believe England footballers were “endorsing the narrow divisive aims of BLM [Black Lives Matter”.

On Thursday, the channel responded with a tweet saying: “GB News stands four square against racism in all its forms. We do not have a company line on taking the knee.

“Some of our guests have been in favour, some against. All are anti-racist. We have editorial standards that all GB News journalists uphold.”

But a follow-up post continued: “On Tuesday a contributing presenter took the knee live on air and this was an unacceptable breach of our standards.”

The news channel, which launched last month, has not commented further.

Its editorial charter states: “We do not shy away from controversial issues. We will take a frank and honest look at the world, but we are sensitive to complex subjects and protect privacy unless compelling public interest outweighs this expectation.”

The act of taking the knee has become a prominent but controversial symbol in sport and during anti-racist protests in recent years, and England players have been adopting the stance at the start of their matches.

Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho were targeted after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

All three players received racist abuse on social media after the game and five people have been arrested, with Cheshire Police Chief Constable Mark Roberts calling the abuse was “utterly vile”.

image captionJadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford were both abused after missing penalties

Hari, who GB News described as a “contributing presenter”, was working alongside Mercy Muroki on the channel's mid-morning programme, Brazier & Muroki, which is usually co-presented by Colin Brazier.


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– July 16, 2021
GB News pulls Guto Harri off air after taking the knee39; row
Guto Harri

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