How GB News covers Northern Ireland will be a litmus test for the channel

News Letter editorial of Monday June 14 2021:

Monday, 14th June 2021, 8:59 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The broadcaster Andrew Neil said last night on the launch of GB News that the new channel won’t forget the ‘B’ in its title.

That lack of embarrassment over ‘Britain’ is the kind of talk that millions of people around the nation will be delighted to hear.

They might even say that they hope the station will remember the ‘G’ for Great too — not because people are jingoistic, but because the bulk of people are quietly proud of the country, and worried about some extremist critiques of who we are as a people, that last year saw statues being toppled.

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In Northern Ireland, it will not go unnoticed that the title of the new channel is the initials of Great Britain which strictly speaking excludes NI, because it literally means the island of England, Scotland and Wales.

Perhaps there is a simple reason why UK News was not chosen, in much the same way that GB car stickers actually refer to the UK, but were probably chosen because Grande Bretagne is easily understood in France, the continental nation where British drivers are most likely to visit.

But it will nonetheless be an interesting litmus test of the new station how it approaches Northern Ireland.

Unionism, as today’s edition of this newspaper shows, is under serious pressure, not least because a cavalier approach to the province was shown in the haste to ‘get Brexit done’ at the end of 2019.

While claims of English nationalism are over-stated, it is a factor, and a challenge for parts of the UK outside England that want to remain within the nation state.

Unionists feel, and have good reason to feel, that there is subtle bias against them in many spheres of life, including the media. GB News has been launched in part to reflect a similar feeling of alienation that many conservative-minded people on the mainland feel from traditional media.

We wish the new channel well, and hope that it tries to understand, and give voice to, unionist concerns.

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Editor