Andrew Neil has revealed that he came close to having a breakdown while at GB News and believes “it would’ve killed me to carry on” due to the technical problems at the channel.
The veteran broadcaster, 72, resigned last week from his role as the rightwing network’s lead presenter and chairman after weeks of speculation about his future.
Neil was the face of GB News before it went on air in June, but left after presenting just eight programmes in three months because of technical hitches, the loss of senior staff and differences of opinion over its political direction.
On walking away from his £4m contract, the former BBC presenter told the Daily Mail: “It was a big decision but I frankly couldn’t care if it was £40m. This would have killed me if I’d carried on.”
Neil said he suffered stress and sleep deprivation due to technical issues in the early days. He told the newspaper: “It just went from bad to worse. There was one day we spent the whole day preparing the programme and fixing up a number of interviews down the line [remotely], because that was the business model.
“At one minute to eight [his flagship show was broadcast live at 8pm], I sat down, earpiece in, microphone on, only to be told by the director we had no external communications, so I had no guests.
“I was in despair. Unlike other shows, where there are two anchors, so they can talk rubbish to each other, I was on my own.”
Neil said the “stress was just huge” and that by the end of the first week, he felt like leaving.
“It was really beginning to affect my health. I wasn’t sleeping … I had a constant knot in my stomach. When I did wake up, I’d feel fine, then remember all the problems I had with GB News, and this knot would come and wouldn’t leave me for the whole day.”
The Guardian reported last week that although the terms of his departure were unknown, multiple GB News sources claim the process was the subject of lengthy legal wrangling after the deterioration in his relationship with the station’s chief executive, Angelos Frangopoulos.
In response to Neil’s comments, a spokesman for GB News said: “At no point did Andrew raise concerns of the editorial direction of GB News moving to the right. As with all companies, decision-making rests with the board, and GB News is no different. As a member of the board, Andrew had the same rights and abilities to raise concerns, and he was privy to all decisions.
“The launch date of GB News was set to accommodate Andrew’s own travel plans. Indeed, contrary to management’s wishes, it was Andrew who insisted the launch date be announced, failing which he refused to travel to London for it.”
The spokesman added: “The terms of his departure were properly negotiated and documented, with Andrew taking legal advice throughout. The fact that he has chosen to ignore these terms and make his departure unnecessarily contentious and public is a decision he will have to live with.”