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Yes, but this is free speech

Advertising agencies mounting a prolonged boycott of GB News are damaging its business, its chief executive has admitted, as he claimed the action represents a threat to free speech.

Angelos Frangopoulos said public debate was at risk because the channel was being put under “commercial pressure” to change its content a year after its launch.

Deciding to associate your commercial speech with – or with not – a TV channel is free speech.

Even if it’s because of an excess of woke twats in the ad agencies it’s still free speech.

16 thoughts on “Yes, but this is free speech”

  1. Businesses need to make themselves independent from advertisers and a bunch of other revenue streams that are entrenched in this bullshit. Not worth the fear of arbitrary boycotts.

    They also need alternatives for payment processing and web hosting. Entrepreneurs can make a killing if they offer any of those with the promise of zero speech codes. If I had any expertise in those areas I’d be getting right on it.

  2. Interesting to note that after having originally been excluded from the channels available to users of the new Sky Glass service GB News has now quietly been added.

  3. What the advertisers are doing cannot be characterised as freedom of speech, no more than punching someone who says something you don’t like is. It is political oppression, coercion, and blackmail.

    However, even if the premise is correct:-

    Freedom of speech/expression derives from Common Law as a passive Right, and it is a principle of Common Law that the Right of one party may not be enjoyed at the expense of the Right of another – A’s Right to swing his fist stops where B’s nose starts.

    Pleading freedom of speech in order to suppress by coercion the freedom of speech of another fails the Common Law standard.

  4. The Meissen Bison

    This article on Brand Purpose in the Daily Sceptic is amusing and informative. In a nutshell, the deplorable demographic associated with GB News doesn’t deserve the goods and services that ad agency clients offer.

  5. The Meissen Bison,

    Ad agencies and their clients just don’t want that demographic. There’s the odd ad campaign that is about facts (like Aldi showing how much cheaper they are than Sainsburys, or Dyson talking about a new product) but most advertising is now lifestyle. No claims, but just a suggestion that you’ll be more popular or bang hot chicks by buying it. And older people are immune to these tricks.

    It’s why so much content is aimed at younger people. Because the TV shows and the magazines have to get the younger audience that the advertisers want looking at their ads. They’re just following the money. It’s why even capitalists appear to be so left-wing. They’re really just being capitalists.

    And it’s what Dbdhcjcjc said. More content producers need to switch to subscriptions.

  6. of course there would probably be commercial consequence for the ad-agencies and their customers, if their boycots were more transparent. The decision to boycott is easy if there are no consequences.

  7. What the advertisers are doing cannot be characterised as freedom of speech, no more than punching someone who says something you don’t like is. It is political oppression, coercion, and blackmail.

    No, declining to advertise on a tv channel for ideological reasons is equivalent to declining to bake a cake for ideological reasons. If you think Christian bakers should be free to not make a gay wedding cake, then you should be happy with woke advertisers being free to not do business with conservative broadcasters.

    Tim is correct.

  8. If businesses are unaware of the unofficial boycott by their advertising agents then GB News can write and tell them about it.
    In general I’m sceptical about the advertising appeal of a news channel. “You’ve seen the news from Somalia; now try the beach holiday.”

  9. Philip: Yes, that’s the point here: agencies, not advertisers themselves. If Bloggsco thinks GBN isn’t its target demographic, or if Mr. Bloggs is a raging Lefty who doesn’t want to help pay its way, that’s fine. Tim’s right. But if the middlemen are mounting a boycott without the knowledge of their clients or, arguably worse, directing their clients away from GBN by misleading them about its nature due to their own prejudices, there’s a problem.

    A problem, I hasten to add, that can probably be solved by the market if (as both you and Wonko suggest) it becomes public knowledge, but a problem nonetheless.

  10. What advertisers are doing is generally free speech, as unfair as it is.

    That said, consider the following…

    Ad agencies often engage in these boycotts for these reasons:

    1. The brand they advertise for (and have a contract with) will say they want to reach certain KPIs (key performance indicators) like revenue targets or a certain level of engagement from consumers. However, in practice, they resort to reactionary strategies because they’re worried that even one bad comment on their Twitter page will lead to bankruptcy. They don’t actually analyze the historical data of what happens as a result of a bit of bad PR, but instead rely on what a small number of vocal consumers say they will do. This would be considered a failure of acting in the best interests of shareholders, except some of their biggest shareholders have the fuck-you money to be more concerned with the company’s ESG rating than actual profits. When you have all the material things you need in life, power and influence become the only things left to seek out.

    2. Ad agencies, much like news and entertainment networks, aren’t very smart or innovative, and they certainly don’t have a spine, so they resort to whatever decisions make them look good to the rest of the bubble. A great number of agencies large and small spend 90% of their time talking about how awesome their corporate culture is, how they’re the number one place to work, how they have the most passionate employees, or how diverse the staff is. Maybe 5% of their time is spent talking about the holding company’s growth in the stock market, and the remaining 5% of time is spent showcasing any success from advertising work (the case study is usually at least 1-2 years old, but is from the agency’s most high-profile client ever). It’s all about having a blurb written about your agency in Ad Age or Digiday, or about the CEO in WSJ and Business Insider, so all the decisions from top to bottom are within the narrow window of socially acceptable behavior.

    It’s at the point where every agency’s website claims that they’re “not your grandfather’s agency” or that they have some cutting-edge business model, much the same way every independent news outlet claims to be “unbiased” or “real news.” Anyone with a single skeptical brain cell can see it for the snake oil it is.

    By the way, the “gay wedding cake” case has some gray area to it. The baker didn’t refuse to serve the same-sex couple. He only refused to specifically bake them a gay wedding cake. There was no issue with making a birthday cake, a bag of cookies, etc. Not saying I agree with the baker, but he had his First Amendment right not to go against his religious beliefs. And I guarantee there would have been no international media attention had the couple been refused service at a Muslim-owned bakery in Dearborn, Michigan. Much more blatant cases of discrimination occurred with multiple people who merely wore a “Make America Great Again” hat in various establishments. A number of those cases even got physically violent.

  11. I never understood the wedding cake thing. Didn’t they simply say “this isn’t a product we make or sell, much like – I don’t know – we don’t do sausages or cream cakes. A wedding photographer forced to do a nude or landscape shoot, simply because demanded? Didn’t make any sense to me. Like you said, there was no discrimination against the punters themselves, if they had asked for one of the cake products the baker normally sold. Maybe they shouldn’t have taken the religious route and simply produced a list of what they sold (for clarity)?

    Or to put it differently, if a potential client ever asked me to do/produce something I didn’t want to do, that would be that, there wouldn’t be any debate…

  12. There is one clear answer to this and that is for shareholders in these companies to make clear that they are not happy with this policy. But the ‘left’ (no longer really a meaningful term but still) has always proceeded by virtue of the ‘right’s’ inattention, lack of interest, or preference for enjoyment and making money over sitting in endless boring committees.

  13. While there is a free speech issue if some viewpoints are systematically censored, I don’t think that’s what is happening here. If you look at the viewing figures at you’ll see that GB News simply has a poor market share – less than 20% of the Sky New audience which in turn is only 65% of BBC News. I think this story is Mr. Frangopoulos trying to get a bit of free advertising for his own product.

  14. @Interested

    You would be correct, except I believe the following scenarios are taking place:

    1. As I mentioned previously, many of these shareholders have fuck-you money and have more lofty, platitudinous aspirations, like “making the world a better place.” Kinda like when a Vanderbilt heiress gets a university education in Eastern philosophy or comparative literature, rather than a STEM, education or business field. So some of these investors will buy into the guilt of using their money for “good.” Perhaps the WEF or Bill Gates Foundation rubbed off on them a bit too much.

    2. Even for shareholders who are purely about profits, they may cynically surmise that this woke stuff is very profitable in the moment. They don’t care about the long-term failure, because they just have to time the crash appropriately, and then put their money into the stocks that are immune to the destruction from the fallout. Many small-time day traders even invest this way. They don’t care if it’s harmful to employees, consumers or anyone else, as long as they get theirs. I’m not even making a value judgment here, but it is unfortunate that employees and many consumers end up as the losers.

    In either case, I would argue the shareholders aren’t necessarily unhappy. At least, it takes a lot more than this to make them unhappy.

    Disney got a lot of Disney+ subscribers, and there are a lot of sad nerds who bought into their Marvel content offering. Also a lot of ESPN devotees and soccer moms/dads who anticipated family-friendly programming for their kids. However, the Disney and Marvel writers are now mostly activists with animé fetishes who have a vendetta against normal people. And they make an effort to include LGBTQ+ messaging to children in at least 50% of the programming (a Zoom call about this was leaked to the public). ESPN is now MSNBC with sports blazers. Netflix recently had to pivot and is making sure they have a more balanced inventory, since they hemorrhaged subscribers. Employees, on top of having to deal with the toxic workplaces that encourage this ideology as corporate culture, also suffer massive layoffs and a tarnished resume when the brand loses business.

    So when these waves of activism happen, there is inevitably a point where it reaches critical mass, and the goal is to get to that point as quickly as possible to reduce extent of the damage. Or, you can let these brands die a slow and painful death, while competitors have the time to create more reasonable and appealing alternatives.


    Viewpoints are being systematically (or systemically?) censored, just not directly by advertisers. Tech platforms (such as those used to advertise on news sites) censor categories as well as specific terms related not only to commonly offensive ideas, but also very benign ideas that just happen to be unpopular at the moment. For instance, believing the 2020 election was stolen, whether accurate or inaccurate, is not illegal or even an unpatriotic idea. It is quintessentially American, in fact, to allow for dissent and the questioning of authority, since our country was founded partly on that premise. However, one would think this form of dissent was a felony offense judging by the tech industry’s response. Because of this, advertisers make sure they don’t associate with that idea, or with any entities associating with it. That’s why the store Bed Bath & Beyond stopped selling Mike Lindell’s MyPillow, and why Macy’s stopped selling Ivanka Trump’s products. On the other hand, as we see in this thread, advertisers also boycott the platforms if they don’t satisfy the woke mob. For instance, my ad agency and many others boycotted Facebook in Summer 2020 because they had the audacity to let Republicans also pay for political ads. The horror. If you want to read more on that, just look for articles about the “#StopHateForProfit” hashtag. It’s cringeworthy what they consider a human rights crisis nowadays.

    So it’s not an issue of First Amendment violations, but an issue of weak pussies who enjoy self-flagellation.

  15. @Pcar

    1. Pander to the activists
    2. Ride the wave, make your money, get invited to things, get endorsements from celebrities
    3. Claim that you are “forward thinking” and the trend isn’t going away
    4. Issue a bullshit apology here or there, for any missteps that get you bad press from the Left
    5. Fuck up royally, put out a press release saying that you didn’t do anything wrong, but need to “recalibrate” your company
    6. Fire a shitload of people and get a new CEO
    7. Go back to normal for a while, until the next disgusting trend comes along
    8. Rinse and repeat

    Not just in advertising, but with any powerful corporate interest.

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