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Former UK prime minister Boris Johnson is joining GB News as a presenter, programme maker and commentator in a coup for the right-leaning broadcaster after a recent series of scandals and regulatory investigations.
GB News, which is co-owned by Brexit-backing hedge fund tycoon Paul Marshall, will give the ex-premier a TV platform to air his views in the run-up to the UK general election expected next year.
Since leaving office, Johnson has signed a string of deals, including a contract with HarperCollins to write a memoir and an agreement with US-based speakers’ bureau Harry Walker Agency, for which he was paid an advance worth almost £2.5mn. He also writes a column for the Daily Mail.
Johnson will join a number of fellow Conservative politicians as a presenter on the channel — whose growing roster of rightwing commentators has sparked concerns over impartiality.
GB News is facing multiple probes by the UK media watchdog Ofcom given its use of politicians as presenters. Interviews with Reform party leader Richard Tice and chancellor Jeremy Hunt — conducted by two Conservative MPs — have recently been found to have breached the rules.
The channel has also been under scrutiny since suspending Dan Wootton, one of its most popular hosts, after airing sexist comments made by actor Laurence Fox about a female political journalist in September.
GB News said that Johnson will join in the new year and play a key role in the channel’s coverage of both the UK and US elections.
Johnson will create and present a new series about Britain around the world, as well as hosting special live audience shows broadcast from around the UK.
Johnson said that GB News was “an insurgent channel with a loyal and growing following”. In a video on social media, he also promised to give “unvarnished views on everything from Russia, China, the war in Ukraine, and how we meet all of those challenges, to the huge opportunities that lie ahead for us”.
No details of his pay have been released by GB News, although it is likely he will be paid significantly more than former cabinet colleagues who already work for the station.
Former business secretary Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg is paid more than £29,000 per month for his work there — amounting to about 40 hours — according to the register of MPs interests. Lee Anderson, Conservative party deputy chair, is paid £100,000 annually by the channel.
Tory MP Esther McVey received £8,014 for presenting eight episodes of a current affairs programme in August, and £4,286 for presenting five episodes in September.
Johnson was castigated previously for breaking the rules that govern former ministers’ jobs when he became a columnist at the Daily Mail. For this latest position, he sought and gained the approval of the body that vets ex-officials’ appointments.
The advisory committee on business appointments said a role presenting at GB News did not “raise any particular concerns”, but warned Johnson to “manage the propriety” of his work as a broadcaster.
“As a former prime minister, you must be careful not to offer any unfair insight as a result of your access to information and potential influence in government,” he was told in a letter by Lord Eric Pickles, chair of the committee.
Lossmaking GB News has struggled to attract advertising since launch, with some Conservative MPs claiming the media group has been discriminated against by advertising agencies.
GB News is about 45 per cent owned by Marshall, who is among the bidders for the Telegraph newspaper and Spectator, which used to employ Johnson as a columnist. The former prime minister writes for the Daily Mail, which is owned by Lord Rothermere, another suitor for the Telegraph Media Group.