ANDREW Neil is to be the face and chair of a 24-hour right-leaning news channel aimed at those in the UK currently “underserved and unheard by their media”.

Called GB News, the channel will aim to rival the BBC and reportedly aims to plug a gap in UK broadcasting which is filled by the likes of MSNBC and Fox News in the USA.

The new TV channel should be launching in early 2021, but it is still to raise the estimated $60 million (£47m) it is seeking to fund the station.

As lead investor, American multinational pay television network Discovery has pledged roughly a quarter of its fundraising target.

As well as being appointed chairman, broadcaster and former Sunday Times editor Neil, 71, will be hosting four one-hour shows a week in primetime, leading the programming line-up.

He said: "GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years.

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"We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK, not just those living in the London area."

Political interviewer and publisher Neil recently dismissed speculation that he was in the running to be the next BBC chairman, saying on Twitter that he has "no interest in the job".

At a time when the BBC and commercial media companies are cutting jobs, GB News said it hopes to create at least 120 positions.

They include more than 100 journalists in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with the channel.

GB News will feature more than 6500 hours of content a year, made exclusively for the channel, which has secured broadcasting licences from Ofcom.

It has been founded by media executives Andrew Cole and Mark Schneider.

Writing on his LinkedIn page, Cole said he founded GB News to challenge the BBC “and other biased incumbent news channels”.

“GBN will rock the market,” he said.

The founders added: "Andrew Neil epitomises what GB News is all about.

"He's an exceptional journalist, brilliant interviewer and fearlessly independent."

The GB News station may also provide a home to other right-wing mavericks such as Nigel Farage, according to a Financial Times report.

They plan for the channel to reach 96% of British television households via Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.

GB News will broadcast seven days a week across the UK and Ireland and will be available globally on GB News digital platforms.

Sky launched a 24-hour news channel in 1989 and the BBC followed, in the UK, in 1997.

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Former Sky News executive editor John McAndrew will be director of news and programming and ex-Sky News Australia chief executive Angelos Frangopoulos has been appointed chief executive officer.

GB News said that more announcements will be made in the coming weeks.

In a statement, the BBC said: "We'd like to give our heartfelt thanks to Andrew for his many years of work for the BBC, during which he's informed and entertained millions of viewers.

"From his early broadcasting days on Despatch Box in the 1990s to his recent forensic and agenda-setting political interviews, he has proved a formidable and hugely talented broadcaster.

"For years, he was at the heart of the irreverent and much-loved This Week and played a key role in the Daily and Sunday Politics, Politics Live and the BBC's general election coverage.

"We wish Andrew every success in his new role; we're sorry the US election coverage will be his last BBC presentation work for the foreseeable future but he will always be welcome at the BBC."