“What big teeth you have, grandma!” ITV News boss claims Britain won’t get its own Fox News... and waits to be eaten.
Listen to talkRADIO for 15 minutes and then claim that hyper-partisan news isn’t already here.
|Mic Wright||Dec 5, 2020||1|
Lionel Barber was editor of the Financial Times. Now he has a podcast. ‘What Next? with Lionel Barber’ is as pretentious as you might expect, with Barber opening each episode intoning portentously over music that would be better used in a mid-budget Netflix series about a US president taking down some terrorists with just the contents of the Resolute desk and his Navy Seal training.
His latest guest is the ITV Chief of Executive, Dame Carolyn McCall, who matches Barber’s level of self-regard, boastful expression for boastful expression. McCall, who rose up through the Guardian Media Group from Research Planner to Chief Executive. She speaks in bromides and slogans with the edges filed away. To her TV is about “connecting” and “being customer-focused.” Selling television programmes — Love Island and I’m A Celebrity… among them — is no different to her previous job flogging flights as the boss of EasyJet.
She tells Barber that she is not afraid of the imminent arrival of News UK’s new channel and its instant rival GB News, which has Andrew Neil as chairman and signed up to front a hefty slice of its own partisan programming. With the chirpy complacency of a woman walking through a wolf-infested forest who believes they’re just big dogs with a slightly bad attitude, she’s certain that the UK will not witness a FoxNewsification of the news environment. It’s as though she doesn’t realise that talkRadio, Times Radio, and LBC are already gnawing at her ankles:
“The reason you won’t get a Foxification [in the UK] is because you have the Public Service Broadcasters, because the best and most-watched news channels are the BBC and ITV. It’s nobody else. I mean Sky does a very good news service but it has much, much lower viewer numbers than the BBC and ITV, and most importantly we do brilliant regions and nations news. We are very regional about what we do as well.”
She goes on to claim that every single Public Service Broadcaster tries “incredibly hard to be impartial”. That’s laughable if you’ve ever watched ITV News at Ten’s Tom Bradby gushingly interview his old friend Prince William, or consumed even a few minutes of any report by Robert Peston or Laura Kuenssberg.
These broadcasters give an impression of impartiality but within a structure that only accepts certain viewpoints. It’s about as convincing as Matt Forde’s ‘impressions’ on the execrable new Spitting Image, one of the flagship shows on McCall’s major project as ITV Chief Executive, the BBC/Channel 4/ITV collab streaming service Britbox.
Wouldn’t true impartiality accept the premise of abolishing the monarchy and establishing a republic being discussed more often? ITV News can’t do that. Tom Bradby doesn’t want to upset his pals and his editors don’t want to miss out on those lovely exclusives with Britain’s expensive equivalent of the Kardashians.
What McCall wants most is for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to update the Communications Act (2003) to protect and promote public service broadcasting on smart TVs and online platforms. Given that DCMS under sentient potato Oliver Dowden is never happier than when it’s beating the BBC with a big stick, she’s basically asking the foxes to fix up the hen house. They’ll smile and nod at her, while all the while having yolk, blood and feathers smeared around their mouths.
It is staggeringly complacent to think that the as-yet-officially-unnamed News UK channel — Rupert Murdoch reestablishing himself in UK TV news after the sales of Sky News — and the GB News, with its name like something out of an Alan Moore dystopia, will not have any effect on the media climate.
Using The Times, Sunday Times, talkRadio, and Times Radio, News UK is waging a daily war on public sector broadcasters, especially the BBC. GB News has snatched up Andrew Neil from the BBC among others from across existing news organisations, with an explicit plan to batter the Beeb, ITV News and Channel 4 News equally.
The government, which is already doing end runs around traditional broadcasters with Facebook Live events hosted by the Prime Minister and the recruitment of Allegra Stratton to be an on-camera spokesperson, wants an increasingly partisan broadcasting culture. It respects public sector broadcasting about as much as Boris Johnson respects marriage vows and Jacob Rees-Mogg respects maintaining human form.
The wolves are circling but McCall — Little Miss Red Riding Good Share Options — doesn’t care to look at them too closely. Their teeth may look a little red, but red’s in this season, and hey, didn’t the wolves assure her that they really like all that work ITV News has done in telling grandma about how to bake tasty apple pies?
There’s no way the wolves would gobble the public sector broadcasters in one gulp, is there? After all, they promised not to and if you can’t trust Boris Johnson’s promises, what can you trust?