What will the British Fox News look like? Nigel Farage smirking in your face forever

It will happen. It will succeed. And the BBC will struggle to combat it.

With his face for radio and demeanour best suited to a dictatorship, Nigel Farage would not be my first choice to front a TV station, but with News UK’s plans for a British version of Fox News moving apace, it’s likely he’ll get his dream of smearing his views, like so much effluent, across our TV screens.

Since being bounced from LBC for being too racist for even them, Farage has found a happy berth in videos for The Sun and guest spots on TalkRadio, the official station of that bloke in the pub who insists on telling you there are ‘too many bloody immigrants’. That’s all just a holding pattern before the ‘British Fox News’, as yet unnamed, makes its debut.

And, since we live in the flaming garbage timeline, there’s already a rival to the News UK effort in the works. The brainchild of Sir Robbie Gibb, ex-BBC and formerly Theresa May’s consistently incompetent communications chief, GB News — could it sound any more like a parody of a fascist TV station in an Alan Moore comic? — has been trailed by a big story in The Daily Mail which begins:

A former Downing Street adviser is behind a secret new project to set up an ‘impartial’ television news channel to rival the crisis-hit BBC, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

Sir Robbie Gibb – who was a senior BBC executive before becoming Theresa May’s director of communications at No 10 – is spearheading a drive to raise funds for GB News.

The 24-hour station, due to launch early next year, aims to capitalise on growing discontent over the BBC, with sources describing it as an antidote to the ‘woke, wet’ Corporation.

Well, that certainly sounds impartial, doesn’t it? In the same way that wasps sound reasonable and Darren Grimes sound intelligent. I mention the moronic megaphone in human form because there’s almost a 100% certainty that he will be roped in by one or other of these UK Fox News efforts to be the ‘voice of youth’, despite the majority of his fans being pensioners who don’t speak to their own grandchildren.

Sir Robbie — knighthood for services to obsequious bootlicking — has already secured an Ofcom licence for GB News. It will squat in an ungainly fashion somewhere on Freeview but is likely to benefit from lavish coverage from News UK’s rivals, like the Daily Mail, who will be eager to give an alternative to a new Murdoch outlet some press. A spokesperson for GB News — most likely Robbie Gibb in a funny wig — told the Daily Mail:

‘The channel will be a truly impartial source of news, unlike the woke, wet BBC. It will deliver the facts, not opinion dressed up as news. Everyone who works for GB News will have total commitment to quality journalism, to factual reporting and to impartiality.”

I like a chuckle as much as the next person but that satire of a quarter-witted freeze peach activist with tattooed knuckles and a difficult relationship with the Child Support Agency is just too on the nose for me.

It’s not surprising that Gibb, who has carved a nice little niche for himself in slagging off the BBC at every turn, as if it did not pay him a hefty sum to strut around Westminster like a cockerel in heat, thinks that raging on about ‘wokeists’ while claiming his channel will be impartial isn’t contradictory. While he has a head like the Mekon, the brain within does not pulsate with anywhere near the power; he has all the malevolence but none of the moves.

Meanwhile, BBC News big beast like Nick Robinson are openly quaking at the prospect of two more news channels to battle. While Sky News has become more pluralist and delivered higher quality output since it slipped the yolk of Murdoch, these new outfits will likely push the impartiality rules to their very limits, enabled by a government that looks certain to abolish those restrictions altogether for commercial channels, while keeping the BBC firmly leashed to them.

During the Brexit referendum campaign and the most recent two election campaigns, BBC News has attempted to bow and curtsey to the right in the hope that the Tories will be kind to it. It’s the equivalent of brushing an alligator’s teeth in the hope that your assistance with its oral hygiene will mean that it won’t bite your arm off.

With a solidly Tory new Director-General incoming, the corporation is about to further genuflect to the government while the Tory Party continues to manoeuvre to make its life harder and slice more and more money from its budgets while demanding that it make more programmes and serve more audiences.

Like Times Radio, TalkRadio, and LBC, the new UK Fox News-style channels will succeed. Not simply on a ratings level — that matters less — but by pushing the overall discourse in the direction of their right-wing owners and forcing BBC News into ever more difficult corners.

In the culture war — constructed whole cloth by the right-wing news operators and their associates in the think-tanks — the BBC has a pop-gun and the right-wing broadcasters and newspapers have heavy artillery.

The BBC’s whole culture and history do not set it up to move quickly or fight back against these attacks. Instead, it simply waves its arms around and begs that it is good value and doing its best. The sharks smell blood in the water and the BBC can’t find a tourniquet. It’s going to be a lot messier.


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