In our June article about the state of television news in the UK, we pondered on the future of the newly-launched GB News and how it might fit in given Ofcom’s impartiality rules. Within two weeks, and after fronting just eight programmes, the channel’s Chairman, Andrew Neil, had scurried back to his French home and has now resigned from his post altogether. The BBC reports say that he will stay on as “an occasional commentator“, but will anyone want to listen to his comments?
Even the channel’s supposed new saviour, a certain Nigel Farage, has seen the blunting of his initial spike, losing over half of his audience after a couple of weeks. He now attracts less than 50,000 viewers. How many of these viewers are waiting to pounce and report the channel to Ofcom for breaching impartiality rules remains to be seen. Interestingly, Mr Neil didn’t even mention his resignation when he briefly appeared on Mr Farage’s show, preferring to comment about Chinese influence on UK universities.
Real news – on Dave?
For people on the opposite spectrum of politics looking for news, that seems to have moved to Dave. Probably the most insightful news summary on television can now be found on Nish Kumar’s Mash Report (Thursday 10pm). It even deals with impartiality by including one of the very few right-wing comedians, Geoff Norcott. Why the original show was cancelled by the BBC will probably never be known, but I for one am overjoyed to see it back on our screens. Oddly, Dave is part of UK TV which is actually owned by, erm, the BBC.
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News or sports news?
Trying to follow news over the summer has been especially difficult. On the BBC, half – or sometimes nearly all – of news programmes have consistently been given over to sports news. Some news items seem to have been completely ignored, or perhaps given a passing few seconds.
Forgive me if I’m wrong, but why haven’t we heard about the crisis in Madagascar in far more detail? That’s if you’ve heard about it at all. Perhaps then you might understand why climate change protesters think it worthwhile to block the M25 or take other measures.
Given BBC Breakfast’s propensity towards sports rather than actual news, some of us have looked elsewhere for our morning fix. Good Morning Britain seems to be more focused on getting people to enter their competitions. And it might just be bad luck on our part, but every time we switch on, Andi Peters is there. I suppose it’s better than waking up to Piers Morgan.
Thankfully we are no longer a one – or even five – channel country. But Ofcom’s television rules ensure an impartiality that other media lack. Or, at least, they ought to. We should cherish this before we lose it, but with younger people no longer choosing TV as their main news source, perhaps it’s already too late.
As we pointed out last time, Freeview offers a very random selection of news channels. The current, rather paltry, offering consists of BBC News, Murdoch’s Sky News, Putin’s Russia Today, and Qatari-based Al Jazeera.
But these days, perhaps many of us look to the internet for news channels. These are far less regulated and, as we all know, the internet can be a very scary place indeed. But then again, how scary is watching Nigel Farage?