By Simon Gentry
Andrew Neil promised it would be the alternative, but it turned out to be the same, albeit in a different hue – a view of the world from only one perspective. He’s now retreated, and GB News seems to be turning into a televised version of LBC rather than the serious news channel that many thought had been promised. Giving Nigel Farage his own daily show has, for many, underscored the point. Britain, following rapidly behind the United States, seems now to have opinion-lead news, rather than traditional factual news reporting.
In contrast to GB News, and indeed the BBC and Sky News offerings, one of the most striking things when watching German or French television news – courtesy of Apple TV – is how little opinion there is. The journalist reports what has happened, the facts as it were, but they give no sense of what the journalist makes of it, there is no hint of how you as a viewer are supposed to react to the news. There is no Laura Kuenssberg standing outside the office of the Bundeskanzlerin der Bundesrepublik Deutschland opining that her office’s PR machine is misfiring. In the UK, by contrast, news seems to be personality-led opinion rather than factual reporting. It’s quite ‘Reithian’ in one way, but if you don’t subscribe to the BBC’s corporate world view you might feel rather alienated.
Radio offers a wider range of voices, from the call-in based LBC (a version of GB News but with better sound, sets and picture quality) to Times Radio which is very much like an aural version of the newspaper. If you like reading The Times you’ll feel very comfortable listening to the radio version as you do your washing up. Michael Portillo’s show on Saturday evenings and the Stig Abell and Aasmah Mir’s breakfast show are both very good. So, in the wake of the flameout at GB News, would, could News UK be tempted to try a version of Times TV?
Based on newspaper readership, there does appear to be a demographic group, those who read The Times, The Telegraph, The Spectator, etc. who apparently feel alienated by the BBC and Sky News offerings and are looking for an alternative. The hard facts however are that television news is expensive and requires a huge capital investment as well as seasoned technical professionals to produce. You’d need very deep pockets to create a product that attracts that demographic, attractive an audience as it may be.
All of that having been said, it may be that technology means a television news service per se is no longer needed. If you select well, Twitter can serve as a really good news service. If you avoid the howling crazies and choose to follow journalists – as opposed to commentators and professional controversialists – you can create a rich, source of fact-based news, much of which comes with pictures from witnesses at the scene. In a way I think we’re all becoming our own TV news curators/producers, choosing the sources we trust and forming my own views. Could that be the way things are? Will we all curate our own TV news one day?