For years, it seems that those people whose outlook is well to the right-of-centre have been exasperated by the liberal stance they perceived taken by our main TV broadcasters. Many wished for a channel more accommodating of their worldview. Now, like double-decker buses, two have rolled up more or less at the same time.
The deceitfully named GB News – there’s sod all news and it’s mostly about England – launched in June and quickly became a bit like a pub full of loud-mouthed Victor and Victoria Meldrews. And last month it was announced that early in 2022 another channel will cater for the amped-up serial carpers and hyper-opinionated among us, although at least it will have the more honest name of TalkTV.
So why have two double-deckers equipped with only right-turn indicators suddenly appeared? It seems to me that the narrow victory for Brexit in 2016 set pulses racing among a few conservative squillionaires, which quickened when Johnson won the so-called red wall Labour seats two years ago. They believe there might be a handsome profit in appealing to the sweet spots of Workington Man and Wakefield Woman. If not, I imagine they shrug, well at least it’ll keep the Tories in power and maintain the culture war on woke.
Hovering over these channels is the spectre of Fox News in the USA, which was specially created by Rupert Murdoch for a Republican-voting audience. Despite pandering to gun-toting, climate change denying, anti-vaxxer white supremacists, Fox News adopted a classic Orwellian slogan, “Fair and Balanced”. However, during Donald Trump’s White House tenure that slogan was quietly dumped, and since his defeat commentators have watched it shift even further to the right to counter Biden’s presidency.
I think it’s inevitable that GB News will become a cut-price Fox News clone. The former’s original frontman, Andrew Neil, flounced out after just a few weeks blaming frustration with shambolic technical problems. More likely though, he realised that his reputation as a ferocious non-partisan political interviewer would be trashed by being so closely identified with GB News.
His place has been taken by Nigel Farage. Conspiracy theorists, without whom GB News and Fox News would surely die, think this was the plan all along. Farage, of course, is to non-partisan views what the Sex Pistols were to nursery rhymes.
As for TalkTV, I would say Fox News is in its DNA since both are the creation of Rupert Murdoch. When it was announced last month TalkTV was said to “rival GB News in its political slant”. I read that as meaning they will both end up indulging right-wing crazies whose idea of a good time is watching bigots spouting forth from sofas. They will drive the agenda further and further to the right. When TalkTV finds itself in a ratings war with GB News who, I wonder, will Rupert Murdoch get to out-Farage Nigel Farage? That should trouble us all.
Weird things are happening to our broadcast media. As well as the arrival of two avowedly right-wing channels fighting for viewers, both the publicly owned BBC and Channel 4 are being leaned on by the government to be more compliant. As Mr Spock in Star Trek didn’t say, it’s TV, Jim, but not as we know it.