The opportunity for a new era in UK television begins in the studios of LBC, a radio station that has reviewed and effectively expanded UK legal broadcast news balance requirements. Rather than offering recitations of news developments in the middle, the network offers conflict and sometimes heated debates on issues. The station thrived in the long run-up to Brexit, making it clear to broadcasters that they could give up their starchy customs and reflect more partisan passions – as long as the stations didn’t have just one political side.
Now the television is ready to fill the space LBC opened. Possibly the most ambitious player in this new arena is Andrew Neil, a Scot who transformed the Sunday Times for Mr. Murdoch in the 1980s before becoming one of the BBC’s most formidable interviewers. He’s a conservative, but his style shares almost nothing with his right-wing American counterparts, who take turns throwing pampering questions at Republican politicians and obliterating obscure liberals who foolishly wandered onto their sets. Mr Neil is an equal opportunity interrogator and perhaps best known in the United States for raising Conservative Ben Shapiro in 2019. In the 2019 UK election, Tory Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to interview him.
Recognition…David M. Benett / Getty Images
I reached out to Mr Neil at his home on the French Riviera where he was weathering the pandemic and preparing to launch a new 24 hour cable duct network, GB News, this spring. When I called he saw “MSNBC Live with Craig Melvin”. “I think there are things to learn about programming and the graphics are very strong,” he said of the left-wing American broadcaster. “In terms of formatting and style, I think MSNBC and Fox are the two templates we follow.”
Mr Neil raised £ 60 million (approximately $ 83 million) to start the channel, including investments from American giant Discovery and hedge fund manager Paul Marshall. (Mr. Marshall’s son is independently taking time out from playing the banjo with Mumford and Sons to “investigate my blind spots” after praising a far-right book on Twitter.) Neil said he expected these In sum, the network will last for at least three years, although by the standards of American cable news it is a minor thing.
He said he had planned to hire around 100 journalists, a fraction of the more than 2,000 on the BBC, but he had tried to capture the resentment of the London-centered media by broadcasting many of them from their hometowns in the north. The station will rely on other news services for its breaking news and focus its resources on producing American-style news programs that are personality-determined. But he said he would not follow American law into outlandish conspiracy theories, and he has denounced Donald Trump’s claim that he won the US election.
“I don’t think there is an appetite for ridiculous conflict in Britain,” said Neil. Even so, he plans to wear a segment on his own prime-time show called “Woke Watch” where he can make fun of what he sees as progressive excesses. As an example, he cited a recent report that UK nurses were told they could use the word “breastfeeding” instead of “breastfeeding” to include transgender people.