First night heebie-GBs: Britain’s anti-woke news channel takes to the air

Production foibles aren't the new "patriotic" news channel's biggest problem.

First night heebie-GBs: Britain’s anti-woke news channel takes to the air

Otto English is the pen name used by Andrew Scott, a writer and playwright based in London.

LONDON — It was the opening night of GB News, the U.K.’s latest free digital news channel. But rather than being able to sit back and enjoy the anti-woke agenda, I was spending a good part of my evening adjusting my TV set.

Things had started well — if you like a lot of Andrew Neil talking to the camera.

Whatever your view of him, the veteran BBC broadcaster is very good at grand set pieces and, as chairman of GB News, he delivered. He welcomed viewers, promising that the channel would “give a voice to those who felt sidelined or even silenced in our great national debates.”

The message was clear — even if the image quality sometimes wasn’t. Like Fox News in the United States, GB News will seek to be the patriotic alternative to the established landscape — a riposte to those doom-mongering, oat-milk-sipping, quinoa-munching hacks at the BBC who spend their days making everyone sad by telling them what is really going on in the world.

Invoking his inner Churchill, Neil declared that “we are committed to covering the people’s agenda, not the media’s agenda,” that “we will not lecture you or talk down,” that “GB News will not be another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset” and, most of all, that “we are proud to be British, the clue is in the name.”

Soon the channel’s new anti-metropolitan presenters were being given their moment under the studio lights, describing how they were going to help Neil — veteran BBC political journalist and former editor of the Sunday Times — take on the establishment.

There was a former ITV newsreader, a former Sky news anchor, a former BBC newsreader and a former BBC archaeology presenter familiar to anyone who watches a lot of the Yesterday channel.

The anti-establishment former Supreme Court Judge Lord Sumption, OBE, PC, FSA popped up to tell us how dreadful lockdowns were. The anti-establishment career politician Nigel Farage dropped by to say how dreadful lockdowns were.

An hour in and Dan Wootton, a former executive editor of the Sun was agreeing with them and sharing his views on — yes — lockdowns (he’s against!).

There was a paradox here. Poll after poll has shown that the British public broadly support lockdowns and other COVID-19 measures they deem necessary. Yet here, viewers were being told to think otherwise. This was not “the people’s agenda” at all — rather a tiny group of very influential and powerful people pushing their own unscientific hobbyhorse.

Fox hunting

The dreary monotony was broken by some welcome moments of unintentional comedy — most notably when Apprentice host Alan Sugar dialled in a sort of hostage video from what looked like the storage cabinet in a batik factory.

At another point, a member of the production team could be heard whispering: “Well, I don’t know!”

The picture quality was hazy from the start. Like kettle steam on your glasses. Or a poorly maintained VHS video of a 1980s wedding.

At times the audio seemed to be out of sync with the presenters’ mouths. On at least one occasion the sound cut out altogether, and we were briefly left with “silent news.”

Was this deliberate? A nod to the good old days of Pathé newsreels, perhaps.

There has long been talk of a U.K.-style “Fox News” coming to these shores. Last year it was reported that media mogul Rupert Murdoch was planning a rival channel, UKTV News — but back in April it was ditched because it was deemed it did not make commercial sense.

That announcement clearly did not dent the enthusiasm of GB News’ overseas backers who perhaps see the divided post-Brexit U.K. media landscape as ripe pickings for a hard-hitting American-news-style format. But the problem is that the U.K. media landscape is not akin to the Wild West of U.S. cable television — where almost anything goes.

Here, OFCOM guidelines insist that:

“News, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and presented with due impartiality.”

And that’s going to be a huge problem for a self-styled anti-woke, patriotic news channel.

While Neil has insisted there will be balance and high journalistic standards, there was very little of that on display on the first night’s viewing.

The idea itself might — as Murdoch and his people calculated — be fundamentally flawed. Patriotic news is meaningless. It’s like demanding “patriotic weather forecasts” or “patriotic sport results.”

A few hiccups on the first night might be expected — but the channel has a far bigger problem going on.

This was the very definition of echo chamber TV. There was little debate and no drama or conflict on display. Ultimately, though, its greatest failing was that it was unforgivably dull.

Far be it for me to give Neil advice. But unless he can hire in some clickbaity, charismatic headlining acts and dissenting voices, the U.K.’s answer to Fox News looks set to be television roadkill.

And who wants to consume that?

Source : Politico EU More   

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Boris Johnson announces four-week delay to full exit from lockdown in England

Restrictions had been due to lift on June 21 but scientists are concerned about the spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus.

Boris Johnson announces four-week delay to full exit from lockdown in England

LONDON — Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to the end of lockdown in England as the Delta variant of coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through parts of the country.

The prime minister said “it is sensible to wait just a little longer” in a Downing Street press conference after returning from the NATO summit in Brussels.

“We cannot simply eliminate coronavirus, we must learn to live with it,” he added. “Even if the link between infection and hospitalization has been weakened, it has not been severed.”

“Now is the time to ease off the accelerator,” he said, to give time for the NHS to vaccinate more of the adult population.

Remaining public health restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21, but the government’s scientific advisers have raised concerns that further reopening would trigger a dangerous rise in hospitalizations. 

Johnson insisted he was “confident” there would be no further delays despite the first break with the government’s planned road map for full easing of the rules.

The government will also reduce the interval between vaccine doses for over 40s, amid concerns that a single jab does not provide sufficient protection.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine offers 92 percent protection, according to new analysis by Public Health England.

Data suggests the Delta variant — which was first detected in India — is between 40 percent and 80 percent more transmissible than earlier forms of the virus, and in a third of the country infections are doubling every week.

The prime minister decided on an exemption for weddings, which will not have a limit on the number of guests as long as indoor venues observe social distancing and offer table service.

There are currently no plans to revisit support for businesses, with the furlough scheme due to taper off before coming to an end in September.

Pilots involving large events will continue, the prime minister’s spokesman told journalists earlier, adding that attendance at the Euro 2020 football tournament would not be affected by the halt on complete reopening.

The government is expected to reexamine the data on July 5 and decide whether to go ahead with the full delay of four weeks or potentially extend it further.

Earlier, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle issued a furious rebuke to Downing Street for holding a press conference on the changes without informing MPs of the changed plans to the reopening timetable first.

Hoyle accused No. 10 of “riding roughshod” over parliament in a way that was “totally unacceptable” and said he would be seeking a meeting with the prime minister.

Seventy-one percent of people support the extension of COVID measures, according to a snap poll by YouGov. 

However, Johnson is already facing a backlash from members of his own party who are demanding to know what level of vaccination in the general population will be considered safe. 

A parliamentary clash is being cued up for later week, when the government will have to seek MPs’ approval for extending the current rules which would otherwise expire on June 30.

The opposition Labour Party will back the extension, despite its leader Keir Starmer criticizing what he called the government’s “pathetic” border policy, which he said had contributed to the rise in infections.

This article has been updated.

Source : Politico EU More   

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