The chief executive of ITV said she does not anticipate a “Foxification” of news in the UK despite the upcoming launches of two new right-of-centre news channels because of the prominence of public service broadcasters.
Carolyn McCall said that Fox News and CNN in the US are “equally polarised and equally kind of shrill and sometimes so partisan that you just don’t know what to believe”.
But in an age of hyperpolarisation with people entrenched in their views on Brexit or Donald Trump, the UK’s PSB broadcast requirements for impartiality, accuracy and fairness make it disciplined and “easier” to run a regulated news organisation like ITV News, McCall told LBC’s podcast What Next? with Lionel Barber.
Rupert Murdoch’s Sun and Times parent company News UK was last month granted a licence for a new TV channel which is expected to launch soon in competition with another new entrant to the market, GB News, led by former BBC heavyweight interviewer Andrew Neil.
Both are expected to take the model of a right-leaning opinionated-led format in the style of Fox News.
[Read more on the GB News launch: Why advertisers are positive about new anchor-led news channel for UK]
But McCall said: “The reason you won’t get a Foxification [in the UK] is because you have the PSBs, because the best and most watched news channels are the BBC and ITV. It’s nobody else”.
“I mean Sky does a very good news service [but] has much, much lower viewer numbers than the BBC and ITV and most importantly we do brilliant regions and nations news. We are very regional about what we do as well.”
Ex-FT editor Barber noted that the New York Times and Washington Post had also become “aggressive” in their reporting on Trump, which many critics also view as “slanted”.
McCall responded that the danger of opinionated news is “you’re just kind of replicating the algorithms, in some ways, of social media which those very newspapers criticise”.
“Because you’re creating echo chambers, you’re literally telling people, who are already believers, in what they believe.
“They’re not being given any other information to make judgments, to actually look at alternatives.”
McCall is pushing the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to update the Communications Act 2003 so that public service broadcasters must be given prominence on smart TVs and other online platforms – as Ofcom recommended in 2019.
She said this would ensure “we get value for the viewers we bring to those platforms, which they monetise in many, many, many other ways”.
She added that the Act must be “relevant to the 21st century, because if we lose what we’ve got in public service broadcasters, we will live to regret it as a country. It’s that big a deal”.
A DCMS Committee inquiry into the future of public service broadcasting amid the digital media landscape remains ongoing.
Listen to the LBC podcast What Next? with Lionel Barber on Global Player.
Picture: Parliament TV/PA Wire