News UK appears to be preparing to launch a Have I Got News For You-style satirical panel show on its upcoming channel TalkTV.
Plans for the programme, which will be live and feature guests, were revealed in a series of around 20 job adverts for the new channel posted by Sun and Times publisher News UK.
It was described by News UK as a “weeknight satirical news and current affairs talk show” and a “daily live late night satirical style show” with staff required to “see the humour in otherwise straight news stories”.
The roles on offer include a series editor, senior producer, producers and an assistant producer/researcher.
News UK declined to share any further information about TalkTV’s programming at this stage.
It has also not yet specified a launch date beyond “early in 2022”.
One of the longest-running satirical news shows in the UK is Have I Got News For You, which with panellists Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and comedian Paul Merton (pictured) has had a regular Friday night slot on first BBC Two from 1990 and then BBC One since 2000.
The show’s producer Richard Wilson told The Times in 2020 that it gets “flak from both sides” of the political debate, the level of which has increased “because people are just so touchy these days”.
He also shared a warning about having figures like Rod Liddle and Peter Hitchens alongside left-wing guests: “The problem with a lot of right-wing columnists is sometimes the atmosphere goes a bit sour,” he said. “If you have an opinionated columnist who is used to winning an argument, what you end up with is quite a feisty row which won’t necessarily have many laughs in it.”
The BBC cancelled news comedy show The Mash Report, hosted by comedian Nish Kumar, in March last year after four series following accusations it was too left-wing. The show was later picked up by comedy channel Dave and renamed Late Night Mash.
Other incumbents in the UK broadcast space include BBC Two’s Mock the Week on Thursday nights and Channel 4’s The Last Leg on Friday evenings. Both riff on the week’s news but with a more specifically comedic bent.
In radio, BBC Radio 4 leads the market with weekly programmes The Now Show and The News Quiz.
News UK is currently on a hiring spree for TalkTV, with around 20 roles being advertised as of Thursday.
It is also recruiting for a planning producer for a nightly debate show to feature a “headline-making” panel of topical guests.
Three roles are also being advertised for Piers Morgan’s live primetime evening show, which will also air on the Fox Nation streaming service in the US and Sky News in Australia.
Morgan, the first big-name hire for TalkTV, signed a deal – also including weekly Sun and New York Post columns, the rights to his next book and a series of true crime documentaries – that could make him the UK’s best-paid journalist.
Jobs being advertised for his show, which News UK said “promises to be a fearless forum for lively debate and agenda-setting interviews”, include a scriptwriter, producers, and a senior planning producer.
Several ITV daytime staff, including some who worked with Morgan on Good Morning Britain, have already been poached by TalkTV. They include GMB series director Erron Gordon who has been hired as executive creative director and head of studio output for News UK Broadcasting, Loose Women director and ex-GMB director Oliver Gardner who is joining as Gordon’s deputy, GMB assistant editor Ben Briscoe who will be Morgan’s series editor, and Winnie Dunbar Nelson who is a long-time colleague of Morgan’s at GMB and CNN and has joined as executive editor, TV.
The TalkTV jobs on offer also include a number of specialist and technical roles including a senior director, head of sound, head of lighting, head of cameras, vision mixer, floor sound assistant, gallery production assistant, production runner/assistant floor manager, TV operations manager, and production manager.
News UK originally scrapped plans for a TV channel in early 2021 after a review found it would not be “commercially viable”. However it resurrected the plans after the launch of GB News, with Rupert Murdoch seemingly feeling he could do better.
One of the roles being recruited is a TV monetisation lead, with the remit of driving the new channel’s commercial success. The appointee will “collaborate closely with our content, social and technology teams as well as the digital, programmatic and creative solutions sales teams to maximise revenue,” the job advert said.
Another role will see TalkTV’s news bulletins co-ordinated with those of its radio stations Talkradio, Talksport, Talksport 2, Times Radio and Virgin Radio under a new head of news.
Picture: Hat Trick/Ray Burmiston/BBC