Andrew Neil has praised leading broadcasters including the BBC amid the invasion of Ukraine, saying they do “a much better job than all those idiots on Twitter”.
Neil made the comments as news outlets adapt to covering an increasingly protracted conflict in Ukraine.
Neil was speaking at an event on Tuesday in the newsroom of “slow news” outlet Tortoise, organised to outline the organisation’s plans for the next year.
The former BBC political presenter is due to front a podcast with Tortoise to be released later in spring. The podcast, “Backstory”, will see Neil interview “people in power to better understand what’s driving events at home and abroad”, according to Tortoise.
Asked by Tortoise co-founder James Harding how his view of the news media had changed against a background of recent global change, Neil praised the industry.
“The news media, on actual reporting, when things are serious, does a great job. A much better job than all those idiots on Twitter who keep on talking about ‘the mainstream media’,” he said.
“I mean, the only reason they know anything that’s accurate is because they’re reading the mainstream media.
“Do we get it wrong? Yes, we do. But by and large, a decent mainstream media does never get things wrong intentionally, and when it gets it wrong, it corrects it. That’s what we do. And if we don’t, we don’t deserve to be in our jobs.”
Neil singled out European and American broadcasters, including his former employer the BBC, for praise.
“If you look at some of the reporting from Ukraine at the moment, from the BBC, from Sky, from NBC, from Deutsche Welle, even actually from Fox – which isn’t actually a newsgathering operation, it’s opinion – but you know, they’ve lost a cameraman, they’ve lost a young reporter. They’ve been on the front, their reports have been excellent. Along with MSNBC too.
“That’s a great job, I think, because the effort is so great to keep up – you know, we’re getting on top of the pandemic when we immediately have to do a quick history of Ukraine and get people out there and risk lives and so on.”
Neil departed the BBC in September 2020 to launch anti-“woke” broadcaster GB News but left the new channel three months after it launched. Most recently, in January he presented a Channel 4 documentary titled: “Boris Johnson: Has he run out of road?”
Asked by Harding for advice conducting an interview, Neil said: “I think it depends on the kind of interview you want to do. Because not all interviews are the same.
“Though, I was [at the BBC with] Jeremy Paxman, who was a brilliant interviewer but he only ever did one kind of interview – which is basically, ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’. If he was interviewing his granny, it’s the same question!”
Neil distinguished between interviews that were conversational, those that were informative, and “the tougher, and in many ways the more liked interview, which is more robust because you are holding people to account who are running, or who want to run, our country.
“And if that’s what they want to do, that’s fine. That’s what a democracy is. But they need to be tested hard to try and show the voters that they know what they’re talking about. And if they don’t, they need to be exposed.”
Interviewees for Neil’s Tortoise podcast have not yet been announced. However, Neil mentioned in his talk that immediately afterward he would be recording an interview with neoconservative Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan.
Neil is one of several big names Tortoise has brought on board since earlier this year securing £10m in new funding.
The increasingly audio-focused venture announced at Tuesday’s event an electric car review podcast, “Electric Dreams”, which will star comedian Mel Giedroyc alongside world affairs editor Giles Whittell.
Also appearing at the event was Caroline Criado Perez, author of the bestselling book “Invisible Women” and host of another upcoming Tortoise podcast, “Visible Women”. The podcast hopes to find solutions to the habitual designing of the environment and statistical models around men.
Picture: Tortoise screenshot
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