TalkTV review: A strong start for Murdoch-backed channel

News without the boring bits: A strong start for TalkTV

TalkTV

There was no pompous opening monologue for TalkTV. Launch news anchor Tom Newton Dunn just said briskly: “Straight talking and straight reporting starts here, I’ll be bringing you the news every night – so let’s get on with it.”

Then it was into a fairly conventional hour-long news programme, albeit a tad more tabloid in approach than existing broadcasters.

He was up against Nigel Farage on GB News, Dermot Murnaghan on Sky, Outside Source and Ros Atkins on the BBC News Channel and the ITV Evening News and Channel 4 News bulletins.

The News Desk distinguished itself from the competition immediately with two exclusives: interviews with the family of the UK soldier captured in Ukraine Aiden Aislin and a former royal aide who said Prince Andrew “lunged” at her when she was 21.

Overall TalkTV looks a lot like Fox News and it felt just as slick.

Tom Newton Dunn and Sunday Times Middle East correspondent Louise Callaghan on the first night of TalkTV.

For coverage of breaking news that four people had been stabbed to death in south east London TalkTV had a correspondent and crew at the scene.

The mother and brother of Aiden Aislin were in the studio alongside Newton Dunn to make their plea for his release and for Facebook to remove video released by Russia of the captive from its site.

Newton Dunn was able to draw on News UK’s network of journalistic talent, like Sunday Times Middle East correspondent Louise Callaghan reporting from Turkey, TalkTV political editor Kate McCann updating on the Angela Rayner/Mail on Sunday sexism story, and Sun on Sunday showbiz reporter Hannah Hope in the studio to talk about the latest Downton Abbey movie.

It all felt like a breath of fresh air compared with the Zoom interviews which seem to dominate much rolling news as a hangover from pandemic lockdowns.

Newton Dunn told Press Gazette the show would not be right-wing and he was good to his word, meeting every story with a straight bat. Although time will tell whether political bias seeps through (as it does with tabloid newspapers) by selecting stories which promote a particular world view.

The final third of the programme felt like the weakest section: discussion of the news featuring Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar (who?), political editor McCann and Sun deputy editor James Slack. It felt like this part needed big personalities from outside the newsroom who can spark off each other and have a bit of a ding dong (like Andrew Pierce and Kevin Maguire on the Sky papers review).

Overall though, Newton Dunn comes across as a TV natural (hard to believe he has never done it before), like a less patronising version of ITV’s Tom Bradby – so basically the perfect presenter in my book.

Piers Morgan’s opening monologue to introduce his daily 8pm show “Uncensored” was a lighthearted dig against “woke snow flakery” as he declared his show a “no cancel zone”. Thank goodness he finally has a platform to put these views across on TV in the UK, US and Australia; online, in print and on the radio.

It was reminiscent of the “political correctness gone mad” shtick which Piers would have grown up with under Kelvin MacKenzie on in his early tabloid days at The Sun (read our Piers Morgan interview from this week here for more on his background).

Time will tell how you continue a show whose defining feature is anti-cancel culture without providing a platform for nut jobs.

That said, few would turn down an interview with Donald Trump which was a genuine world exclusive and filled with fascinating insights into the man who could well be the next president of the US.

It was a promising start for Piers whose energy, enthusiasm and sense of mischief kept it fizzing along for the hour.

The real test of the show will come when it settles into a more normal rhythm after the first two Trump interview special episodes. Will Piers find enough wokery to rage against every day? And will the producers be able to find enough star interviewees to maintain the wow factor?

The final hour at 9pm offered life after cancellation for Jeremy Kyle and Sharon Osbourne (the former was a surprise reveal as co-presenter).

Kyle’s daily ITV show was cancelled three years ago after one of his guests committed suicide. In an earlier case a judge described the Kyle show as a “human form of bear baiting” and producers of the show had been accused of making guests distressed for entertainment. Welcome back Jeremy.

Osbourne lost her job on CBS show The Talk last year after defending Piers Morgan over his allegations about the behaviour of Meghan Markle.

Other than the two hosts the panel was lacking star names and felt like something to switch on after pub closing time rather than at 9pm when there is so much else to choose from on the TV dial. Without a news hook this show felt the closest to existing fare on GB News.

But overall, this felt like a strong start for TalkTV: the news, without the boring bits, presented with broadcast razzmatazz and backed by real reporting.

The challenge will be how it appeals to the target demographic of Brexit voting, anti-immigration, possibly vaccination and global warming skeptic off-duty taxi drivers without disappearing down the political rabbit hole with them.

I exaggerate, but TalkTV is targeting those who have turned off from mainstream news broadcasters because they don’t like what they see (which is, for the most part, objective reality). Like Fox News in the US, and GB News in the UK, they may be looking for a channel that reinforces their beliefs rather than challenges them.

Picture: TalkTV screenshot

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Author: Dominic Ponsford

Dominic Ponsford is the editor of Press Gazette

Comments

5 thoughts on “News without the boring bits: A strong start for TalkTV”

  1. I was thrilled when it was announced Piers was back with Freedom of speech as well, but I am disappointed , he must have a host who does not always agree with him and he must interview people with a different view to him, That brings out the best in him, just ranting into camera is SO BORING

  2. How refreshing to watch a new & interesting tv channel, nothing like the GB news. Good presenters & serious topics discussed by intelligent people & politicians.

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