The biggest UK media stories of 2019: From Brexitcast on TV to Lionel Barber's last days at FT - Press Gazette

The biggest UK media stories of 2019: From Brexitcast on TV to Lionel Barber's last days at FT

A year is a long time in news and 2019 gave us a lot to write about, from fresh ideas to save journalism to the launch of Apple News Plus and the tragic death of a journalist on British soil.

Over 12 months titans of the news industry bowed out while others took up new challenges, news channels were ambitiously launched, a podcast became a TV show, and the royals declared war on the press.

As the climate crisis gained traction more and more publishers shunned plastic wrapping for greener alternatives. Podcast numbers grew while journalist numbers fell and yet more print titles closed.

And finally press regulator IPSO made a decision on whether photoshopping a flat cap onto a parrot was a breach of editorial guidelines.

Below are some of the biggest – and quirkiest – news media stories of 2019, as reported by Press Gazette:


Viewers back Fiona Bruce after ‘impressive’ Question Time debut

Fiona Bruce on the set of Question Time. Picture: BBC

Fiona Bruce presented her first episode of BBC Question Time after taking over from long-standing host David Dimbleby. Press Gazette readers voted overwhelmingly that the newsreader had “smashed” her QT debut.

Also this month:

Facebook pledges new scam ads feature in UK plus £3m to charity after settling defamation claim with Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis

BBC Politics Live boss Rob Burley says balancing every show across political parties would be ‘really boring’

Ministry of Justice staff called Buzzfeed UK reporter ‘bitch’ and ‘crazy’ in internal messages after leaked report story


A Private War director says film is an ‘homage’ to Marie Colvin and journalists ‘fighting for the truth’

Rosamund Pike as Marie Colvin in A Private War

Sunday Times war reporter Marie Colvin was immortalised on film seven years after she was killed in a rocket attack while reporting on the conflict in Syria. A Private War covers the last ten years of her life as she struggles to reconcile her desire to report on conflicts with her ability to live with the trauma of what she sees.

Also this month:

Cairncross Review: Institute for Public Interest News, innovation fund and tax reliefs among nine proposals to save UK news industry

‘Fake news’ inquiry: MPs call for new ethics code for social media firms overseen by regulator able to issue large fines

BBC Scotland’s The Nine aims to cover all ‘shades of opinion’ on Brexit and deliver the news ‘through Scotland’s eyes’

BBC axes This Week as presenter Andrew Neil ‘bows out’ from late-night politics show

Telegraph to report details of allegations against Topshop boss Sir Philip Green after £3m injunction dropped

Sky News Raw: What you might have missed from live behind-the-scenes newsroom broadcast


Apple launches news and digital magazine subscription service with more than 300 titles

Apple News Plus launch

Apple announced a major move into the newspaper and magazine subscription market with the launch of Apple News Plus, offering access to 300 titles. When it arrived in the UK later in the year, subscribers could read The Times, Sunday Times and Empire magazine.

Also this month:

The Pool pushed into liquidation two months after administration note to staff

News agency’s $11m libel action against Buzzfeed dismissed by US judge

European publishers welcome new digital copyright directive passed by EU Parliament

Britain’s top anti-terror cop attacks newspapers over ‘publishing uncensored’ extremist propaganda

John Inverdale leaves BBC Radio 5 Live after 25 years at channel he helped launch

Mosque massacre: Social media battles to remove terror attack videos as press face criticism over coverage


Journalist Lyra McKee, 29, shot dead during Derry rioting

Lyra McKee. Picture: Excalibur Press

Lyra McKee became the first journalist to be killed on British soil in nearly 20 years after she was shot dead by paramilitary group the New IRA while reporting on rioting in Derry, Northern Ireland.

Also this month:

Belgian media group agrees €145.6m takeover of Irish news publisher INM

Fleet Street cover-up: Daily Star cans topless page three models

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange facing jail time and US extradition after London embassy arrest

White Paper: Government proposes tough new online safety laws as it warns firms the ‘era of self-regulation is over’

Cumberland News journalists lose accuracy complaint against their own newspaper

FT reaches 1m paying readership on back of ‘strong business performance’


Jailed Reuters pair freed by presidential pardon after 500 days behind bars in Myanmar

Reuters reporters Wa Lone left) and Kyaw Soe Oo gesture as they walk to Insein prison gate after being freed by presidential pardon in Yangon, Myanmar, May 7, 2019. Pictures: Reuters/Ann Wang

Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were released under presidential pardon after more than a year spent in a Myanmar jail. They had been convicted of breaching the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act while investigating the massacre of ten Rohingya men in the country, but always maintained that they had been set up by police.

Also this month:

PA editor condemns attacks on journalists by Tommy Robinson supporters outside Old Bailey

Danny Baker labels BBC sacking over royal baby chimp tweet a ‘masterclass of pompous faux-gravity’

Guardian group meets target to break even at end of three-year financial turnaround plan

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sentenced to 50 weeks in UK prison for skipping bail


BBC turning Brexit podcast into late-night TV show replacing This Week

The Brexitcast team, from left: Chris Mason, Laura Kuenssberg, Adam Fleming and Katya Adler Picture: BBC News

In a UK media first, the BBC announced it was turning its hit podcast about Brexit into a late-night TV show, filling the gap left behind by This Week. Brexitcast’s TV debut was later watched by more than 1m viewers.

Also this month:

Reuters Digital News Report 2019: People actively avoiding news because of Brexit

Northern dailies unite in front-page call for Westminster politicians to ‘power up the north’

Interview: Waad Al-Kateab of Channel 4 News on her Syrian conflict film For Sama – ‘If this footage wasn’t taken, these stories all die’

Ofcom boss Sharon White says role was ‘huge privilege’ as she steps down

Police raid on Australian ABC offices is ‘attack on press freedom’, BBC says

Talkradio sacks George Galloway over ‘Israel flags’ Champions League tweet

Police drop investigation into Belfast investigative journalists


Carl Beech – aka ‘Nick’ – jailed for 18 years over ‘VIP paedophile ring’ lies first reported by Exaro

Handout image issued by the CPS of a police interview with Carl Beech which has been played in court. Picture: Crown Prosecution Service/PA Wire

Carl Beech, aka “Nick”, was jailed for 18 years after his claims about a VIP child sex ring operating in the heart of Westminster were found to be lies. Beech’s claims were first reported by now-defunct investigative news website Exaro before they were picked up by the Met, leading to a £2m police operation that ended without any arrests after two years.

Also this month:

BBC continues to slash pay for male journalists in push for gender parity + full salary list 2018/19

Meghan Markle guest edits British Vogue’s coveted September issue in first for fashion mag

RT (Russia Today) fined £200,000 by Ofcom for ‘serious failures’ to report impartially on Salisbury and Syria

Times and Sunday Times win permission to share resources and journalists

Government launches £2m pilot innovation fund to help find sustainable journalism model

Tommy Robinson sentenced to nine months behind bars for contempt of court 

Racing broadcaster John McCririck dies aged 79

Defend Media Freedom conference: Amal Clooney warns against ‘lip service’ to press freedom as Hunt pledges £3m to media defence fund

Private Eye founding editor and Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker dies aged 81


Channel 4 news boss labels Johnson and Corbyn ‘cowards’ for avoiding TV interviews

Head of news and current affairs at Channel 4, Dorothy Byrne, before delivering this year’s MacTaggart Lecture at the 2019 Edinburgh TV Festival. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

Channel 4 head of news Dorothy Byrne used both barrels in a speech at the Edinburgh TV Festival that laid into party leaders Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn. Her words seemingly set the groundwork for a testing December election in which Johnson repeatedly snubbed Channel 4.

Also this month:

BBC launches new half-hour politics show fronted by Andrew Neil

Transgender ex-Times journalist loses discrimination claim against paper

Newsquest US parent company Gannett bought out by rival media group

Ofcom clears Channel 4 News over Jon Snow’s ‘never seen so many white people’ comment

The Athletic launches in the UK with focus on ‘local’ coverage of Premier League football teams

Empire turns 30: Editor Terri White says mag ‘still has a purpose’ and will ‘always’ be in print

Photoshopping flat cap on parrot not breach of code, says IPSO

Yorkshire Post editor in Twitter row over wanting ‘girl’ to take paper’s chief football writer role


John Humphrys signs off after 32 years on Today programme

John Humphrys gives a thumbs up during his final Today programme after 32 years. Picture: BBC

John Humphrys presented the BBC Radio 4 Today programme for the last time having totted up an incredible 5,000 shows. The 76-year-old interviewed ex-prime ministers Tony Blair and David Cameron before hearing tributes from both current and former colleagues.

Also this month:

Sun defends Ben Stokes family tragedy story after cricketer slams it as ‘lowest form of journalism’

The Lady editor quits as magazine leaves historic London home

Malta launches public inquiry into murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Guardian sorry for ‘privileged pain’ comment over death of David Cameron’s son

TI Media closes Marie Claire UK in print after 31 years

BBC settles Sir Cliff Richard legal bill at £2m after High Court privacy defeat


Prince Harry attacks ‘bullying’ tabloids as wife Meghan sues Mail publisher

Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, gives a speech as his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, looks on, during their official visit to South Africa in October 2019. Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville

Prince Harry issued a passionate statement defending his wife Meghan Markle, describing her as “one of the latest victims” of the British tabloid press as she filed a privacy lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday. He invoked the memory of his mother, Diana, who was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997 as she fled paparazzi photographers. He later also filed a phone-hacking claims against The Sun and Mirror publishers.

Also this month:

BBC equal pay: Samira Ahmed claims Jeremy Vine paid six-times more for equivalent work

Twitter bans all political advertising

Daily Mail launches free daily briefings with video bulletins under Mail Plus banner

Tributes paid to ‘warrior queen of journalism’ Deborah Orr who has died aged 57

John Sweeney leaves BBC after 17 years with parting shot at Tommy Robinson

Sky launches ‘Brexit free’ news channel on TV and Youtube

Extinction Rebellion climate protestors blockade BBC Broadcasting House

Ben Stokes suing Sun for breach of privacy over family tragedy story

Former BBC and ITN newsreader Peter Sissons dies aged 77


Financial Times appoints first female editor as Lionel Barber steps down

Roula Khalaf has been appointed as the next editor of the Financial Times, succeeding Lionel Barber in 2020. Picture: FT

The Financial Times appointed its first female editor in its 131-year history as Lionel Barber announced he was leaving the paper after 14 years in charge. He is succeeded by Roula Khalaf, his deputy editor since 2016.

Also this month:

Daily Mail publisher DMGT buys i paper from JPI Media

Newsnight declined earlier Prince Andrew interview over Epstein ‘red lines’, Emily Maitlis reveals

Critic and broadcaster Clive James dies aged 80

Newsquest boss calls on Lib Dems to pull ‘outrageous’ pamphlet mimicking local paper

Mirror barred from Boris Johnson campaign battle bus

Fact-checkers criticise Tory press office’s Twitter ‘deception’ as ‘self-evidently wrong’

Lib Dems threaten legal action after BBC snubs leader Jo Swinson in planned TV head-to-head

Claim Question Time put BBC editor’s son in audience as Brexit supporter debunked as hoax


British Journalism Awards 2019: FT wins top prize for second year in triumphant end for departing editor

FT editor Lionel Barber collects the prize for News Provider of the Year at the British Journalism Awards 2019. Picture: Press Gazette / The Photo Team

The Financial Times made British Journalism Awards history by becoming the first title to win News Provider of the Year award two years in a row. Outgoing editor Lionel Barber accepted the prize and later told Press Gazette the FT had “reinvented the business model” for newspapers.

Also this month:

Millions watch Andrew Neil call out Boris Johnson over one-on-one interview snub

Channel 4 News says sorry for ‘people of colour’ misquote on viral video of Boris Johnson speech

Ofcom rejects Tory complaint over Channel 4 News climate debate with stand-in ice sculpture for Boris Johnson

Huw Edwards hits out at ‘blatant propaganda’ in press in fending off BBC bias claims

Saudi Arabia sentences five to death for murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Maltese prime minister to step down amid protests urging truth about murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia

Committee to Protect Journalists reports record low deaths of journalists in 2019

Don’t forget to sign up to our free daily email newsletter and follow Press Gazette on Twitter – @pressgazette – for all the latest UK media news throughout 2020.