Britain's latest television news channel, GB News, which has secured a broadcasting licence for a launch early next year, is understood to be hoping to create positions for at least 100 journalists in the UK, providing a tremendous jobs boost for broadcast journalists at a time when the BBC and commercial media companies are cutting jobs.
GB News has been currently in the news itself, announcing that veteran broadcaster, Andrew Neil, 71, a former editor of the Sunday Times
, is leaving the BBC to join the new channel and will host a flagship prime time evening programme four days a week, as well as being company chairman.
New York-based global media and entertainment company, Discovery Inc, is the lead investor in the new channel. However, according to the Financial Times
, GB News has still to raise the $55m-$65 million it is seeking to fund the station. The fledgling new channel will feature more than 6,500 hours of exclusive content a year and is expected to reach 96% of households via Freeview, Sky and Virgin Media.
Declares Andrew Neil: 'GB News is the most exciting thing to happen in British television news for more than 20 years. We will champion robust, balanced debate and a range of perspectives on the issues that affect everyone in the UK – not just those living in the London area. We've seen a huge gap in the market for a new form of television news. GB News is aimed at the vast number of British people who feel underserved and unheard by their media'.
Rupert Murdoch, who already owns The Times
, Sunday Times
, The Sun,
and Times Radio, is also said to be planning to launch a television news channel in Britain, which Neil has revealed he was asked to join. He told ITV's Good Morning Britain
breakfast show: 'They tried to get me to join but in the end I decided not to. I left Rupert Murdoch's organisation 25 years ago and it didn't seem to me like a sensible career move to go back. The offer they made [was] very generous and very professional, and so on'.
Scottish Daily Mail
columnist, Stephen Glover, who appears to have an inside track on GB News, told his readers: 'According to some estimates, Auntie [the BBC] provides over half the news the public receives. She may protest until the cows come home that this news is delivered in a fair and balanced way, but many millions of people believe otherwise, and discern a leftist, metropolitan bias. I suspect that as a single channel with limited resources, GB News will be too small to deliver a knock-out blow to the BBC, although it is aiming to produce a significant output of some 18 hours every day. But its impending launch nonetheless marks an upheaval in British broadcasting.
'Whilst it will have to operate within impartiality rules policed by media regulator, Ofcom, GB News will give vent to a wider range of views on the centre-right than are to be found at the BBC. The model appears to be radio stations such as LBC and Talk Radio, where opinionated presenters (occasionally on the left) stimulate lively informed debate and discussion. This recipe, rather than the rolling news provided by outlets such as Sky, will constitute the bulk of the new channel's content. A revolution is underway. Cracks are appearing in the monolithic BBC. Its dominance – and its value – are being challenged. For those who cherish liberty and greater choice, this is both welcome and overdue'.
Grant funding should be part of the long-term picture for journalism, according to Jonathan Heawood, executive director of the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF) – one of very few journalism organisations to be awarded charitable status. He believes the Charity Commission's approval could open the way for more 'classic news' organisations to operate as not-for-profit charities.
Heawood, who is on secondment from his role as chief executive of alternative press regulator, Impress, told media industry website, Press Gazette: 'I think what we've successfully done is set a model now for what charitable journalism could look like. It's not going to work for everyone – not everyone's going to want to be a charity. If you're a charity you can't make money for yourself or for your shareholders. So if you want to make loads of money; if you're looking to pursue a political agenda; [or] if you're just looking to publish clickbait, you don't want to be a charity. But on the other hand, if it's an organisation that just really wants to do good public interest news; doesn't want to make a profit – just wants to break even; and is happy to take that stance of impartiality, then I think this is an interesting new route that's opened up'.
The Cairncross Review into the sustainability of the UK news industry in the digital age, published 18 months ago, found there was a 'market failure' in the supply of public interest news and recommended that such journalism should be recognised as a charitable object.
Dame Frances Cairncross said she was 'delighted' that PINF had been granted charitable status after the government decided not to make any changes to the Charities Act to support public interest journalism. Press Gazette explained that Tom Murdoch, of law firm Stone King, who advised on PINF's charitable registration, gave this analysis: 'Whilst there are already a number of journalistic charities operating for educational and similar purposes, PINF is the first to be registered with a specific, "charitable journalism" purpose. In legal terms, this represents a new interpretation of the law to recognise that public benefit journalism can be charitable'.
Existing journalism charities include the academic-written website The Conversation, fact-checking organisation Full Fact, and some training-focused organisations.
PINF will now have discussions with trusts, foundations and corporates – including the large tech companies – to support news media doing public interest. It already gave out 20 grants of £3,000 each after the outbreak of COVID-19, with funding from the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. The beneficiaries of any of its funding must meet certain criteria: they must be impartial, have high standards and be publishing for the benefit of the public to promote community, education or democratic functions. The requirement for impartiality should still enable most local news organisations to benefit, along with other smaller specialist or investigative titles like gal-dem
or Scotland's The Ferret
, which is based in Portobello.
Commercial news providers can also benefit from PINF funding but Heawood told Press Gazette that the concern with larger corporate groups – like Reach, JPI Media, Archant and Newsquest – would be that 'the money was servicing the bottom line rather than serving the public interest'.
Other than awarding grant funding, PINF will provide professional development programmes to help small media providers share their expertise, and will carry out detailed research into the sector. Heawood hopes this work can help find a long-term sustainable business model.
He explained: 'I think grant funding has to be part of the long-term picture for journalism. I think there is a serious market failure for some kinds of journalism. But I also think there are readers out there who do care enough about news, whether it's local or a specific issue or investigative journalism, and I think the challenge over the next few years is going to be a culture change as we persuade more and more people that if they value it they're going to have to pay for it. But then, for the publishers the challenge is figuring out if they're persuading readers to pay for it, what do they need to give them in return to make that feel like a valuable transaction?'
We have been mourning the death of that brilliant journalist, Sir Harry Evans, who will chiefly be remembered for making the Sunday Times
such an outstanding newspaper under his editorship. A memorable anecdote on how Evans began his newspaper career as a cub reporter, reads: 'On the first day of his journalistic career as a 16-year-old trainee on Lancashire's Ashton Weekly Reporter
in 1944, Harry was curtly handed a sheaf of paper by the news editor with the mumbled instruction: "Asparagus". "I was confused and terrified," recalled Harry. "We'd never had asparagus at home so I typed 'Asparagus' and sat at the desk awaiting inspiration'". Another staffer arrived explaining that Harry had been instructed to write a paragraph'.