Thursday, 26 April 2012

Channel 4 News loses its editor – but it’ll just go on excreting piles of urban liberal dung

So, farewell then ex-BBC current affairs chappie, Jim Gray, after 14 years in charge of the most repellently biased news programme on British television (a remarkable achievement, given the stiff competition from the BBC’s Newsnight). And good luck with whatever you decide to do next. Head of BBC News? Labour Party PR man? A nice column in the Guardian? Editor of the Independent?

In the statement accompanying the announcement of his departure, Gray had this to say: “Channel 4 News feels like 'home' for a certain type of person - people with journalistic passion who have something to say, and who are up for trouble-making.”

Well, it’s certainly a home for smug, highly-educated, left-wing prats who love the EU and Barack Obama and high taxes and immigrants and loathe the police, the military, Christians and Tories. As for “journalistic” passion, I get the distinct impression that the prevailing passion is for socialist propaganda.

The Channel 4 press release goes on to mention some of the changes during Gray’s tenure. Three other ex-BBC names caught my eye: Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Matt Frei and Michael Crick. The first gives every indication of being your standard-issue current affairs lefty; the second was one of a long line of BBC Anti-American correspondents (Mark Mardell is carrying on the proud tradition) – for instance, Frei's 2010 reports from Haiti seemed to suggest that America, which was busting a gut to restore order and provide immediate humanitarian aid to earthquake victims, was somehow at fault: and Michael Crick, when I worked with him, was a rabid Labour supporter. What with the poisonously left-wing Jon Snow as lead presenter, Gray is to be congratulated on the wide spread of political opinion represented by his key players.

By way of contrast, ITV News at Ten is currently very watchable. When I joined BBC News back in the ‘80s, ITN’s News at Ten was the bee’s knees: their news judgment, professionalism, clarity, conciseness and lack of political bias (compared to the BBC) made it the best news programme there had ever been on British TV. Of course, It’s been through the wars since those heady days – literally and figuratively.

While the BBC poured money into its main news programme, ITV began systematically starving ITN of cash. Then, after Sky went digital, ITV News launched a separate 24/7 news channel – but closed it down after five years. Oops! Famously, in 1999, under the leadership of charismatic accountant Charles Allen, ITV ditched News at Ten, and moved the bulletin back to 11pm. As Michael Grade put it when he took over as ITV Chairman in 2007, this was “the worst mistake ITV ever made.” Indeed. The BBC’s Greg Dyke promptly – and brilliantly - moved the BBC’s Nine O’Clock News back an hour. ITV panicked and started sticking their new bulletin all over the place, earning it the nickname News at When? But now it’s back in its old slot – and it’s pretty damned good.

As always, the programme’s quality is down to its correspondents. They pinched the BBC’s excellent Laura Kuessenberg as Business Editor, Political Editor Tom Bradby evidently doesn’t vote SWP, the mono-browed James Mates is good on Europe, and Economics Editor Richard Edgar, despite once having worked for the Today Programme, doesn’t just give us the gospel according to Keynes. Abroad,  John Irvine and Bill Neely are both excellent, and Washington Correspondent Robert Moore doesn’t sound like he wants to have Obama’s babies.

Intriguingly, the same organisation – ITN – is responsible for both ITV News and Channel 4 News (and Channel 5 News, while we’re at it), so I can only assume Channel 4 viewers relish a nightly dose of naked political propaganda.

Debrah Turness has been ITV News Editor since 2004.

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