Adam Boulton said Sky News faced “existential” questions about its future as it grappled with changing audience habits and the long-term funding needed to maintain an intensive round-the-clock operation.
“I know there are Sky executives who think there will only be one news channel in the UK in 10 years and it probably won’t be Sky,” said the former editor of Sky News at the Guardian. . “Any business is going to ask, ‘What’s the point of Sky News? Is everything he offers made by others anyway, so might as well not care? Sky News colleagues think about it all the time. It is existential.
When Rupert Murdoch sold the wider Sky business to US media conglomerate Comcast in 2018, the new owners promised to fund the prestigious but loss-making news service for a decade. Boulton, who left the channel last month after serving as editor, said Comcast had honored the deal, but the channel’s long-term future was unclear: “People are wondering what what’s going to happen when the funding secured under the buyout deal expires….the problem with the buyout arrangement was that it put Sky News into aspic with the same funding and the same management.
Boulton, 62, is one of several big-name TV presenters who left their jobs at the end of last year, along with Andrew Marr and Jon Snow. He said there was less appetite for a “grey-haired man breaking the news to you” and it was time for baby boomers to hand over to a younger, older set of presenters. diversified.
However, having spent more than a quarter of a century as the political editor of Sky News, he has championed the idea of authoritative ‘gatekeepers’ in the media who can explain and contextualise events in real time.
He said, “This is where my disagreement with [Sky News boss] John Ryley is the sharpest. I think there’s a general questioning of the whole notion of authority… There’s a feeling, which I think is John’s position, which is to “publish things digitally and let the public decide what that he wants “.
“John’s answer to that would be if you spread the news with a lot of digital analytics, you’re still getting the job done. My point is that you’re not doing it in real time. I think it’s good for society that there’s analysis and monitoring – not just after the fact, but as things happen.
An estimated 8 million Britons a month watch Sky News, but most watch only briefly, meaning typical daytime viewing figures are closer to 100,000. It has also built up a substantial following online.
Asked about concerns from some Sky News staff that the channel’s coverage of the climate crisis is tipping into the campaign, he said it was “essentially benevolent” but raised issues. “We had our chief executive appear on a platform at Cop26, which we were sponsoring at company level with Boris Johnson and [Joe] Biden and [Narendra] Modi. It made me think, really, how free are we to comment and analyze what they say? »
Boulton said he continued to believe in television news, but the format needed to change as viewership for traditional newscasts continued to decline. He said: “Sky is a fantastic company and should have a very good future. I wouldn’t say anything negative about it, but we all have to watch the market move.
“It’s not a static industry and nothing lasts forever. You have to recognize that these are the inevitable changes brought about by technology.”