I don’t know what you did between 1:45 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. But I can be pretty sure you aren’t watching GB News, the UK’s new right-wing TV news channel.
It’s not because I think you would have a particular problem with the show that was airing at the time, which was a show hosted by former ITN presenter Alastair Stewart. Or because of assumptions about the political leanings of someone reading a Guardian newsletter.
That’s because, according to the ratings I got, during those 75 minutes on Saturday afternoon, GB News officially had no viewers. Yeah, nobody.
(Zero viewers isn’t as simple as it sounds – the numbers are accepted as the industry standard but are ultimately a survey extrapolated from 5,300 surveillance boxes attached to people’s televisions by the British rating agency Barb There was probably someone somewhere in the country who chose to stay indoors on Saturday afternoon and watch GB News But that’s a story for another day. )
Another fox in the henhouse?
If you live in the UK, you’ve probably read and heard more about GB News – and its threat to bring Fox News-style cultural warfare programming to the country – than almost any other media article in recent months. . GB News is a new national television channel, which has raised £ 60million from leading funders, with the promise of bringing the values of American television to challenge wokeism and anti-bias. -Brexit seen in UK media. He has obsessed the UK’s political and media classes with his threat to upset the streaming news duopoly of BBC News and Sky News with their approach to fairness which must be heard on both sides.
As the Guardian’s media editor, I have repeatedly written about the disastrous launch of GB News and its growing reliance on former Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage. Some of those articles have attracted more attention than GB News itself – the latest, describing the failure of its deal with former presenter Andrew Neil, was published on Saturday.
But despite all the press attention, three months after launch, no one is watching some of its shows. And I’m afraid we’re focusing on the wrong part of the modern media-tech-industrial complex, rather than looking at where audiences actually are.
This is because it is still often easier to try to explain our current news environment by examining it in the context of a series of mainstream newspapers and radio stations owned by prominent personalities. plan with Machiavellian instincts. These politically motivated opportunities do exist and have considerable influence. Yet focusing on them at the expense of the larger online context ignores how many are increasingly insecure in their position and try to copy the tactics of the online challengers.
When I write about GB News, the behind-the-scenes drama and the material it airs (like a presenter pushing ivermectin to the air as a Covid treatment), it’s a straightforward and easy-to-understand account for the reader. . It’s much harder to explain how a decentralized anti-vaxx movement can use a mix of mainstream media links and crudely fabricated memes to reach millions of people through an interconnected network of private Facebook groups, Telegram channels and YouTube live stream.
The clock TikToking on traditional media
Even in terms of style, established players increasingly learn from scrappy newbies who can touch more people. GB News has spent millions of pounds to build a full television studio and hire established names in the industry with big salaries. And yet, it fell in part because its technology just wasn’t up to the job. Launch week had a lot of audio delays, guests just couldn’t get on the air, and the lighting was so dark it was impossible to see some presenters.
At the same time, a new YouTube or Twitch streamer with a few thousand dollars can buy a ring light, set up a small studio in their spare bedroom, and then earn enough money to move on to something much more impressive. Editing skills can be learned and provocative content can attract viewers, while hosting is provided by a third-party platform. Even the BBC can’t help it, celebrating its occasional viral success on TikTok rather than wondering how it ended up competing for audiences on this platform.
When the production values of a stream start to overtake traditional television – and the content is more entertaining or extreme – what is the real benefit that a broadcast point offers beyond an easy channel number? access on a television? GB News would consider hiring popular right-wing YouTubers, but would getting paid to be on TV worth it for people who can already monetize their audience? When hugely popular and influential libertarian-leaning podcaster Joe Rogan signed exclusively for Spotify last year, his contract was worth $ 100million (£ 70million) – not much more than the amount GB News backers claimed. are committed to putting in their chain, but with much less return.
And yet, despite this, the rich love the idea of being a wayward media president, owning TV channels, and being praised by their peers. One of them is Rupert Murdoch, the founder of Fox News, who likes the idea of becoming Rupert Murdoch again, as opposed to a 90-year-old shot down by the phone hacking scandal in his UK news group and the sale of most of its entertainment activities.
After seeing the failure of GB News last week, Murdoch decided to relaunch his own plans to bring a similar product to the UK airwaves, under the name talkTV. Yes, he spent the money on an evening show hosted by Piers Morgan, a man whose pig-ridden instinct for finding and fighting topics of viral cultivation predated the internet by decades. But the foundation of the channel is based on two elements supercharged by the internet: streaming-style content and endless debate.
Murdoch’s pitch is to live stream his radio stations, especially the war-centric cultural talkRadio, and turn them into a TV channel that people are happy to watch. Of course, it doesn’t have the same glamor as an expensive TV operation. But the public doesn’t necessarily care if it looks too cheap. Suddenly we are looking at the convergence of traditional media money and Internet values into one package.
People can generally conceptualize the impact of radicalization from the furious, speckled rants of a TV news anchor that aired on their aunt’s TV. They find it much harder to imagine how their aunt is silently being pushed to extremes on her phone due to relentlessly watching a YouTuber she discovered after receiving a link. The reality of how the media influences our modern society is so much more complicated than we would like to believe – and people like me need to do a better job of explaining that.
With that in mind, which influential YouTube / TikTok / Insta / Twitch political accounts do you think deserve more in-depth coverage? Tap reply on this email to let me know.
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You may have noticed, I’m not Alex Hern. That’s because he’s on parental leave for the next six months. But fear not, he’ll still be writing one newsletter a month, and we’ll have a rotating cast of writers covering in his absence. Next week, our West-Coast technical correspondent, Kari Paul, will take the reins.
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