Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s “TalkTV” launches in Britain on Monday, entering a crowded news market but leveraging his star interviewer’s familiarity with trash-talking former US president Donald Trump. The network will start airing at 7:00 pm (1800 GMT) and, after an opening hour of news and discussion, will feature outspoken journalist Piers Morgan interviewing Trump for the programme “Uncensored”.
A promotional clip appeared to show the former US president storming off after being challenged about his claims the 2020 US election was “stolen” from him. Trump, in a statement, claimed Morgan had tried to “unlawfully and deceptively edit his long and tedious interview with me”. But the journalist said “it will all be there” when broadcast.
The apparent flap, which might not hurt ratings, echoed Morgan’s own storming off an ITV set in Britain when he was challenged by a colleague on-air about his repeated attacks on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.
According to excerpts released by Murdoch’s The Sun newspaper, Trump agreed with Morgan’s claim that Harry was controlled by Meghan, and said the couple would eventually split up.
TalkTV will air on regular television in Britain and on streaming platforms, as well as YouTube.
Morgan’s show will also be shown on FoxNation in the United States and Sky News Australia, both of which are part of Murdoch’s global media empire. TalkTV will use a stable of journalists from Murdoch’s News UK operation, including The Times and The Sun, and will show video broadcasts of the group’s existing TalkRadio.
The company launched another radio station, Times Radio, in June 2020 as an alternative to the BBC’s news and current affairs station Radio 4.
The latest industry listening figures showed Times Radio’s audience fell by 21 percent over the last two quarters of 2021.
TalkTV itself will be up against another newcomer, the right-wing GB News, whose audience has steadied at a low base after a shaky start in June 2021.
‘Bash the BBC’
Murdoch and his editors have the advantage of closeness to Britain’s Conservative government, which has been taking increasingly sharp aim at the BBC and at the commercial TV station Channel 4. The Australian-born media mogul has long chafed at Britain’s broadcasting laws, which prevent the kind of pro-Trump, right-wing demagoguery seen on his Fox News channel in the United States.
But Morgan and parts of Murdoch’s media empire such as The Sun have found a rich vein of material in siding with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “anti-woke” cultural agenda. Morgan said last year that Murdoch was “a constant and fearless champion of free speech”, and he wanted his show to be “a fearless forum for lively debate and agenda-setting interviews”.
Murdoch’s real aim with TalkTV is to “bash the BBC”, according to Jean Seaton, media professor at the University of Westminster and official historian of the state-funded broadcaster. “The BBC and public-service broadcasters stand in the way of News International’s strategic business interest,” she told AFP, adding that the UK government was sympathetic to Murdoch’s challenge.
“It’s about throwing British institutions under the wheels of a political imperative with no alternative vision.”