News Corp–and Fox News–titan Rupert Murdoch may have a new British BFF: Mark Thompson, the director general of the BBC.
In an interview with The Guardian, Thompson says he and Murdoch share a belief that the U.K. would benefit from a strong–even “opinionated” news channel–and Murdoch told him “he would like Sky News to go down a polemical ‘Fox-style’ route–but…the editors of the channel had brushed off his wishes.”
Thompson, speaking at a seminar on broadcasting impartiality, shocked some in the audience–and his own BBC moderator–by, essentially, saying impartiality’s a bit of an outdated concept:
There was a logic in allowing impartial broadcasters to have a monopoly of the broadcasting space. But in the future, maybe there should be a broad range of choices? Why shouldn’t the public be able to see and hear, as well as read, a range of opinionated journalism and then make up their own mind what they think about it?
“The BBC and Channel 4 have a history of clearly labelled polemical programmes. But why not entire polemical channels which have got stronger opinions? I find the argument persuasive.
Thompson said Fox News is a clear model for the kind of channel he’s talking about, as the Guardian’s Adam Sherwin reports:
In the US, strong opinion had won the ratings battle, with the right-wing Fox News getting a larger audience than CNN, Thompson said. But that needn’t be replicated in Britain. “I don’t believe that necessarily means you get the dire consequences that some people see in America. Having a broader range of channels would actually strengthen that enduring tradition of impartial journalism across BBC, ITN and Channel 4. They would continue to be trusted.
“Impartiality is sovereign for the BBC. The premium on impartiality would grow. But I’m not convinced that the public service broadcasters need to have a monopoly over news for ever.” During the debate it was suggested the Daily Mail newspaper should be free to set up its own opinionated news station if it so wished.
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