February 18, 2024
Rupert Murdoch abandons bid to launch TV news channel in UK

Rupert Murdoch abandons bid to launch TV news channel in UK

In a note to employees Tuesday, Murdoch’s News UK said that it had determined that such a channel didn’t make sense financially following a review by US network veteran David Rhodes.

“We determined early on in that review that it was not commercially viable to launch a traditional news channel,” News UK chief executive Rebekah Brooks said. “Whilst there is consumer demand for alternative news provision, the costs of running a rolling news channel are considerable, and it is our assessment that the payback for our shareholders wouldn’t be sufficient.”

Rhodes will leave the company in June. Brooks’ memo was first reported by The Spectator.

News UK — which owns big British newspapers The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times — also explored more limited video options for streaming under Rhodes, the former president of CBS News.

Brooks said the company’s video division will move ahead with some standalone streaming shows, as well as more video content tied to its radio programs.

But the announcement confirms that Murdoch is backing away from plans to regain a major television foothold in Britain.

Murdoch’s Fox News was pulled off air in the United Kingdom in 2017. 21st Century Fox (FOX), the network’s parent company at the time, said the decision was made because it had attracted “only a few thousand viewers across the day” in the country. That setback was followed a year later by Murdoch’s defeat at the hands of Comcast (CCZ) in a battle for control of European broadcaster Sky and its UK-based news channel.
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The launch of a Murdoch-backed TV channel would have shaken up Britain’s television landscape. While UK tabloids like The Sun are known for their strong takes and partisan news coverage, the country’s news channels largely frame their coverage down the middle, with broadcasters such as the BBC and ITV maintaining high levels of public trust.

Industry experts said it wasn’t clear that an opinionated, right-leaning news channel could find an audience in the United Kingdom.

While Murdoch is bowing out, that theory will be tested by GB News, which is moving ahead with the launch of a 24-hour TV and digital news service. The venture, which is chaired by former BBC host Andrew Neil, will be more driven by television personalities.

Neil, who last month said the network would be interested in hiring controversial TV host Piers Morgan, has said GB News will approach issues from the “center, perhaps the center right.”