British broadcast news has gone badly wrong

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

19 June 2021

9:00 AM

I’ve worked for some media thoroughbreds — including the Financial Times, ITN and CNN — so I know the sense of assurance that comes from wearing the badge of a long-established journalistic brand. But nothing — nothing — beats the buzz I now feel as a presenter on GB News. It’s the thrill of being part of a start-up, especially one so many want to fail. We GB News types are disruptive and entrepreneurial. We think that British broadcast news has gone badly wrong. It has become smug, stale and monocultural. We want to do something about that. Amid the advertising boycotts, inevitable technical glitches and even more inevitable catty reviews, we know we are on to something — and that’s what scares the incumbents. One particularly snidey review of our launch show, which managed entirely to misquote me, concluded that we’d last ‘a year, tops’. Well, we’ll see about that.

I co-host a daily daytime show with Gloria De Piero, who stood down as Labour MP for Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, at the last election after a stint in the shadow cabinet. Before politics, she was on ITV breakfast television; her last job was hosting a show on Times Radio, before quitting to join GB News. We’ve known each other for a long time — and have often been on opposite sides of big issues. While I backed Brexit, she voted Remain (although we were equally horrified at how much of our political and media class then tried to reverse the referendum result). While she’s from Bradford and I’m a Londoner, we share an ‘ordinary’ unflashy background, being the first in our families to go to university. And we’re both from immigrant stock. As De Piero & Halligan launched, Katie Derham tweeted cheery good wishes, joking that we sounded like a Chicago-based, crime-fighting cop duo. More like an Italian-Irish South Boston mafia syndicate, I say. De Piero & Halligan is the name of our show. But on air we say ‘Gloria and Liam’.

Every morning, Gloria avidly reads the UK’s regional press online. ‘Round Your Way’ is the result — our daily digest of local news items, carefully crediting the local titles, followed by a discussion of the stories on air. During the GB News launch show on Sunday, Gloria was asked how being the MP for a former coal-mining community had changed her. ‘Before then, as a journalist, I didn’t realise how out of touch I was because everyone in the media held the same views and we all agreed with each other,’ she said. ‘Representing Ashfield taught me that so much of the country is having a totally different conversation — that’s what we must bring to GB News.’ Other than presenting with Gloria, I’m also GB News’s economics editor. ‘So how will you do economics differently?’ Andrew Neil asked me. For too long, I replied, UK broadcasters have underplayed economics. Little wonder, when so many of them are arts graduates who grew up in comfortable households where talking about money is rude. Business coverage, meanwhile, shouldn’t be just about the City or big corporate bosses. ‘We need to highlight the role of the UK’s small- and medium-sized companies,’ I blurted out. ‘Such firms employ the majority of the British workforce and generate much of the wealth upon which everything else depends.’

I’m a pretty seasoned broadcaster, but doing my thing from a brand new studio is different. Sometimes our technology works well, but then goes down. That’s when presenters really earn their money. Luckily, as the new tech beds in, Gloria and I can talk about a range of issues at the drop of a hat or a live feed — from the need to disagree respectfully, to what should be in Labour’s new policy review.

Away from studio and family commitments, I squeeze in a training ride with my North Essex neighbour and old mate from Channel 4 News days Alex Thomson. The two of us ride a rather large tandem — we’re both 6ft 4in — that we call ‘The Beast’. We’re raising money for Duchenne UK, a superb charity which funds research into a particularly nasty form of muscular dystrophy. Alex and I and The Beast have previously taken part in the Duchenne Dash, an annual London-to-Paris-in-24-hours biking extravaganza. This year, Covid has ruled that out. So the clever folk at Duchenne UK have assembled a team to ride circuits at Goodwood for 12 hours in July. Alex and I hope to clock up 60 laps, around 140 miles. The team is aiming for 25,000 miles in total — the circumference of the globe.

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