As the Guardian has reported this morning, Sky News (“first for breaking wind”) is launching its own debate show: “The Pledge … is Sky’s take on programmes including BBC’s Question Time and ITV’s The Agenda”. Do tell us more. “Sky News is to launch a new current affairs discussion show that will featuring panellists including outgoing FA chairman Greg Dyke, journalist Rachel Johnson and lingerie tycoon Michelle Mone”.
“However, the broadcaster says that its new show is ‘unique to British television’ because the panellists will discuss ‘burning issues’ without a moderator to control the debate … Each week five panellists, from a pool of nine, will appear on the show each raising an issue that will be thrashed out among the group … ‘This is something really different for a TV news platform,’ said John McAndrew, director of content for Sky News. ‘Straight-talking, opinionated contributors, no conventional host’”.
No conventional host. Ring any bells yet? A panel probably stacked with right-wingers, five of them, and no moderator? OK, The Pledge has nine rotating pundits, rather than seven, but otherwise this is a direct copy of The Five, which airs each weekday from 5pm to 6pm EST on Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse). There is no moderator, although co-host Greg Gutfeld effectively doubles up to act as one.
The Five, as with much else on FNC, claims to offer some kind of balance, and right now this is provided by the token Liberal co-host, Juan Williams, although in practice he is just there to be shouted down by the motley convocation of right-wing ranters. So what kind of wisdom does The Five impart? Could we see the same on Sky News?
Last month, co-host Kimberley Guilfoyle opined that the US Senate should only confirm Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination if he indicts Hillary Clinton. Five days later, Eric Bolling suggested “taking some liberties” from Somalis in the USA in response to the Brussels attacks. Soon after that, The Five’s hosts agreed that Hillary Clinton created ISIS. Bolling claimed that Obama “doesn’t believe we should be fighting the war on terror and let alone winning it” (“He’s the Nobel Peace Prize winner. He’s not going there”).
Greg Gutfeld accused Hillary Clinton of “Bigotry against men”. Bolling declared that Republican Presidential candidates should refuse to answer questions on gay marriage, abortion and contraception. This is the “debate” format that Sky News has borrowed. Doing the same as FNC - loading the panel with right-wingers and shouting down dissent - is not going to make for the exciting TV that Sky bosses claim.
This is the Fox-ification of UK broadcasting by the back door. And that’s not good enough.