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Piers Morgan hired to launch Rupert Murdoch TV station talkTV


Rupert Murdoch’s News UK has announced plans to launch a national television station called talkTV, which will be a rival to the floundering rightwing channel GB News and provide a platform for the return of Piers Morgan.

In a U-turn after similar plans were cancelled this year, News UK said it would hire “exceptional talent” for the station. Bosses believe Morgan fits in that category and is the biggest name to have signed up to the project.

As well as presenting a primetime evening show, Morgan will write a column for the Sun, a book for the Murdoch-owned HarperCollins and have his programme carried on Murdoch-owned channels around the world. He quit Good Morning Britain in March after refusing to apologise for comments about the mental health of the Duchess of Sussex.

Murdoch, who posed alongside Morgan to announce the deal, said: “Piers is the broadcaster every channel wants but is too afraid to hire. Piers is a brilliant presenter, a talented journalist and says what people are thinking and feeling.”

Although the company insists talkTV will not be a traditional rolling news channel and will also feature entertainment, documentaries and sports programming, the bedrock of its output is likely to come from current affairs discussions.

News UK said talkTV would go on air early next year and be available as a stream for smart TVs and as a traditional TV channel, with the company intending to spend the substantial amount required to secure slots on Freeview, Freesat, Virgin Media and Sky.

The television channel is being built out of the company’s radio stations, which include talkRadio, talkSport, Times Radio and Virgin Radio. They already produce video content at relatively low cost featuring presenters and guests talking in the studio.

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In a dig at GB News, which has endured a disastrous launch, including the departure of its star presenter Andrew Neil, and and lacks any regular news updates, News UK said there would be “proper hourly news bulletins” on its service.

Although News UK did not reference talkTV’s political leaning in its launch announcement, the video material currently produced by talkRadio may provide clues as to its direction. The station focuses on culture war topics and last month announced a programme counting “the biggest, daftest and most worrying examples of cancel culture in the UK and beyond, proving that just about anyone or anything can face the threat of being cancelled”.

The company has already quietly launched a programming strand for smart TVs called talkRadioTV, with material featuring the presenters Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mike Graham, Trisha Goddard, Rob Rinder and Jeremy Kyle.

The decision to launch a full TV channel comes just five months after the company’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks, cancelled plans to launch a very similar project called News UK TV which had been under development for a year.

At the time Brooks said the “considerable” costs of running a rolling news channel meant such a project would be unprofitable. That decision followed months of internal wrangling over whether to fully commit funding to News UK TV, which left the channel struggling to hire staff and develop shows.

However, the travails at GB News appear to have played a role in convincing Murdoch’s company there is a gap in the market for a similar channel if the material is produced professionally and at relatively low cost.

News UK has been hiring big-name talent on large wages, having poached Chris Evans and Graham Norton from the BBC. The company often ties them into “360 deals”, where staff work across multiple News UK outlets.

The value of Morgan’s deal has not been revealed but it involves tie-ups with almost every outpost of Murdoch’s global media empire, helping spread the cost around various units of the business. His talkTV show will also be shown on the US streaming service Fox Nation and Sky News Australia. His Sun column will also appear in the New York Post, and he will also present a series of True Crime documentaries.

Murdoch previously appointed Morgan to be editor of the now defunct News of the World tabloid in 1994, when Morgan was just 29.

A year later he became editor of the Daily Mirror, where he stayed for almost a decade. During that time he was embroiled in the “City Slickers” share tipping scandal and finally lost his job after unwittingly publishing fake photographs of British soldiers in Iraq. He has since consistently denied any knowledge of phone hacking by reporters during his tenure as editor.

Morgan’s rants about “woke” issues and “snowflakes” while hosting Good Morning Britain helped push the show’s ratings to record levels but he resigned after he made comments about Meghan’s mental health and refused to apologise.

Ofcom concluded this month that the broadcast did not breach its rules, but given Morgan is one of the most complained about people in TV history, his new talkTV show is likely to keep the media regulator busy.

GB News v talkTV: how the channels compare

Funding

talkTV: News UK, controlled by the multibillionaire US citizen Rupert Murdoch.

GB News: £60m raised for three years from sources including the US media company Discovery, Dubai-based Legatum and the Brexit-backing hedge fund boss Sir Paul Marshall.

Star presenters

talkTV: Piers Morgan and a pool of staff currently employed by News UK, such as Chris Evans.

GB News: Nigel Farage, Nigel Farage’s former Brexit party colleagues, Alastair Stewart, and stars of rightwing Twitter.

Key staff

talkTV: News UK boss and former Sun editor Rebekah Brooks, broadcasting chief Scott Taunton, and experienced TV producers such as former Good Morning Britain staffer Winnie Dunbar.

GB News: Increasingly isolated chief executive Angelos Frangopolous, the former boss of Sky News Nick Pollard, and a pool of increasingly exhausted young producers.

Promotion

talkTV: Blanket coverage across Murdoch’s other outlets, ranging from the Times to the Sun to Virgin Radio and talkSport. Relentless tweeting by Piers Morgan (8 million followers).

GB News: Pre-launch advertising campaign and a series of interviews by the now-departed Andrew Neil. Relentless tweeting by Nigel Farage (1.6 million followers).

Politics

talkTV: Likely to build on talkRadioTV’s record of covering fears about “cancel culture” and how you can no longer criticise leftwing “woke” politics on television.

GB News: Covering fears about “cancel culture” and how you can no longer criticise leftwing “woke” politics on television – despite being a national television station.



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