Richard North, 17/07/2021  

I can't express any surprise at the goings-on in GB News. After all, Pete and I predicted as much back in June, when Pete conveyed my observation that Andrew Neil is a nasty piece of work with a reputation as a bully.

When he was executive editor of Press Holdings, I recall an editor of one of the titles nearly reduced to tears by the constant hectoring of Neil and his behaviour in the workspace could explain why the BBC was pleased to see him go. Given his general demeanour, I predicted that he would find it increasingly difficult to get staff and colleagues to work with him, and warned to expect some rows and high-profile resignations.

All this has come to pass, with Neil's extraordinary decision to abandon his flagship 8pm show after two weeks on air and take an extended "holiday" in the south of France. The Guardian notes that, despite posting dozens of tweets, Neil has not mentioned GB News in almost two weeks or shared any of its material. This has led to strong speculation about his current relationship with the channel.

One can nevertheless have a small amount of sympathy with the attempt to provide an alternative to BBC news – and Sky News, for that matter, which can scarce be distinguished from its main competitor, in its dire, trivial treatment of important events.

Following on from yesterday's piece I was thinking to myself about what it was that made the BBC's news programmes so awful. I concluded that the BBC was a parasite, feeding off the four "D"s to which I later added another to come up with: disease; disaster; disorganisation; division; and despair. It is never so happy as when it can share misery.

Perhaps it is unsurprising therefore how few people actually watch the output, recent average daily viewing figures standing at 95,000 and 59,000 for BBC News and Sky News respectively, despite generous budgets, huge resources and global brand recognition.

But then audience figures for GB News attracted no measurable audience to their show between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday afternoon, featuring Telegraph hack Liam Halligan and former Labour MP Gloria De Piero. The audience again briefly dipped to zero at 5pm, during a late-afternoon programme co-hosted by ex-BBC presenter Simon McCoy and former Ukip spokesperson Alex Phillips.

One direct comfort we can take from this is that, even though a different medium, the viewing figures for Turbulent Times were substantially higher, despite being established on a shoestring. Clearly, money doesn't always talk – especially when it has so little to say.

The situation, though, is not as uncommon as one might think. Although newspapers parade the online viewing figures (occasionally), they are very reticent about divulging page traffic. But at times, even some of the "big name" political writers only attract "hits" in the hundreds.

What is sustaining the legacy media at the moment is the first of the BBC's five "D"s – disease. The onset of Covid-19 has provided a welcome boost to online traffic for most titles, even if print sales have suffered as people have been less inclined to venture out just to buy a paper.

Even then, the issue has dragged on for so long that tedium has set in and even once avid readers of the ongoing soap opera have been struggling to maintain an interest. Although I personally look in on the figures each day, I'd almost ceased taking any interest in the progress of the disease, until very recently.

Now, we have the prime minister holding himself, and the nation, hostage to fortune, with the promise to relax Covid controls "irreversibly" on 19 July, the story has taken on an additional political dimension. No fewer than 1,200 scientists across the world have banded together to declare Johnson's "unlocking" an "unethical experiment" which could allow vaccine-resistant variants to develop.

This comes as the daily case rate in the UK yesterday topped 50,000 and hospital referrals nearly reached 4,000. The new crisis has one of England's largest hospitals - Birmingham's Queen Elizabeth Hospital - cancelling all elective surgery for 48 hours because it has ran out of critical care beds.

Predicably, the Guardian is waxing indignant, asserting that Johnson's Covid experts are "on tap, not on top". The paper goes on to say that scientists cannot shield the prime minister from the fallout of an unethical policy that will see rising deaths.

England, we are told, will be the first country in the world to end all constraints in the face of "exponentially" rising Covid-19 cases. This, according to some experts is an unethical strategy of "herd immunity by mass infection", a view with which the Guardian finds it hard to disagree.

The reference to "on tap but not on top" harps back to the days of Winston Churchill who held that this should be the role of scientists. And while the paper acknowledges that elected leaders not scientists carry the final responsibility for judgements, if this experiment goes wrong, the prime minister, and his advisers, will not be able to claim that the government followed the science and did everything it could to limit coronavirus deaths.

There again, we are seeing the same laments from "scientists" over global warming, reinforced by the recent flooding in Europe, which the BBC's Roger Harrabin enthusiastically attributed to climate change – despite more severe flooding in the past.

But then this another one of the "D"s – this one disaster – which has even the Telegraph giving licence to 81-year-old Liege resident, Pierre Fouillen, to say: "It's certainly associated with climate change, but it feels a little bit too late to be fighting against it. We should have started taking action more than ten years ago".

Meanwhile, an unusually strong cold weather outbreak is spreading from Antarctica into central South America, bringing early winter temperature records and first snowfall after decades, after temperatures plunged in parts of East Antarctica to -81.7C, only two degrees short of the absolute record low.

So severe is the cold weather that we have the New Zealand Herald complaining of snow and polar cold temperatures, while huge waves have been striking the North Island coast.

No doubt, plenty of "scientists" would be willing to assert that this was all part of the global warming phenomenon, except that none of the legacy media in the UK have bothered to report this occurrence. North America's "killer heat" gets plenty of comment from Roger Harrabin, but when it's unusually cold, he is silent.

That, strangely, seems to be the exception to the rule. While the media generally rejoice in division, climate change is subject to the rule of consensus: "everybody agrees", so there is no room for dissenting views. Whatever one might think of this issue, therefore, it is abundantly clear that the BBC (alongside the rest of the media, although probably more so) has its own agenda. It seems a long, long time ago when this organisation stuck to the original Reith principles of educating, informing and entertaining.

For "education" now read propaganda and the task of informing the public stretches only to that which serves the agenda. Sadly, though, moving to GB News simply means swapping the agenda. The lack of information remains the same.

Also published on Turbulent Times.

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