Protecting the UK from 'toxic' US-style news is the issue of our times

Protecting the UK from 'toxic' US-style news is the issue of our times

Broadcast Now

14:06 10th February 2021

The toxic, tribal nature of US TV journalism could spread to the UK if our regulatory system is not safeguarded, Matt Frei and Robert Moore have warned.

The C4 News presenter and former ITV News Washington correspondent were speaking on a Broadcast and ITN panel session called Watching the White House, sharing their views on an extraordinary period in American politics.

Moore told host Kate Bulkley: "It's impossible to be in the US over the last couple of years, and to look at the array of cable TV news, and say this is a healthy state of affairs.

"People are on panels either agreeing with each other, in a kind of broad political consensus, or if it's choreographed in a different way screaming at each other in perpetual enmity. It is polarizing and facts get completely discarded. This is an issue of our times, and it's going to be a pressing issue for Ofcom.

He welcomed new competition in the British TV news landscape - "it's done a tremendous amount of good [in the past] and been a net gain for British viewers" - but cautioned that they must operate in the right way.

"There is a danger that if people just play to the kind of the darkest instincts of their audience, then we take the national political conversation into a very dangerous and toxic place," he said.

Frei agreed, stating that cable news has become a deeply poisonous and negative influence in the US and that "you do not want that coming to Britain".

"What happens in America doesn't necessarily stay in America"

He added: "Ofcom is the policeman. He is the good cop and sometimes the bad cop, that keeps us all in line. And we mustn't fall into the trap of saying, 'well, if the newspapers are allowed to express their opinions in an unabashed way, then the same should happen with television. They're different, television reaches a much wider audience than newspapers and you have human interaction on television, so it's much more powerful as a means of persuasion than reading an article.

"I think you've got to watch it very clearly, as Robert said earlier, what happens in America doesn't necessarily stay in America."

He added that the "shrill voices on cable television" are very lucrative for broadcasters, as the high ratings for news channels deliver vast advertising revenues. And he said the US's historical relationship with the concept of free speech is a factor in its struggle to effectively regulate TV news.

"What the Second Amendment on the right to bear arms is to the lack of gun control, the First Amendment on free speech is to the power of the media to be tribal and poisonous," he added.

To view Watching the White House in full, click here

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Tags: Polarisation Media Donald Trump