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14 March 2007updated 05 Oct 2023 8:50am

The death of impartiality?

Where next for British political broadcasting?

By Shakeel Sadiq

We’ve heard cries of anguish about the dumbing down of British telly for years, but surely political broadcasting has always been a cut above?

After all, Ofcom breathes down the necks of British channels to make sure their politics coverage is impartial and accurate. But all that is starting to look a bit crumbly round the edges, as internet ventures far beyond the regulator’s reach are starting to get in on the game.

Time magazine has an interesting article about 18 Doughty Street – a self-consciously right-wing internet TV channel modelling itself on the overtly partisan way American TV handles politics . Unsurprisingly, it’s ruffling a few feathers in the British broadcasting establishment.

“As many as 25,000 viewers daily are logging onto a website that offers five solid hours of live-streamed punditry and reams of archived footage. By existing online, Doughty Street can avoid the long arm of regulators, which means “we’re completely up-front about our views,” says Dale, 44, a Conservative blogger. His three co-directors are also Tories… “Do you know the problem with balance?” asks Dale. “It’s boring.” Quite a few Britons are starting to agree.”

18 Doughty Street recently boosted its site traffic massively with its US-style campaign ad A World Without America, as well as provoking a bizarre spoof by UKIP – calling itself 17 Doughty Street – on a Britain Without the Tory Party.

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While sites like 18 Doughty Street are trampling onto what some may see as sacred territory, TV programmes and channels are increasingly stealing tricks from the web, too. This week sees the UK launch of Current TV.

Like a telly version of YouTube, but with the chaff sifted out, the satellite TV channel markets itself to the short-attention-spanned internet generation by limiting all its programmes (“pods” – how trendy!) to just a few minutes long. A third of them – mostly documentaries – are user-generated. Al Gore’s the man in charge, and if you want to win the chance to meet him you can make your own “pod” and upload it.

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