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TUESDAY 27  FEBRUARY 2024

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The tectonic plates shift as Piers Morgan switches his TalkTV show to YouTube

Sometimes in this business you can feel the tectonic plates shifting.

 

A significant tremor occurred on Friday when Piers Morgan revealed he was switching his Uncensored show from TalkTV to YouTube.

 

The quake must have been seismic among staff at the TV station. Morgan, 58, has been one of their standout stars, if not the station’s biggest single reason for tuning in.

 

They will fear for their future with his departure. Last year bosses gave them until February to turn the station’s fortunes around or face closure. They gussied up the studio and shuffled the presenters but it is still just talking heads on the telly, so maybe they will revert to being just a radio station.

 

Rumours about the switch were flying around at the weekend. TalkTV was forced to deny that Morgan had been sacked by Rupert Murdoch.

 

“Piers is still very much working for News Corp,” said a spokesman for the channel.

 

Murdoch personally hired Morgan on a pay deal that gave him a reported £50 million over three years. It doesn’t come easy. Morgan must deliver columns and contributions to Murdoch’s media empire in the US, Australia and Britain.

 

Piers Morgan Uncensored has produced newsy interviews with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, which included a £1,000 bet on his Rwanda policy; Benjamin Netanyahu, about his fight with the Israeli judiciary; and Cristiano Ronaldo on rape allegations and life at Manchester United.

 

Now he is going online, where he has 2.3 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, far more than are watching on TV. “It is clear we have a huge global demand for the content we are making,” he claimed.

 

He said his interview with Sunak quickly gained 400,000 views when it was posted on YouTube last Monday afternoon. Ronaldo was seen six million times, compared with 350,000 on TalkTV.

 

Scott Taunton, executive vice-president of broadcasting for News UK, said making Morgan a “digital-first” broadcaster would lift his global audience.

 

“More and more are consuming video news and opinion online. This evolution is set to continue,” he said.

 

You can read that two ways. The sea change in the way news and comment is delivered could also spell the end for marginal TV channels such as TalkTV. Perhaps some bigger ones, too.

 

I am never sure what to make of Morgan. I struggle with the self-promotion, the overbearing arrogance and the defensive sneering at his detractors.

 

The blunder that got him fired as editor of the Mirror was particularly vile. He printed pictures of an Iraqi prisoner allegedly being abused by British soldiers. But they were fakes.

 

The late, lamented Terry Evans, who was picture editor of the Sunday Express at the time, called them out. “They weren’t taken on a camera phone in the back of a lorry,” he said. “They’re pin-sharp and professional.” He convinced me and we almost splashed on it.

 

On the same day that Morgan announced his YouTube move, the Duke of Sussex’s brief claimed outside the High Court that Morgan knew his Daily Mirror lieutenants were hacking phones to bring him scoops.

 

Did he? The answer, of course, is Yes. If he didn’t, he simply was not doing his job properly. But is all this chicanery trumped by his uncanny ability to bring in a story?

 

I’m afraid so. If you keep breaking stories your faults will be filed under Who Cares?

 *****

 Rod Stewart, who was once heard to ask where former Daily Express editor Chris Williams got his hair cut, gave an entertaining interview that appeared in The Times on Friday.

 

In it, he mentioned that he did not know any songs by the hugely successful British singer Ed Sheeran, or “old  ginger bollocks”, as he called him.

 

At last! I’ve been saying this for years. It’s production line rubbish but it has made Sheeran a multi-millionaire. And the same goes for Taylor Swift, who has just become a billionaire.

 

I blame AI.

 *****

 An old lag from Today gets in touch to reminisce about a farewell drinkathon following a cull on the paper. He reports: “I was trying to cheer up a young reporter who was sobbing her heart out. ‘No, you don’t understand,’ she said. ‘I’ve been wanting to leave this hellhole for ages – and I’m not on the list.’”

 *****

 Another February weekend, another Six Nations controversy. Two, in fact.

 

Both arose from refereeing decisions that were earnest, well-intended … and wrong.

 

Scotland got the worst of it. They were robbed of a perfectly good try by a referee who was sticking to the exact letter of a misguided law. He ruled that it probably was not a try but called for clarification from the Television Match Official (TMO).

 

The TMO could not quite see the ball in contact with the ground, so the no-try verdict had to stand, even though both he and the match referee strongly suspected the ball had been touched down.

 

It was the last play of the match and crucial to the outcome. Scotland lost.

 

Meanwhile, England were denied a probable two points for a conversion when Welsh players charged the kick before fly-half George Ford had started his run-up. The referee quoted chapter and verse to a bemused and angry Ford and Wales were allowed to restart as though he had missed the kick.

 

After the match, World Cup winner Jonny Wilkinson insisted Ford had not begun his run-up. Former Wales fly-half and goal-kicker Dan Biggar agreed. But not the over-educated, nit-picking Kiwi ref James Doleman.

 

As a fan, I’m sick of this long-winded, bureaucratic, box-ticking form of adjudication. It has emerged because those who run the sport fear they will be sued into oblivion by a generation of players who suffered brain damage leading to dementia.

 

Now the laws are so prescribed that referees have no choice but to examine the facts of an incident like a barrister probing for the truth.

 

What happened to common sense, intuition, the balance of probabilities? If it looks like a try and feels like a try, it is a try.

 

Any referee who thinks otherwise is whistling in the wind.

 *****

 Neil “Razor” Ruddock, was a teak-hard central defender for, among others, West Ham and England. Legend has it that the Hammers let him go when they discovered they didn’t have a pair of shorts big enough to fit him.

 

I was reminded of this story when I read a piece in the Daily Mail, which revealed that the Metropolitan Police had ordered thousands of pairs of trousers with a waist of 40 inches or larger. The biggest were XXXXXXL (62 inches). The largest pair for a woman officer were 44 inches.

 

I’m not surprised, you see these lardy rozzers everywhere. I used to think most beat bobbies couldn’t find their own arse with both hands. But surely that can’t be true any longer?


RICHARD DISMORE


13 February 2024