2021 has been a groundbreaking year for UK news broadcasters. Good Morning Britain was flying high until their star presenter, Piers Morgan, walked out during the Harry and Meghan interview controversy.

Then, as a kind of symbolic response to the ‘woke’ agenda that saw Morgan quit, the first right-leaning UK news channel, GB News, emerged. It quickly fell down, rose up, and now lurks somewhere in-between.

But in order to thrive, these programmes must convey both sides of an argument instead of creating unhealthy political echo chambers.

Good Morning Britain

Before Piers Morgan left Good Morning Britain, the programme voiced a sound range of political views. Regular disagreements between Morgan and his co-presenter, Susanna Reid, became a focal point of the show.

Perhaps the most notable ‘tuffle’ between the on-screen ‘spouses’ came during the now infamous Meghan and Harry fiasco back in March. Meghan Markle revealed in her interview with Oprah Winfrey that she had experienced suicidal thoughts since becoming a member of the Royal Family. But more than that, she said that her concerns were dismissed by the ‘institution’. In turn, Morgan responded with a tactful: ‘I don’t believe a word she says’. Susanna Reid, for her part, thought that this was ‘a pathetic reaction’ to someone expressing these concerns.

Whoever was right or wrong is quite frankly irrelevant. More important is the fact that two presenters were able to speak their minds on a public matter. And while almost 58,000 people complained to Ofcom about Piers Morgan’s comments, the UK public has somewhat turned against Harry and Meghan since the interview. YouGov’s polls indicate that the couple are the most unpopular royals, with only Prince Andrew being more disliked. Meanwhile, Prince William and Kate Middleton are the second and third most popular royals, behind only Queen Elizabeth.

Clearly, many people were displeased with Morgan, bearing in mind the 58,000 complaints to Ofcom. And it’s easy to see why; he dismissed someone’s claims about wanting to take their own life. The sheer possibility that this was true makes his comments extremely naive. Nevertheless, he should still be allowed to voice his opinions, especially when Morgan wasn’t intentionally trying to trivialise Meghan Markle’s mental health problems. Rather, he just thinks that she is a ‘demonstrable liar’.

The steady decline of Good Morning Britain since Morgan’s departure shows that forthright speakers are wanted in the media. His final day on the show saw 1.9 million viewers tune in. A few months later, it was reported that the programme received just 450,000.

Don’t get me wrong, my stomach turns at how he often tries to intimidate other guests and presenters by acting like an overbearing shark, but at least he’s willing to speak his mind. If the show is to recover, they need to hire someone who will challenge their co-presenters when necessary.

GB News

As a coincidentally fitting response to Good Morning Britain going woke, GB News arose just a few months later. Being a Right-leaning channel, it was certainly refreshing to hear a different perspective on current affairs.

The likes of Nigel Farage, Dan Wootton and Patrick Christys have led the way in challenging the new woke views that flood shows like Good Morning Britain. After Piers Morgan was recently cleared by Ofcom for his Meghan Markle comments, Christys said that this was a ‘victory for free speech’. Finally, someone on television saw sense.

Despite this, GB News is ultimately creating a harmful Right-wing echo chamber of its own.

We’ve been copying America for quite some time now, but this is where we must stop and reflect. From CNN vs Fox News, to Trump vs Clinton, to Trump vs Biden; insults and division have become the norm in America. We must not allow this to become the narrative in the UK.

The absence of an opinion news channel that encourages rational debate, is beyond me. In fairness, Nigel Farage has occasionally done this well through his popular GB News show, Talking Pints. He’s had some very civil conversations with people he sharply disagrees with on contentious issues.

This was clear when he spoke with former England cricketer, Monty Panesar, on racism in Britain. Despite holding polar opposite opinions, the two men respectfully disagreed and listened to one another. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this clip should be used in schools and universities up and down the country. I’ve struggled to find a more mature disagreement anywhere else on TV.

This is a far cry from what we’ve seen on Good Morning Britain over the years — regardless of whether it’s Piers Morgan or Richard Madeley doing the bellowing. The need to be right on everything leads to guaranteed unsavoury arguments and sets an entirely wrong example to viewers.

And while Farage deserves some plaudits, he needs to improve. Whether it’s Shaun Bailey, Jacob Rees-Mogg or Ann Widecombe, he generally only speaks with people who agree with him. Of course, it can be useful to see people with similar political viewpoints getting along, but it’s a waste of time to hear nothing but this. It’s arguably better to have our opinions challenged and be kept on our toes.

Lessons to be learned

The lesson from the past few months is the same for Good Morning Britain and GB News — encourage broader political discussion. Whether someone’s views on a subject are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, we must see all reasonable sides of the debate discussed.

Ideally, a civil conversation should take place given that it’s rare to see someone who’s completely wrong. Is the UK a racist society? Is social media good or bad for us? Has the Covid response been sufficient or insufficient?

Normally, the answer lies somewhere in between. Only by debating both sides can we come to the most accurate conclusions. Shutting down viewpoints or cancelling well-meaning individuals is no way to reach the golden middle.

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