Channel Guide: Sky News 

1 January 2002 tbs.pm/1930

No channel did more to revolutionise television news in this country than Sky News, which launched on the 5th February 1989 at 6pm.

Prior to the launch of Direct-To-Home satellite television, there hadn’t been a UK based news channel available, only CNN International, which was based in Atlanta. Now, with the launch of Sky News, there was a third major force in British television news.

But it wasn’t meant to be like this. In 1988, discussions took place between Independent Television News (ITN) and Sky Television about ITN providing a channel for Sky under the Sky News brand, but that never came to anything, and Sky ended up having to finance and build a whole news operation from scratch.

It was a huge initial expense for the creation of a new channel, foreign bureau, a whole news production centre, studio for the channel, and all the rest. But for all that initial expense and trouble, the result was more than worth all the expense and trouble.

Sky News slowly began to establish itself as a credible 24-hour news channel with a reputation for getting the breaking stories first.

Often BBC1 and ITV would be the only other real competition, and unless the story was really major, those 2 channels wouldn’t interrupt what they were showing, and would only go to a news report between programmes, rather than interrupting them.

The only time Sky were actively behind on a breaking story was the Death Of Princess Diana, but they were only just behind BBC most of the time, although unlike BBC, they did show feature programming on the half hour during the night, unlike BBC which went with continuous coverage.

Sky News though has continued to provide coverage of breaking news as well as regular bulletins of the day’s news.

They have grown from using a small studio which could just about hold 3 people, which would be 2 newscasters and the sportscaster, up to a massive studio which could seat 5 people, plus a videowall with a stage area, and a “virtual floor” on which various maps can appear.

Recently, Sky News has added a personality-run programme, Littlejohn, to the schedules. Hosted by Richard Littlejohn, this show is quite similar to a show on sister station Fox News called The O’Reilly Factor, where host Bill O’Reilly gives his own commentary on the news as well as confronting those of opposing opinions on stories.

Current UK legislation means that Littlejohn has to have interviewees from both sides of the opinion divide on at the same time, unless one side or the other states they do not want to appear, but they have to state that both sides were invited.

Overall, Sky News has grown from being the new kid on the block, to being the second major force in TV news, ahead of ITN. Sky News is also the most popular of all the news channels around, with BBC News 24 just nipping at their heels.

Whether Sky’s lead in the news channel stakes will ever be overcome is a question only time can answer, but Sky News was always the first in the UK, and that you can never take away.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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Ian Beaumont Contact More by me

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