While Boris Johnson got the boot, UK TV got some pretty bonkers
It’s been the weirdest week on British television for a long time.
In the days leading up to Boris Johnson’s resignation, the number of blunders and surreal moments captured on live TV became almost impossible to keep up with. But in many ways, these moments reflected the surreal mood of the country as the Prime Minister refused to step down, despite more than 50 government resignations.
Take political coverage of College Green, a public park in Westminster and a popular venue for interviews with politicians. On Wednesday, the day after the sensational resignations of Health Secretary Sajid Javid and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, ITV’s Susanna Reid and former Labor Chancellor Ed Balls were interrupted on ‘Good Morning Britain’ by anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray singing a karaoke version of the Bay City Rollers, replacing the words “Bye Bye Baby” with “Bye Bye Boris”.
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) July 6, 2022
Thursday, it got even weirder. Hours after news broke that Johnson was to step down, Bray accepted a music request from actor Hugh Grant on Twitter (yes, really) to shout “Yaxety Sax”. This culminated in a Sky News interview with a Tory MP discussing the future of their party to the resounding and ridiculous sound of Benny Hill’s theme song.
“THE BENNY HILL THEME TUNE” IS NOW RELEASED ON SKY NEWS. pic.twitter.com/N06wBwcoZl
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) July 7, 2022
Meanwhile, earlier this morning on ITV, the morning TV host Lorraine Kelly used a psychic pig during his show to determine whether Boris Johnson was set to step down. In the moments after Johnson’s resignation plans were announced, I sped off to ITV expecting to see continued coverage outside Number 10 and ‘Lorraine’ die down. Instead, Lorraine replayed footage of the psychic pig and revealed that the animal was indeed right.
“You might think that’s very silly,” Kelly told viewers. “But pigs are very smart, I think you will find it.” ITV then moved to No 10 for a while, only to return immediately to discuss a new film about orgasms.
Elsewhere on Sky News, former Tory politician Michael Heseltine was interviewed while wearing a sweater with a large sheepskin on it. Even the BBC’s coverage, which you can count on to stay professional and relatively straightforward on big news days, has at times veered surreal.
On Wednesday afternoon, the public broadcaster introduced a “Government Resignations Ticker” alongside rival Sky News. On Wednesday evening, as Boris clung desperately to power, the BBC News camera took the opportunity to zoom in impatiently on Larry, cat number 10, for 30 seconds, waiting to be admitted into the building. Coincidentally, some analysis of the popularity of Johnson’s premiership was circulating at the time, but since the prime minister’s name was not mentioned, it inadvertently seemed that the The BBC implied that Larry the cat was the leader of the party and on the verge of giving up.
When gaffes have occurred on the news channels, they have often garnered sympathy due to the unexpected and seemingly endless coverage. It also strangely reflected the exasperated national mood. At one point the BBC News camera accidentally showed BBC newsreader Tim Willcox in the studio with his feet on the desk while looking at his phone, instead of Ros Atkins broadcasting live from Downing Street . The nation, which had stared hungrily at its phones for hours waiting for another cabinet member to resign, could only respond to its pose and reaction with a “same.”
BBC News accidentally cut its news studio, showing a presenter with his feet up on the desk. pic.twitter.com/FVvxaXTQUt
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) July 6, 2022
The ratings of these UK news channels have also been interesting to follow. With much of BBC One’s and BBC Two’s evening schedules dominated by the second week of Wimbledon and Women’s Euro matches, much of the evening’s political turmoil remained on the non-stop news channels. And while the BBC News and Sky News channels saw a surge in viewership, dogged new entrants to the market such as right-wing GB News and Piers Morgan’s Talk TV barely moved their ratings. .
According to ratings body Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB), GB News averaged 109,000 viewers at 8pm on Wednesday, compared to over half a million on BBC News and over 400,000 for Sky News. Piers Morgan on Talk TV – who opened his ‘Uncensored’ episode on Wednesday night holding a piglet and saying ‘nothing could save [Johnson’s] bacon” – only reached 43,000, more or less in line with the disappointing ratings it has seen in recent weeks.
The poor performance – even with two guests leaving Morgan’s show that evening, in two separate interviews – demonstrates that these channels fail to attract viewers during major news events and only hope to compete with their rivals during quieter news days.
Yet all of that had nothing to do with ITV’s “This Morning,” which began Thursday’s episode with a show of Beatles impersonators in the middle of a forest, followed by one of their hosts heading off to fairy hunting. It’s reassuring to know, at least, that no matter how surreal the news or the political world gets, nothing bothers “This Morning.”