Sky News Or Fox News? Peers Suggest Ditching Impartiality Rules

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Sky News should be allowed to be as politically biased as it wants, according to an influential group of peers - a proposal rejected by the head of the channel.

In a report published on Wednesday morning, the Lords communication committee said non-public broadcasters should be freed from their legal duty to uphold impartiality.

If the current rules were ditched, Sky News would in theory be free to emulate its American sister station Fox News, which is often criticised for being a mouthpiece for the Republican Party and ultra conservative policies.

The peers suggested the move should be made as the distinction between broadcast journalism and print or online journalism will become increasingly blurred thanks to the development of new technology.

The committee said the "vigorous partisan" news provided by the print media compared with the balanced and impartial television news had created a "valuable mixed ecology". But they said in an internet age where the medium though the public consume news was no longer clear cut this had become "increasingly irrelevant".

Committee chairman, Lord Inglewood, said: "The media has been at the top of the news agenda for some time, but the debate has been too insular and vital issues have been left out of the discussions, particularly around the changing way in which we consume media today. The elephant in the room has been the impact of technological change - the internet.

"Content does not just reach us from three or four TV channels but from all over the world and from sources which do not fit into neat categories like TV, radio or newspapers."

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The peers argued it was "increasingly untenable" for television news to be governed in a separate way from that provided online or in newspapers.

In a provocative statement the committee said the government should consider bringing non-public sector broadcasters into the new regime of press regulation into its remit and remove the impartiality requirement.

John Ryley, the head of Sky News, swiftly rejected the suggestion. He told HuffPost UK: "Sky News will remain committed to impartial news coverage with or without an obligation to do so. Our choice would be to remain impartial in the event that obligations were lifted."

Sky News has fiercely defended itself against accusations it is not neutral. During the 2010 election campaign the then children's secretary Ed Balls accused Sky News of being "deeply partisan".

It is of course not just the Sky News that is accused of bias. The BBC has come under fire from Conservatives since 2010 for favouring Labour. Commenting on the appointment of former Labour cabinet minister James Purnell to a senior position in the corporation, culture committee member Philip Davies said: "It is not as if the BBC is not already over-balanced with Left-leaning people."

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