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TalkTV Boss Told Staff to ‘Make a Fuss’ About Channel Migrant Deaths and ‘Get Angry’

A News UK insider described the apparent attempts by the struggling channel to rile up viewers as ‘irresponsible’

Monday’s TalkTV morning show with Kevin O’Sullivan and Alex Phillips saw the hosts demand tougher action on small boat crossings. Image TalkTV screengrab

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The head of the Murdoch-owned station TalkTV told staff to “make a fuss of immigrant deaths in France” and bring migrants to the “front of the agenda”, after five migrants lost their lives trying to cross the Channel over the weekend. 

An internal email sent by the head of broadcasting for News UK, Richard Wallace and leaked to Byline Times, also urged staff to use stories to “kick” Tony Blair and “get angry” about a Daily Mail story suggesting the leaders of a Jihadi terror cell could be released “within weeks”.

The memo to staff set out the focus for the channel, urging them to focus on “domestic hits” and appeared to suggest sensationalising the migrant death tragedy to boost viewing figures.

On Monday morning’s show with Kevin O’Sullivan and Alex Phillips saw Kevin claim migrants were “embraced into our channel” with “free food” and hotels – branding Sir Keir Starmer’s proposed solution of tackling the criminal trafficking gangs “useless.” Phillips called for “dramatic” action to tackle the crossings.

Wallace, who was editor of the Daily Mirror from 2004-2012, told staff at the Ofcom-regulated channel to “get angry” about issues that attract viewers to the channe.

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The broadcasting code instructs stations to ensure “due impartiality on matters of political or industrial controversy” and “matters relating to current public policy”.

The leak, exclusively revealed by Byline Times, has triggered an angry response in turn from the leading refugee group the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), with a spokesperson for the group saying the comments show “a breath-taking level of cynicism as well as an utter disregard for human life.”

The email also shows Wallace discussing a need to pivot away from “PO” – understood to refer to the Post office scandal – as the audience is “not engaged” in it.

TalkTV, launched at huge cost in 2022 has a roster of presenters including controversial former Mirror editor Piers Morgan as well as opinionated figures Jeremy Kyle, Mike Graham, and Julia Hartley-Brewer. The News UK-owned channel’s motto is “straight talking starts here” but it has struggled with low viewing figures and has been broadly outflanked by rival channel GB News. 

Last July it was reported that Rupert Murdoch, now retiring, had instructed staff to keep TalkTV on the air despite its low viewing figures. The poor ratings appear to be spurring the channel to chase more controversial and politicised topics. 

The email from TalkTV boss Richard Wallace to staff on Sunday. More junior staffers’ names have been removed

A source at the station told Byline Times: “Obviously everyone knows what audience they’re chasing but to actually spell out “let’s make a fuss of immigrant deaths” and “let’s get angry” is still a bit shocking to read.” 

The News UK insider said: “Everyone in the building knows TalkTV only has a limited time left to prove its worth and audience figures are still tiny compared even to the likes of GB News. 

“There is an obsession with stories about migrants because management feels it plays to the core right-wing target market. But for the boss of the channel to try to deliberately incite anger is downright irresponsible.”

Ravishaan Rahel Muthiah, spokesperson for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants’ told Byline Times: “We are disgusted by the cynicism on display in these revelations about TalkTV. Despite publicly portraying themselves as outspoken, it seems clear that when it comes down to it they would prefer to support the establishment and manipulate people into scapegoating minorities.” 

Then-Mirror Editor Richard Wallace appearing at the Leveson Inquiry in London in 2011. Photo: PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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The JCWI director of communications added the comments about moving away from the Post Office scandal to focus on “hits” like migrant deaths “shows a breath-taking level of cynicism as well as an utter disregard for human life.”  

“Every life lost in the Channel is a tragedy. These are real people who have died due to the repeated dehumanisation and demonisation of those who seek sanctuary on our shores by our government and unscrupulous media. These leaked emails show just how shamelessly sections of our media manipulate people into blaming those who are most vulnerable while failing to hold to account those in power,” Muthiah said.

Calling for an ad boycott of TalkTV, Richard Wilson, director of the press campaign group Stop Funding Hate, said: “This exposé will inevitably raise new concerns about the “Foxification” of UK broadcasting. Britain urgently needs a media that upholds the public interest – and practices responsible journalism – rather than weaponising human suffering and stoking anger for commercial gain. 

“Advertisers can play their part by steering clear of inflammatory “Fox News style” channels like TalkTV.”

TalkTV did not respond to requests for comment.

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