Sky News is a 24-hour international multimedia news organisation based in the UK that started as a 24-hour television news channel. John Ryley is the Head of Sky News, a role he has held since June 2006.
A sister channel, Sky News Arabia, is operated as a joint venture with other partners. Another sister channel, Sky News Australia, was part owned by Sky News parent Sky plc until December 2016. A channel called Sky News International, with the same news content as the UK channel but without British adverts, is available in Europe, Africa, Asia and the United States. Sky News Radio provides national and international news to commercial radio and community radio stations in the UK and to other English-language stations around the world. Sky News also provides content to Yahoo! News. The channel is available on Apple TV, Roku and YouTube.
Establishment and early years
On 8 June 1988, Rupert Murdoch announced plans to start a new television news service in a speech to the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta). Sky News started broadcasting at 6 pm on 5 February 1989.
Visually Sky News looked very neat, with slick and classy presentation and John O'Loan's original vocation as an architect showing in the studio set. Sky had gone for the same format as the Nine O'Clock News on the BBC, which had recently been redesigned to give the impression of activity and immediacy by placing the newsreader against a backdrop of the working newsroom. Sky News, it was universally agreed as staff nodded in vigorous approval, had succeeded rather better at the same thing. The critics were mildly taken aback. Contrary to some of the horror scenarios bandied about by the chattering classes there seemed to be little to grumble about. And as its slogan of 'We're there when you need us,' emphasised, it was always on.
In the early days the channel operated on a £40 million budget (plus £10 million share of overheads), which led Sam Chisholm, chief executive of the newly merged BSkyB to suggest to Murdoch that the station to be closed, but Rupert was "pleased with its achievements ... there were overriding reasons of prestige and politics for keeping it ... the final hurdle of the Broadcasting Bill had still to be overcome and the case for the acceptability of Sky would collapse if suddenly there was no news channel." – former deputy Prime Minister William Whitelaw said in the House of Lords in 1990 that Sky News had "a very high reputation ... I admire it, as do many other people, it will certainly waken up both the BBC and ITN and ensure that they compete with what is a very important news service". The channel has never been run for a profit, and has considered using ITN to supplement the service.
By March 1992, Sky News' parent company turned from loss to profit. On the channel's growth, Murdoch said at that time: "Sky News, has quietly, if expensively, become the first building block of what we envision will become the premier worldwide electronic news-gathering network anywhere. Ask anyone in Europe, and particularly the BBC and you will be told that Sky News has added a new and better dimension to television journalism."
Sky News was the UK's first 24-hour news channel, broadcast on Astra 1A. It had no local competition until November 1997 when BBC News launched a new 24-hour channel, BBC News 24, now known simply as BBC News. In September 1999 the European Commission ruled against a Sky News complaint which argued that the publicly funded BBC News 24 was unfair and illegal under EU law. The EC ruled that the television licence fee should be considered state aid (within the meaning of Article 87) but that the BBC's public service remit justified the channel.
Sky News since 2000
In March 2000 Sky News Active was launched, a 24-hour interactive service providing headlines (and other services which ranged from weather, the top story of the day and showbiz) on demand.
On 24 October 2005, Sky News moved to new studios in Isleworth, London, and underwent a major on-screen revamp. The new studio was integrated with the newsroom and boasted the biggest video wall in Britain; it was designed by New York architects Janson Design Group. New music was scored by Adelphoi Music and recorded with a full orchestra at Air Studios, Hampstead, and mastered at Metropolis Studios. New on-screen graphics were launched and the channel began broadcasting in widescreen (16:9) format.
The 2005 relaunch also saw the introduction of a new schedule designed around "appointment to view" programmes rather than continuous rolling news. James Rubin joined to present a new evening programme called World News Tonight, Julie Etchingham presented another new "hard-hitting" evening show called The Sky Report, Eamonn Holmes joined to present Sunrise, Kay Burley presented a new programme called Lunchtime Live from 12 to 2 pm, and the daytime show Sky News Today saw the introduction of a three-presenter format. However, the relaunched schedule was unsuccessful, and from October 2005 the BBC News channel overtook Sky News in the ratings.
In response to the schedule's unpopularity with viewers, changes took place in July 2006, involving the removal of the evening programmes replaced by rolling news and an interactive programme, Sky News with Martin Stanford, and the return to a two-presenter format on Sky News Today. These changes came at the time of the arrival of John Ryley, who is still the head of Sky News.
On 1 October 2007 Sky introduced another new schedule, extending Kay Burley's Lunchtime Live programme and renaming it Afternoon Live. It also switched to a new format for much of the day, with a solo lead presenter and a summary newsreader. Sky News put more emphasis on interactive news with Martin Stanford's new SkyNews.com programme; an early evening financial news programme presented by Jeff Randall, was also introduced, initially on Mondays only.
Further changes were made to the Sky News schedule on 8 September 2008, with Colin Brazier presenting a new show from 1 pm – 2 pm, The Live Desk, and Martin Stanford's Sky.com News became SkyNews.com, moving to 7 pm every weeknight.
More changes took place during the early part of 2009. These changes involved major changes to the layout of the newsroom/studio, the introduction of a morning edition of The Live Desk and the extension of the financial news programme Jeff Randall Live to run for four nights each week, Monday to Thursday.
In preparation for the start of high-definition broadcasting, Sky News moved to its second studio (Studio B) on the morning of 30 March 2010. Broadcasting from Studio B continued until 9 pm on 6 May, when it moved back to the main newsroom and launched Sky News HD in time for the 2010 General Election results. Sky News received a graphics refresh and a new logo to coincide with the launch of the new HD channel – this was tried out during the soft launch for Sky News HD on 22 April; Sky News' distinctive orchestral theme music, in use since 2005, was also replaced on 6 May 2010.
Following the 2015 General Election, Sky News was rebranded, with a new top-of-the-hour sequence and on-screen graphics. The traditional opening voiceover, read by Bruce Hammal, was dropped after two decades in use.
On 24 October 2016, Sky News began broadcasting from a new studio (Studio 21) at Sky Central, Sky's new headquarters in West London. The "glass box" studio is used for broadcasts from 6 am to 6.30 pm each weekday (with the exception of All Out Politics, which comes from Sky's Westminster studio). The schedule was also changed.
From Summer 2017, Sky moved all its news operations to Sky Central.
Sky News is free-to-air on the Astra 28.2°E satellites carrying Sky. It is also available on Freeview and analogue and digital cable. In 2007 BSkyB announced its intention to cease broadcasting Sky News as well as other BSkyB channels over Freeview pending Ofcom approval.
Sky News International
Sky News is also available internationally on cable systems, on satellite and in some hotels. While the UK feed is broadcast in 16:9, the international version remained broadcast in a 4:3 picture format until August 2010.
The international version is shown as free-to-air on Astra 1L at 19.2° east. It is also carried encrypted on a number of satellites for international reception–including but not limited to Hot Bird, Nilesat, Amos 1 and Intelsat 10-02. It is also usually carried on cable systems in Europe, particularly (but not only) in Northern Europe, especially in the Scandinavian countries.
Most of Europe, the Middle East and Asia can receive the same version of Sky News as is available in the UK. Brief news stories, entertainment news, worldwide weather forecast summaries, and the front pages of international newspapers are broadcast in lieu of commercials.
On 19 June 2013 Sky News International was added to Apple TV for users in the UK, Ireland and United States. Viewers can watch clips or live streaming of the channel at no charge. On 24 July 2013, it was added to the Roku streaming player. Sky News International is available on news.sky.com to viewers around the world. On 30 September 2014, Sky News began live streaming the channel on YouTube.
Sky News Australia was one-third owned by Sky plc until December 2016, when it was acquired by News Corp Australia. It carries Sky News UK overnight and shares some of its presentational style. On Foxtel in Australia, Sky News UK is available on Sky News Active. From 2004 to 2006, Sky News Ireland broadcast two newscasts produced in Dublin. The newscasts were cancelled due to low viewership. Sky News in Ireland now carries the same programming as Sky News in the UK but with local advertising. Sky News Arabia, broadcasting in Arabic and headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, launched in 2012. Sky plc owns 50% of the channel.
Until 2017, Sky News had a resource-sharing agreement with CBS News in the United States to share footage and reporting. In July 2017, in the wake of Sky's pending takeover by 21st Century Fox (which runs the competing and de facto sister Fox News Channel in the U.S.), and NBC News acquiring a stake in Euronews, CBS ended the agreement and entered into a similar deal with the BBC.
Sky News HD
Beginning in early 2008, Sky News began using HD-capable cameras in the field. Some one-off programmes were made available in HD to Sky+ HD subscribers on Sky On Demand. The programmes included Technofile, Diana: The Final Word, Canoe Man: Rise and Fall of John Darwin and Pathfinders: Into The Heart Of Afghanistan.
On 20 January 2009, before the launch of the Sky News HD channel, Sky Arts broadcast Sky News coverage in HD of the Inauguration of Barack Obama. Jeremy Thompson fronted the coverage from Washington, D.C. Michael Jackson's memorial service was also broadcast in HD, with Kay Burley presenting.
The first live broadcast of Sky News HD, on Sky Channel 517, was the channel's election debate which was held on 22 April 2010. For the 10 days leading up to the debate, channel 517 displayed a countdown clock to launch. The debate was hosted in HD by Kay Burley and Adam Boulton. Following the end of the coverage for the evening, channel 517 moved to show a looping preview tape. The tape included the HD which were available on Sky Anytime. The loop continued until Sky News HD was launched on the evening of 6 May 2010, coinciding with the coverage of the 2010 General Election results, hosted by Adam Boulton.
On 1 January 2015, Sky News HD launched on Virgin Media.
Sky News Radio
In March 2007, BSkyB and Chrysalis Group announced plans to launch a dedicated Sky News Radio station on the proposed bid by Channel 4's 4 Digital Group for the second DAB multiplex in the United Kingdom. However, two months later Chrysalis sold its radio stations to Global Radio, and in October 2007 following a business review Global's chief executive announced that it would be withdrawing from the joint venture.
The channel occasionally focuses on specific areas of society and current affairs. Past examples include Inside Iraq, Green Britain and Crime Uncovered.
Pakistan: On Terror's Frontline was shown throughout the week beginning Monday 23 March 2009. A Sky News press release stated:
|“||Over three days, Sky News will explore why Pakistan has become the frontline of terror and ask what the West can do about it. Jeremy Thompson will present live from the capital Islamabad, interviewing key figures across the community.||”|
The series of reports won a 2009 RTS Award for International News Coverage.
Criticism and perception
Sky News operates under United Kingdom broadcasting regulations which require impartial, unbiased coverage and prevent the channel from being encrypted in the UK. The channel is viewed by some in the media establishment as an impartial and unbiased provider of news.
There are occasional claims that Sky News may be inherently biased due to the fact that it is majority-owned by 21st Century Fox; most of 21st Century Fox's (and News Corp, in which Rupert Murdoch also has an ownership interest) news outlets have an openly conservative or right-wing outlook. In a 2010 article in the New Statesman, prominent journalist and broadcaster Mehdi Hasan argued that "in style and in substance, of course, it is nothing like the pro-war, pro-Republican, pro-Palin Fox News Channel... Sky News remains, as far as I can see, free of party political bias."
In early 1994 Kelvin MacKenzie, former editor of The Sun newspaper, was appointed managing director of BSkyB, Sky News's parent company at the time. MacKenzie's proposed changes to Sky News led to clashes with CEO Sam Chisholm and the head of Sky News, Ian Frykberg, who protested at what they saw as an attempt to take the channel's news values downmarket. The most ferocious battle occurred when Mackenzie wanted Sky News to run an interview with Lady Bienvenida Buck. Frykberg refused to air the interview and resigned shortly afterwards. The interview was broadcast on Sky One. MacKenzie announced his resignation in August 1994, but not before Sky News had transmitted live pictures of the freeway chase of OJ Simpson white Bronco on 17 June 1994 bringing US helicopter journalism to the UK.
In 1997 Sky News broadcast live coverage of Louise Woodward's trial, held in Boston, Massachusetts. When Sky returned to a regular schedule, viewers demanded the trial coverage be continued. Sky News broadcast reaction from Woodward's home town of Elton, Cheshire, leading to criticism that the station had a pro-Louise Woodward stance.
In 2003, Sky News defence correspondent James Furlong resigned after it was revealed that a report he had filed contained fabricated scenes. He later took his own life.
In 2014 Sky News journalist Colin Brazier rifled through an MH17 victim's possessions on live TV. He picked up objects and briefly described what he had before putting them down and saying "we shouldn't really be doing this I suppose, really". 110 complaints were submitted to Ofcom. Sky News stated both Brazier "and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused".
Sky News was again embroiled in controversy in October 2014, when crime correspondent Martin Brunt and his camera crew doorstepped Brenda Leyland, who had posted controversial comments concerning the McCann investigation on social media. Following the confrontation Leyland was found dead in a hotel, leading to calls on social media for Brunt to be sacked. During the inquest into Leyland's death, Brunt expressed to the coroner that he was devastated at hearing the news of Leyland suicide. Following the inquest, Ofcom reported it had received 171 complaints in relation to the case and that it would consider these complaints in light of the coroner's verdict.
In August 2016 Sky News was criticised after allegedly paying €2,000 to a group of Romanians to pretend they were part of an eastern European gang selling guns to terrorists in Syria. The Romanians were arrested by Romanian DIICOT and confessed that they were paid by Sky News journalist Stuart Ramsay to pretend they were gun traffickers. The guns featured in the report were legally owned and were hunting weapons. Sky News stands by the story.
- November 2008, BSkyB paid substantial undisclosed libel damages to Robert Murat in relation to their reporting of the abduction of Madeleine McCann. Sky News had falsely suggested that Murat, who was assisting in the search of McCann, had acted like child murderer Ian Huntley following McCann's disappearance. Sky News also falsely accused Murat of misleading journalists into thinking he was working for the police. An apology was also placed on the Sky News website, the libellous material removed and Murat's costs were paid.
- November 2010, the UK attorney general was given the right to launch contempt of court proceedings against Sky News over the broadcaster's alleged breach of a media injunction. It was in relation to the reporting of the story of Paul and Rachel Chandler, a Kent couple who were held captive by Somali pirates for 13 months. The media was blocked from publishing details of the couple's "health and welfare" prior to their being freed on 14 November 2010. Sky claims that it "scrupulously observed the terms of the injunction", but also admitted that it "followed the spirit, if not the letter" of the order. At the time, lawyers representing the Chandlers obtained the court order over fears that their lives could be put in danger by the media reporting their capture. Sky News was alleged to have breached the injunction on the day of their release around from Somalia, leading attorney general Dominic Grieve QC to seek permission at the High Court to bring contempt proceedings. In January 2012, the attorney general dropped the case with a spokesperson for his office saying that continuing with proceedings would no longer be in the public interest.
- March 2013, Sky News journalist Mark Stone and his camera operator were detained in Tiananmen Square live on British television, in what he described as a surreal but telling episode about reporting in China. Viewers saw Stone being directed into a police van live from Beijing. The square is a popular tourist site near the regime's nerve centre and the scene of 1989 democracy protests that were crushed by the Chinese authorities. A police officer was filmed asking the Sky team to switch off their camera, saying they were now inside the Forbidden City and did not have permission to film there. While they had permission to film in the square, Stone said police told him the team were not displaying their passes correctly, and noted he was not carrying his passport as required. China's foreign ministry insists that press censorship does not exist in the country, but journalists report the constant threat of interference from government officials.
On 10 May 2015, Sky News won a Bafta in the News Category, for Alex Crawford's coverage of the 2014 Ebola crisis.
Bureaux and studios
Sky News has bureaux across the world, some are operated in conjunction with other media outlets.
- Beijing, People's Republic of China
- Brussels, Belgium
- Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Dublin, Republic of Ireland
- Jerusalem, Israel
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Melbourne, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Moscow, Russia (with NTV Russia)
- New Delhi, India (with Wion Tv and Zee Live)
- New York City, US (with Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network)
- Sydney, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Washington, D.C., US (with Fox News Channel)
Additional live studios
- Auckland, New Zealand (with Sky News New Zealand)
- Adelaide, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Brisbane, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Canberra, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Los Angeles, U.S. (with Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network)
- Milan, Italy (with Sky TG24)
- Perth, Australia (with Sky News Australia)
- Rome, Italy (with Sky TG24)
News.sky.com is the channel's main website. It provides news, sport, weather, showbiz and business stories.
In 2009 the website changed to bring it in line with the on-screen look of Sky News. The site made use of Flash video encoding to match the visual style of the TV channel with pictures and breaking news. The site underwent a further refresh in 2012, when both the look of the pages and the content management system were updated.
Virgin Media dispute
On 1 March 2007, Sky's agreement to provide its basic channels (including Sky News) to Virgin Media expired. At midnight, Sky News was removed and the EPG entry for the channel was changed to "Sky Snooze Try BBC" until Sir Richard Branson demanded the message be removed, saying: "I have asked them to take it down. We do not mean any disrespect to Sky News. I think it is a very good news channel."
Sky News and the other Sky channels which had been removed reappeared on Virgin Media on 13 November 2008.