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Murdoch to keep TalkTV on air despite low viewing figures

Company denies reports of looming closure as numbers lag far behind rival channels

Rupert Murdoch has insisted he will not shut down TalkTV despite questions over the fledgling news channel’s future as it struggles to revive ailing viewer numbers.

Parent company News UK has denied reports the media mogul is drawing up plans to shelve the opinionated news network as soon as the end of the year after it failed to win over audiences.

A News UK spokesman said: “There are no plans nor any discussions about closing TalkTV.”

The channel launched last April with the aim of drawing viewers away from mainstream rivals such as the BBC through a slate of lively, opinionated programming.

But despite a number of high-profile interviews on Piers Morgan’s show – including Donald Trump and Cristiano Ronaldo – the channel has failed to replicate the success of Mr Murdoch’s outspoken US news network Fox.

Its monthly reach stood at just 1.8m in May,

according to the latest figures from ratings agency Barb. That lagged behind 3.4m for rival GB News, and well below 9m for Sky News and 11m for BBC News.

The lacklustre viewing figures come despite Mr Murdoch investing heavily in the upstart channel, including splashing out on new TV studios at the group’s headquarters in London Bridge.

Mr Murdoch, who visited News UK’s London headquarters ahead of his lavish summer party last month, has been pumping more money into broadcasting as advertising revenues in his traditional newspaper business come under strain.

Piers Morgan's interview with former US president Donald Trump trumped rivals in viewership numbers CREDIT: TalkTV

Bosses have reportedly urged the 92-year-old to rebrand the channel as The Sun TV, with presenter Jeremy Kyle filming test promotional links.

One insider said TalkTV bosses were planning to shake up the schedule later in this year in a further effort to boost viewing figures.

TalkTV suffered a £34m loss during its first year on air, according to company accounts filed in April. The station is drawing on a £20m overdraft facility guaranteed by parent company News Corp.

News UK last year brought in Richard Wallace, a former editor of the Daily Mirror, to lead output on TalkTV.

But the channel has since been rocked by a number of internal changes, fuelling speculation about dissatisfaction among staff.

Tom Newton Dunn, who presents the evening First Edition show, has been on an unexplained leave of absence for the last month. He was previously moved from the primetime 7pm slot to 10pm amid low ratings.

Earlier this week, political editor Kate McCann left TalkTV to join Times Radio, which is also part of Mr Murdoch’s stable of outlets.

In a further blow, senior TalkTV executive Erron Gordon was this week poached by GB News. Piers Morgan’s top editor Ben Briscoe also defected to the rival channel earlier this year.

Despite the turmoil, News UK boss Rebekah Brooks was upbeat about TalkTV’s prospects in a recent update to staff, with one executive emphasising its success in the US.


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