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Sky News is a British free-to-air television news channel and organisation. Sky News is distributed via a radio news service, and through online channels. It is owned by Sky, a division of Comcast. John Ryley is the head of Sky News, a role he has held since June 2006. Sky News is currently Royal Television Society News Channel of the Year, the 12th time it has held the award.
A sister channel, Sky News Arabia, is operated as a joint venture with the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corporation. Another sister channel, Sky News Australia, was part-owned by Sky News parent Sky plc until December 2016. A channel called Sky News International, simulcasting the UK channel directly but without British advertisements, is available in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Asia Pacific, Australia, and the Americas. Narrated segments (which generally cover lighter issues unrelated to current news stories) are played in lieu of advertisements, and international weather forecasts also are given at the end of each half-hour newswheel. Sponsored advertisements are still broadcast before and/or after the sports news and weather segments. Sky News Radio provides national and international news to commercial radio and community radio stations in the UK and other English-language stations around the world. Sky News also provides content to Yahoo! News. The channel is available on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, YouTube, and Pluto TV.
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. 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,’ emphasized, 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 be closed, but Murdoch 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.