Tucker Carlson and Piers Morgan herald a new media era

Nick Hilton
8 min readFeb 16, 2024


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I recently deactivated Twitter and then forgot to reactivate it during the 30-day window that the company provides for you to change your mind. And so it’s done: years spent idling away the hours on the app, building my meagre following, all condemned to dust. Rather than feeling like one of those strange bereavements (like when I lost access to my childhood Gmail account) it has been a liberating experience, a weight off my back. And one of the supplementary benefits is managing to largely avoid the sight of Tucker Carlson interviewing Vladimir Putin.

Ok, I didn’t really avoid it. It’s been quite hard to avoid, given it’s both a major geopolitical news story and the sort of weird media intrigue I usually enjoy. Particularly thrilling, to me, was the interview that Putin gave to Russian state media this week in which he scoffed at the “lack of sharp questions” from Carlson, the former Fox News anchor. It has real echoes of that famous Alien vs Predator tagline: whoever wins, we lose.

The decision to interview Putin was, I suspect, an easy one. Putin is a major world leader and a protagonist (or antagonist) in an era defining conflict. He also has very little interaction with Western media, particularly since the invasion of Ukraine. So it was an easy scoop to scoop. How exactly it was arranged — especially given the persistent allegations of Russian interference within the American Right — remains something of a mystery but will, I’m sure, make a good New Yorker long-read in the coming months. What’s clear is that the fact that Carlson is now plying his trade, not at a major US cable network, but on Elon Musk’s free-speech town square, X, played a big part in the booking. Even Fox News, which has become more openly hostile to Ukrainian President Zelensky in recent months, would be reluctant to air a softball interview with the Russian leader. Good for ratings, perhaps, but the average American who watches Fox News grew up with Russia as the big commie baddie in the geopolitical picture. For all that Fox and the Murdoch empire face allegations, from the Left, of parroting Kremlin lines, the brand association doesn’t really fly with their base.

But Carlson is unleashed on X. He is now part of a libertarian core who consider themselves iconoclastic about both politics and the media. “Why shouldn’t we engage with Putin?” they will ask, as though these questions have never occurred to the rest of the media. And, after all, there’s nothing wrong with challenging an orthodoxy here and there. But for Putin they are useful idiots, and there’s no way of getting round that. Putin wants to further the burgeoning scepticism within the US about financial and military support for Ukraine’s self-defence, and, for that purpose, Carlson is an obvious signal-booster. The fact that he doesn’t ask “sharp questions” is an added bonus. Carlson looked so delighted with the coup of landing the interview that he forgot that iconoclasm doesn’t end once your interviewee has been through hair and make-up. You have to also land a blow or two during the conversation, if only to keep up appearances.

But while Putin and the liberal press were happy to mock Carlson’s performance, the reality is that most of his viewers on X will have watched along, uncritically. Social media has long been a forum for a confusion of information, misinformation and disinformation. It’s inherent in the medium, which relies on unmoderated, self-publishing. For many of us, that means treating things that we read on Twitter or Facebook or Reddit with a degree of scepticism (“You really think someone would go on the internet and tell lies?” as the old self-aware meme goes). In the absence of reputation, curation or citation, the information disseminated on social media should be treated with a pinch of salt. But “many of us” is not the same as “all of us” or even “most of us”. There is a rich, and dangerous, vein of credulity that runs through social media’s user base.

But we are living through a moment when social media is colliding with traditional media, to alarming effect. Carlson’s talk show on X — Tucker, as it’s apparently called — looks and sounds like a traditional cable talk show. It doesn’t have any of the hallmarks of unreliability that have typified media created for the web over the past two decades. Except that, by publishing on X rather than Fox News, Carlson has freed himself up from even the most pitiful of press regulations or obligations. Broadcasting straight into this swamp — where fact and fiction frolic together in the mud like japing toads — erodes some of the last barriers between publishing and self-publishing. The longstanding expectation that traditional media would create content that social media could then dissect and analyse is crumbling.

In the same week that Carlson was hobnobbing with a man whose most prominent political opponent would shortly “die” in jail, here in London we had a glimpse of the path that Carlson is paving for broadcast journalists. Piers Morgan has spent the past year or two as a presenter on NewsUK’s TalkTV, hosting a show called Uncensored, in which he takes on long-form interviews with diverse panellists, from footballers to politicians. The TalkTV project — an attempt by the Murdoch establishment to create a British Fox News — has sputtered from Day One. It has been plagued by comparisons to GB News, another linear TV channel serving that market, which has achieved far greater market penetration than its News Corp rival. Morgan, who has been a Murdoch man since his News of the World days (watch that space…), was the channel’s star signing. They even built him a special studio out in West London so that he wouldn’t have to face the long commute to the company’s London Bridge headquarters, in the so-called “Baby Shard”.

Fast-forward to the present day, and Morgan is now forced to slog his way across London like the channel’s proletariat presenters. His show gets good viewing figures by TalkTV’s standards, but pitiful ones by the standards of a man who used to host shows on CNN and ITV. And so it was announced this week that Morgan would abandon the linear TV experiment and take Uncensored to YouTube.

On YouTube, Piers Morgan Uncensored has, at time of writing, 2.37m followers (as a point of comparison, 10,000 viewers would’ve been a normal figure watching live). The channel’s most popular video — a debate with Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef — has 22m views (his interview with Andrew Tate has 14m). And so it’s clear that both Morgan and the bods at NewsUK (it has been reported that the two parties share ownership of the channel’s presence on YouTube, in what could well become a tricky relationship) see far greater potential to extract value here.

But, more importantly, it will allow them to make the show radically more nimble, more reactive to current affairs. Morgan clearly sees room for himself as a smarter, more urbane version of Joe Rogan. Rogan manages to interview major political and business leaders in a long-form format, often entertaining them in his Texan studio for several hours of strange questions. Morgan’s expressed intention, in taking Uncensored exclusively to YouTube, is to allow himself to go deep on specific issues. He no longer has to fit the schedule offered him by TalkTV, nor does he have to so closely agonise about impartiality rules or IPSO guidelines (the show will still be regulated, to some extent, but no-one has quite come to terms with the rules by which internet exclusive content ought to play). It is win-win: all the revenue potential with none of the strictures of linear TV.

But — remember — this is not a unilateral decision. TalkTV was a major, reckless experiment undertaken by NewsUK at the behest of its supremo, Rupert, who has been a lifelong fan of talk television. But Rupert is increasingly marginalised, and a new era dawns. The idea of TalkTV was regressive, denying the changing media landscape and attempting to turn back the clock by sheer force of will. The steps undertaken this week by Morgan & Co are the sort of things that ought to have been attempted a couple of years ago. Late to the party, sure, but still at the party. And NewsUK will, in creating a major piece of flagship content exclusively for YouTube, still be one of the first media organisations to really take seriously the fact that YouTube is the biggest broadcaster in the world. The gains are there for everyone, but it might indicate that the age of the DIY YouTuber is coming to an end. Multi-billion dollar corporations can access massive audiences and undercut eye-watering broadcast costs, by shifting their distribution strategy.

Morgan, with Uncensored on YouTube, and Carlson, with Tucker on X, will represent the vanguard of this shift. Both are in the libertarian, free-speech space (though Morgan is significantly to the Left of Carlson) and will compete with one another for viewers. The race for eyeballs in this new land-grab is only just beginning. The question, for me, is whether social media starts to look more like traditional media, or whether the reverse becomes true. Do we see an increasing attempt within platforms like YouTube and X to distinguish between content being created by major media corporations and content being created by shadowy and anonymous internet users? Or do we see more traditional media corporations embracing the tactics and the shortcuts — both financial and editorial — deployed by social media creators?

This question isn’t just an ethical one (I don’t want to be accused of excessive moralising). It’s also a business one. Because right now it feels like a no-brainer for anchors who have been axed by major cable networks to try and grab their slice of a brand spankin’ new pie. And it feels obvious for media organisations to hedge the decline of traditional media by investing in these social formats. But every YouTuber in the world knows the pain of saturation. They all know the pain of the mysterious algorithms turning against you. One week you’re getting a million views per video and the next you’re getting 50k. And you never understand why. That’s an annoyance if you’re a YouTuber trying to make a good living off your content — it’s a disaster if you’re a media organisation whose financial stability is predicated on having some sort of predictable and sustainable audience. For all the faults of linear TV — and accurate measurement is certainly one of them — there is a consistency that makes decisions, both editorial and commercial, easier.

But the era of a hybrid between social and traditional media — the Turducken of the industry — is coming. All the hallmarks of traditionalism, but reduced to their bare essentials: I’ll christen it traduced media. But with friends like Morgan and Carlson, does traduced media really need enemies?

I no longer have Twitter for you to subscribe to, though you can follow me on Instagram here. And do listen to my podcast, The Ned Ludd Radio Hour. This week I’m talking to American journalist Lenore Skenazy about how worried we should be for “the kids”. Give it a try by listening below.



Nick Hilton

Writer. Media entrepreneur. London. Interested in technology and the media. Co-founder podotpods.com Email: nick@podotpods.com.