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Sky News has announced Tesco’s Head of Broadcast, and former BBC financial correspondent and presenter, Dharshini David as the newest addition to its business unit. Dharshini’s appointment as business correspondent is a further expansion of Sky’s business team following the addition of former Sunday Telegraph City Editor, Mark Kleinman, earlier in the summer.

Before joining Tesco in 2008, Dharshini spent eight years working as a financial correspondent and presenter at the BBC, where she was latterly based in New York reporting on Wall Street and presenting the daily ‘World Business Report’.

John Ryley, Head of Sky News, said: “The Sky News business unit now has a team of complimentary talents, fit to handle the ups and down of economic fortune. As the state of national and international finance continues to dominate the headlines and public interest, Dharshini joins an already formidable team and will help us to deliver even more original journalism and world-class analysis.”

In addition to her reporting role, Dharshini will also be contributing to Sky News’ City blog, commenting on major stories in the City and the world of business.

Dharshini David said: “At a time when we’re faced with the twists and turns of recession, no one can afford to ignore what’s happening in the business world. I’m very excited to be joining the Sky News business team, which audiences can trust to bring them the stories and analysis that matter, as soon as they break. “

Dharshini spent six years with BBC News in London, using her expertise in economic, business and consumer affairs to report for BBC ONE, BBC News 24 and BBC radio. She presented for Panorama, and also presented the financial shows World Business Report and Business Today. She then moved to New York to front the organisation’s US financial coverage, presenting a daily business show for BBC World and the News Channel.   

Dharshini gained first-hand experience of business and finance on the trading floor at HSBC where she worked as an economist for several years before joining the BBC, and more recently as Head of Broadcast at Tesco she used her vast experience to manage broadcast and advise on media strategy.

In February 2009, Sky News added business world heavy-weight Jeff Randall to its team when he became a full-time business presenter, having previously presented one show a week on the channel since 2007.

Anna Jones was appointed business presenter in December 2008, and Dharshini will also be working alongside Sky News’ experienced business correspondent Joel Hills, as well as Mark Kleinman in the role of City Editor.

Dharshini was born and brought up in London and trained as an economist reading Economics at Downing College, University of Cambridge. Dharshini lives with her husband and daughter in London.

Tonight Jeff Randall Live has an exclusive broadcast interview with Channel 4 chairman, Luke Johnson.

In an exclusive TV interview Jeff Randall asks him about the decision by Channel 4’s chief executive, Andy Duncan, to step-down at the end of the year.

Mr Johnson said: “…there was a general feeling from Andy [Duncan] and the board that it seemed a good idea to have a change….and after five years when I think Andy has done a good job there was a view that it was time for renewal and so that’s what’s happening.”

On the appointment of a new chief executive he tells Jeff: “…they need to have significant experience of television because that’s still the vast majority of what we do but they also need to have a serious understanding of the digital world because obviously everything is changing and whoever takes over at Channel 4 has got to continue that evolution of the business while the whole internet revolution rolls over.”

Jeff Randall presents a live half-hour business news show four days a week on Sky News, from Monday to Thursday at 7.30pm.

Highlights from the interviews will run at www.skynews.com/jeffrandall shortly after they air and Sky News Active, accessed via the red button on the remote control, will repeat Jeff Randall Live.

Full Transcript:

Jeff Randall: Clearly there’s been a boardroom bust up at Channel 4, what was the final straw that made you sack Andy Duncan?

Luke Johnson: Now Jeff you’ve obviously been reading the newspapers and believing the inaccurate speculation from there. The truth of the matter is that I think there was a general feeling both from Andy and the board that it seemed a good idea to have a change. Channel 4 ever since it was founded has seen a regular switching of executives both creatively and in senior positions, and after five years when I think Andy has done a good job there was a view that it was time for renewal and so that’s what’s happening.

Jeff Randall
: I think what many observers will think is well, if he’s resigning, why is he getting a very generous severance package?

Luke Johnson: Well that hasn’t been announced.

Jeff Randall: So he’s not getting a severance package?

Luke Johnson: All that will be disclosed as usual in the annual report next year. He obviously has a contract which will be honoured but the truth of the matter is that this is a mutual decision because I think he felt he’s achieved so much and that now is as good a time as any for new people to come on board and fresh thinking.

Jeff Randall: You say that he has achieved much, today you’re quoted as saying that Channel 4 has enjoyed record creative and commercial success. You must be the only commercial success that’s running out of money.

Luke Johnson: Well I think that’s an exaggeration, if you look at our cash position actually it’s no worse that it was a year ago. I would argue we are out-performing our direct free to air broadcast rivals.

Jeff Randall: So what’s all this funding gap then?

Luke Johnson: The truth is that Channel 4’s measure of success is not financial. We are not a Plc, we are a non profit public corporation whose purpose in life is to deliver public goods, i.e.: public service broadcasting, and obviously we can cut out programming budgets which we’ve had to do because as you know very well there is a serious recession and there is enormous upheaval among traditional media companies and we are under those pressures. I think we have cut our cloth significantly though a 25% headcount reduction through other savings and we are having to make sacrifices in terms of our programming budget but despite that we’ve continued to win awards and I think our programming line up is as good as it has ever been and we maintain our audience share relatively compared to the others, so I don’t think we’ve done badly.

Jeff Randall: Luke you’ve always been on the entrepreneurial wing of British business, you’ve always believed in free enterprise, given what’s gone on in the last five years with British broadcasting, isn’t it time to simply privatise Channel 4 and do away with all this agony.

Luke Johnson: I think that’s a very simple and rather naïve idea because I think if you…

Jeff Randall: Simple yes, why naïve?

Luke Johnson: I think if you sold off Channel 4 you would destroy the magic, I think you would kill what’s special about it, that means that it’s been able to deliver incredible successes like Slumdog Millionaire, remarkable dramas like Red Riding, all sorts of special programming from Channel 4 News to Dispatches documentaries that make a difference and we are really the only true competitor in terms of public service output that the BBC has and without us, not only would the viewer have less choice of that sort of quality programming but actually I think the BBC would be worse for it. We are innovative and we punch above our weight in terms of new voices and new talent on air and I think that’s vital and if you were to privatise Channel 4 then I think inevitably the profit consideration would be the only motive and I think you would dumb the thing down significantly and I think British culture would suffer as a consequence.

Jeff Randall
: You’re talking about dumbing down and magic, I mean the truth was, wasn’t it, that the magic was Big Brother and that has faded.

Luke Johnson: Big Brother we’ve announced next year will be the last series. I think it was a pioneering show when it was first launched and we’re now going to do something else with that money and that space in the schedule and that’s the way Channel 4 has always been. We’re going to re-invent the whole output and so it should be and we will continue to do that and that’s why Channel 4 is special.

Jeff Randall: What kind of talents are you looking for in the new chief executive, what’s required?

Luke Johnson: I think they need to have significant experience of television because that’s still the vast majority of what we do but they also need to have a serious understanding of the digital world because obviously everything is changing and whoever takes over at Channel 4 has got to continue that evolution of the business while the whole internet revolution rolls over.

Jeff Randall: Luke Johnson, many thanks.

Sky News’ City Editor Mark Kleinman revealed on air tonight that Britain’s biggest coal mining group is expected to unveil plans tomorrow to raise about £100m from its shareholders.

UK Coal, which owns four of the country’s biggest mines, is raising the money a month after it was forced to slash the value of its vast property interests, Sky News has learned.

The company, which produces just under half of all the coal mined in the UK, is expected to confirm the plan to issue new shares to investors in a statement to the London Stock Exchange as early as Wednesday morning.

It comes amid a fierce debate about Britain’s energy mix and the extent to which the country relies on imported energy. Some analysts have warned of the threat of repeated blackouts and last month, UK Coal launched a ‘buy British’ campaign aimed at improving energy security.

People close to UK Coal said the fundraising would be announced tomorrow barring last-minute hitches. The company declined to comment.

The share issue is being handled by Evolution Securities and Numis Securities, two major City investment banks.

Sky News Presenter Dermot Murnaghan will be travelling through the north west and north east of England on his bike next week, on a three-day ‘Economic Cycle’ between Liverpool and Cleethorpes.

Dermot undertook his first newsgathering trip on two wheels in the West Country during March this year, but is now preparing to reprise his role from one coast to the other in the north of England from 14 – 16 September.

In the spirit of Norman Tebbit’s call to get ‘on yer bike’ in 1981, Dermot will get on his bike and will be taking life at a slightly slower pace as he travels from the docks on the River Mersey to the Lincolnshire town of Cleethorpes. He will be stopping along the way to interview people about the prediction by policy-makers that the first green shoots of economic recovery are emerging. And he will be reporting what he finds live on Sky News throughout the three days.

One of broadcast news’ most recognisable faces, Dermot will be passing through cities, towns and country lanes to uncover and bring to Sky News viewers the stories of the financial crisis from across the north east and north west of England. His progress will be filmed as he passes through Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Yorkshire, finishing in Lincolnshire.

‘Dermot’s Economic Cycle’ will start on the 14 September in Liverpool, passing through Warrington and Salford and finishing day one of his tour in Manchester. Day two will see him cycle from Leeds, through to Wakefield, down through Barnsley, and arriving in Goldthorpe at the end of day two. And day three will take him through Beverley, Hull and Immingham, and onwards to reach his final destination in Cleethorpes on the 16 September, on the same day that the government will be announcing the latest unemployment figures for the UK.

Sky News Producer Tim Gallagher said: “Following Dermot’s tour of the south west of England earlier this year, we wanted to balance our coverage by bringing viewers in-depth analysis of the effects of the recession in the northern counties. Dermot will be travelling the breadth of the country to speak to local people about their every day lives – to take the story away from the city financiers and government initiatives, to see what life is like for the shop workers, the families, the people who own small businesses outside of the capital.”

Dermot Murnaghan said: “I’m looking forward to getting back on my bike and seeing what the people of the north of England have to say about how the recession is affecting them, what their experiences have been during the current crisis and whether they believe Gordon Brown is the man to lead the country out of it. It’s a lot of cycling – but it will be a lot of fun and a great insight into how the north is faring – and perhaps I’ll be able to get the odd pint of Tetley’s along the way!”

Visitors to the Sky News website will be able to read Dermot’s daily cycling blog and watch his video diaries from the three days on skynews.com.

In a special series of interviews and reports, Sky News will be focusing on the collapse of Lehman Brothers, its impact across the globe, the lessons learnt and what the future holds, a year on from the day the bank failed in September 2008.

During three days of programming on Sky News, Business Presenter Anna Jones will report from locations across New York, including the former bank’s headquarters – now occupied by Barclays – and the world famous trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, while interviewing top industry figures.

Anna will examine what went wrong over the years, months and the week preceding those fateful few days last year that led to the eventual collapse of Lehman Brothers on 15 September 2008 – considered to be the moment the crisis in the financial markets finally spilled over into the real economy and created the conditions that led to a recession now affecting millions around the world.

Among the top names interviewed during the series will be: Sir John Gieve, former Deputy Governor of the Bank of England; US Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke; Laura D’Andrea Tyson from the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board; and London Mayor Boris Johnson, who will be in New York at the time. Anna will also talk to former Lehman Brothers’ employees and industry commentators.

A special hour-long edition of Jeff Randall Live will broadcast from Sky’s West London studios on Monday 14 September, the eve of the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Among the guests will be William Donaldson, Former Chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission; Tony Lomas from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, administrators for Lehman’s European operations; and Terry Smith, Chief Executive of City brokerage Tullett Prebon.

Sky News has spoken exclusively to the son of Libyan leader Col Gaddafi, Saif al Islam, who has branded the British politicians asking questions about the release of Abdelbaset al Megrahi as “disgusting” and “immoral”. He also said Libya would resist claims by the families of IRA bomb victims for compensation, saying the matter would be argued in the courts.

Highlights of the interview can be seen on Sky News and on skynews.com and a special half an hour programme showing the full wide ranging interview with Sky News’ James Matthews will be shown this evening on Sky News.

Saif al Islam on Libya resisting claims by the families of IRA bomb victims for compensation: “Anyone can knock at our door and ask for money. But we go to the courts. They have their lawyers, we have our lawyers.”

On al Megrahi’s release: “Politicians, both in the UK and America, are trying to use this human tragedy – both Mr Megrahi and the families – for their own political agenda. It’s a tragedy. It’s completely immoral. This is what happened in London in particular. There are political parties fighting each other, preparing themselves for the next election, and they are trying to use this tragedy for their agenda. They are disgusting.”

On raising al Megrahi’s arm on his return to Tripoli last month, scenes that provoked an international outcry:

“We got stuck for two hours on the plane. The people were waiting there for two hours… and we cannot leave the plane with hoods on our heads. We’re not criminals or thieves. You have to greet the crowds who have been there waiting for many hours.

“Plus, this man is not a criminal, he’s innocent. I believe 100% that he’s innocent.”

Transcript of highlights:

James Matthews
: “Was Gordon Brown involved at any point [in prisoner tranfser negotiations]?

Saif al Islam
: “No, no no no. I told it was with Tony Blair, people, and administration. Plus it was very technical…it’s very, very technical. It cannot be discussed at a high level, it’s very technical, the issue you know. It’s between legal experts, and you know, some bureaucrats. It’s not something you know a [inaudible] big that should be discussed at a leadership level.

“The disgusting act and action is the act and the behaviour of the politicians, both in UK and America. They are trying to use this human tragedy, both of Mr Megrahi, and for the families, for their own political agenda. Using this for the election, for coming election in UK for example. This is a tragedy, it is immoral, it’s completely immoral to use this case to advance your own political agenda. And it’s what happened in UK and in London in particular. There are political parties fighting each other, preparing themselves for the next election, and they are trying to use this tragedy for their agenda. They are disgusting.”

James Matthews asked Saif al Islam about the scenes on al Megrahi’s return when he raised Megrahi’s arm at the top of the steps of the plane.

Al Islam said: “We get stuck for two hours on the plane, I mean the people were waiting there for two hours. It’s not a secret, the people they waiting there for two hours because they didn’t expect the crowd. But, sooner or later we have to leave the aircraft, we can’t stay there forever. Ok we wait one hour, two hours, but then we had to leave. And we cannot leave the plane with hood on our heads, we are not criminals, or theives. You have to greet the crowd, they have been there waiting for many hours. Plus this man is not a criminal, he’s innocent. I believe 100% that he’s innocent.”

Saif Al Islam also addressed the compensation claims by victims of the IRA:

S al I: “I heard about the case but I don’t know the details. I mean, so I cannot give you right answer:

James Matthews: “But these victims they are going to come knocking on Libya’s door with the backing of the British government”

S al I: “Anyboody can knock at our door and ask for money, but we go to the court we have lawyers…we’renot living in a jungle”.

JM: “Will you resist their claims for compensation?”

S al I: “Yeah they have their lawyers, we have our lawyers”

JM: “So you will tackle them legally?”

S al I: “Of course.”

JM: “So your answer would be no in the first instance?”

S al I: “Of course”

 

Abdulati al-Obidi, Libyan Europe Minister, has spoken for the first time to Sky News since the freeing of al Megrahi’s; clarifying his position on what exactly was agreed with Foreign Office Minister Bill Rammall before the release.

Speaking to Sky’s Samantha Simmonds, al-Obidi commented:

On meeting Bill Rammall before al-Megrahi’s release: “You know when we met in London and I mentioned to him the health, the deterioration of Mr Megrahi and I told him that if he dies in prison it will have a very bad impression in Libya, the Libyan public opinion, Islamic and Arab public opinion…”

On the bearing of trade relations on any decisions made:
“In my negotiation with the British and the Scottish I didn’t mention anything about trade relations but I said that dying in prison will draw shadows in our relation and it will deteriorate for sure you know, I was speaking about a relationship in general not a trade relation.”

On al-Megrahi’s much criticised welcome back into Libya: “You know, I think sometimes in London, they don’t know our social relation here and tribal system and you know Megrahi belongs to the biggest tribe in Libya and we did not organise any official meeting for him and those who were there may be from his tribe or his neighbours in Tripoli and if it was a government celebration ministers would have been there and others.  We understand the refection this would have on the families.”

Sky News has today (Wednesday 2nd September) launched a campaign for all three of the main political party leaders to take part in the UK’s first televised leaders’ debate at the next General Election.

Sky News believes the time has come for the leaders of the main parties to take part in a live TV debate. If a leader refuses to take part, they will be represented by an empty chair.

The Head of Sky News, John Ryley, has written to the three main party leaders inviting them to take part in the live debate, saying the democratic process needs reinvigorating.

In the letter to party leaders, Mr Ryley says: ‘With politics – and dare I say, many politicians – currently held in such low regard, to debate publicly the major issues facing Britain away from Westminster, presents a unique opportunity to re-engage a disillusioned electorate.

‘So now, there is surely no reason why engagement with the public should not take place via a live television debate. It is done in Washington and Warsaw, Tel Aviv and Tehran, Moscow and Madrid. In each case, the most recent experience shows that such debates have invigorated national elections.

‘There is a chance here, not just to do something that has never been done, but to energise an electorate, to reconnect the millions of people who have been alienated by politics and the way it is so often covered, to achieve something that is truly democratic. Your agreement in principle will offer the leadership required to ensure that such an outcome is likely to come to pass.’

Sky News will act in consultation with an independent body to ensure that there can be no just accusation of partiality. Separate debates will take place in Scotland and Wales.   

Sky News will offer the debate live and unedited to any of its competitors that want to carry it. Sky News will stream the debate live on its website and Independent Radio News (IRN) will simulcast the debate to all its three hundred stations across Britain.

Sky News is asking the general public to support its campaign through an online petition. Sky News will be running a dedicated bespoke Leaders’ Debate page, www.skynews.com/leadersdebate which will host the petition for the party leaders to agree to take part in the debate. The news organisation will be encouraging MPs, opinion formers and the general public alike to sign up. The bespoke page will also include regular updates on the campaign, including a running total of the number of people who have currently signed the petition.  

To launch the campaign, Sky News’ Political Editor, Adam Boulton, has produced a video for Sky News that makes the case for a live television debate which can be seen now on www.skynews.com  

The piece looks at the invigorating effect of leaders’ debates in the US, the need for political re-engagement following the expenses scandal and popular support for such a debate.

Adam, one of the UK’s longest serving and most well respected political journalists, said: “Countries all over the world use televised debates to scrutinise their prospective leaders. Debates can be brutal. Making or breaking participants. They have shaped and shifted political landscapes; and exposed weakness and greatness.”

“But, except in Parliament we’ve never had a TV debate here. It’s usually the Prime Minister of the day who ducks out, saying the weekly battle at PMQ’s is enough for them to be judged on. But Parliament doesn’t sit during an election campaign. So at the very moment when voters must chose who they want to run the country, they are denied direct debate between those seeking the job.

“The expenses scandal has rocked politics the core. The recession threatens the livelihood of millions. People are demanding real change; and the politicians must surely respond. Sky News believes the British public should no longer be denied the right to compare those who would lead them. Sky News believes it’s time, for the LEADERS DEBATE.”

Adam concludes: “[Voter] turn out in the last general election was below 62%. Barely a third of young people voted and 17 million people who registered to vote, didn’t even bother. A televised debate would help to change these statistics; challenge the dreary status quo; and could open the way for a new style of politics.”

Five News has met with the family of missing 40 year old Quentin Adams in Aberdeenshire as part of its ‘Missing Month’ taking place throughout August, in association with the charity Missing People.

Tonight, Five News reporter Jane Dougall will be shown speaking to Carol Law, the sister of Quentin Adams who went missing in November last year when he left to buy cigarettes and never came back. His family contacted the police but after an extensive investigation nothing has been uncovered.

Not knowing where Quentin is or what has happened to him has completely traumatised his family. They say they can’t continue with their lives until they know what happened to Quentin the day he walked away . His sister Carol tells Five News:

“Every day you wake up and I think, oh my gosh, there’s still this going on. Every day you hope you get a letter or a phone call or you see him somewhere and even in the back of my mind wishing that the police would maybe just come to your door as well and just say we know where he is.

“I don’t think that he’s committed suicide, I don’t. There’s something inside me that tells me that I know he hasn’t done that. I think he is somewhere trying to carry on, I’ve just got this inner belief that he is out there trying to carry on somewhere.”

When asked what she would say if he was watching this report Carol replied:

“I’d say just Quentin please I miss you so much, just let us know you’re ok, just please let us know you’re alright cause it’s hard, we miss you, we love you.”

During ‘Missing Month’, Five News is focusing on the on the plight of some of the UK’s many thousands of missing people and their families, with a special ‘Missing’ strand running through its programmes.

Five News is working with the charity ‘Missing People’ and is featuring a different package every week of August, highlighting either a specific missing person’s case or the wider work of the police and the charity in their quest to reconnect families in the UK with their missing relatives.

In addition, each day of the week on Five News’ 5pm and 7pm bulletins a short photo appeal for a different missing person will feature on air at the end of each programme.

Vikki Cook, Deputy Editor of Five News said: “By dedicating August as Missing month, we hope that we can help to bring to the public attention some of the outstanding missing person’s cases and perhaps even help to re-unite some families with their missing relatives.”

Alison Cowan, Director of Fundraising and Marketing at Missing People said, “More than 200,000 incidents of missing people are recorded each year, two thirds of whom are under 19. The charity works to support, find and safeguard all those affected by the issue of missing. We are delighted that Five News has thrown their support behind this important issue. Our hope is that the awareness raised by the Missing Month will help us to reunite some of the families who are living in limbo after the disappearance of a loved one, and make the public aware of the charity’s need for funds. If you have a sighting or information about a missing person, please call Missing People confidentially on Freefone 0500 700 700. Missing People also provides a 24 hour Freefone Message Home service (0800 700 740) to enable missing adults such as Quentin, and the estimated 70,000 adults who are reported missing each year, to regain contact with their familes. Recently – released figures from the charity reveal that the line received over 32,000 calls in 2007-8.”

On the eve of Afghanistan’s presidential election, Sky News spoke to a number of commentators and Presidential candidates about the election campaign and the wider issues of security and the future of Afghanistan.

During the hour long show, Jeremy Thompson spoke to guests including:

– Presidential Candidates Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ramazan Bashardost

– Former Parachute Regiment Commander in Afghanistan, Stuart Tootal, who quit Army in disgust over the treatment of troops in Afghanistan

– Prince Abdul Ali Seraj, President of the National Council for Dialogue with Tribes of Afghanistan, and the great-grandson of Afghanistan’s “Iron Amir”

– James Arbuthnot MP, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee

– Ajmal Khan Zazai, Afghan tribal leader in exile who has previously dismissed the elections as ‘a US orchestrated manoeuvre to gain strength and influence in the region’

– Lt Col. Anthony Shaffer, a former CIA Officer who operated in Afghanistan

James Arbuthnot, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee on ‘Penny Pinching’ in Afghanistan: “I think it’s essential that we should not be conducting the campaign in Afghanistan with any sort of penny pinching attitude which I’m afraid is what has been happening over the last four or five years. This is not an accusation against the British government particularly, it is more an accusation against the generality of European NATO countries who do not see this battle as their battle. It is their battle, it is very important…”

James Arbuthnot on the continuing military presence in Afghanistan: “…undoubtedly mistakes have been made. I know that the British troops particularly, but I think the NATO troops generally, including the American troops, do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties but sometimes it is inevitable that mistakes are made and sometimes the enemy sets out to lead us into traps where civilians will be killed. That’s just a fact of life there. The fact remains that the presence of British and NATO troops in Afghanistan, whenever I go there, is something that local people say we don’t want you there forever but we do desperately need you there now, please continue to remain and help us build our own security and eventually you will be able to leave and we will be able to take it over ourselves.”

Presidential candidates:

HAMID KARZAI:

If I win, then my first priority will be solidifying and spearing up the peace process with the Taliban and with the Islami and with all of the groups who are not part of Al Qaeda, part of terrorist networks and part of other set ups that cause damage to Afghanistan or to our international partners.

DR ABDULLAH:

“We do need your support, we do need your troops but at the same time, as we move along that need should decrease, rather than increase as it is today and it is possible that in a few years time we will be able to stand on our own feet, in terms of our security, our defence and there will be no need for foreign troops.“

DR BASHARDOST:

“I think it [the election] is not only important for my country, but it is also more important for international community and for the free world. So it is a last chance for Afghanistan, Afghan people and also a last chance for international community tax payer.”

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