The comedy film Anchorman spawned an unexpected sequel when presenters at Channel 4 News hit back at Adam Boulton, the Sky News Political Editor, after he described his rivals as “muppets”.
Boulton is standing down from his Westminster role to front a new Sky News evening show, which is set to place him in competition with Channel 4’s nightly 7pm bulletin.
The veteran broadcaster aimed a swipe at the Channel 4 show, presented by long-standing anchor Jon Snow. “I love Jon Snow, he has been a mentor of mine, but you do sometimes wonder how many presenters they can cram into their (Channel 4 News) studio. I saw Jon at a summit, he was reporting on his own. I said, 'it's nice to see you without the muppets'.”
Boulton told The Guardian: “It’s not that the individuals are muppets, it's that idea of the big figure surrounded by a whole load of other figures all fighting over the autocue. I think it’s Jon's show.”
Snow has been the face of Channel 4 News since 1989. He shares screen-space with Krishnan Guru-Murthy, who joined in 1998 and is “one of the main anchors of Channel 4 News”, according to the programme’s website.
Cathy Newman has also become a lead presenter on Channel 4 bulletins since arriving in 2006. She has been linked to the Sky News political editor’s role which Boulton is vacating. Matt Frei, Channel 4 News’s Europe Editor, is another co-presenter.
Ben de Pear, Channel 4 News editor, sprung to the defence of his team. He tweeted Boulton: “IF Jon's co hosts r Muppets,(they're not)u lot r Fraggle Rock. Don't remember them? Exactly”.
Fraggle Rock was another product of Jim Henson’s animated puppets stable but the 80s series lacked the Muppets’ longevity.
The editor included Sky News presenter Dermot Murnaghan in a further tweet to Boulton, in which he attempted to twist the ratings knife. “u have the advantage, being on Sky, of no-one recognising you. Hassle free,” he wrote. The clash of the anchors would henceforth be known as “the muppets vs the fraggles,” de Pear said.
Guru-Murthy accused Boulton of “unprovoked rudeness”. But he was willing to forgive his rival if Boulton agreed to sponsor the Duchenne Dash, a gruelling 24 hour bike ride from London to Paris in which media rivals join forces to raise funds to combat Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
“£500 from your huge salary not too much to help save children's live,” the Channel 4 man suggested, imploring Boulton to encase his substantial frame in lycra and ride himself if he declined to “pay up”. Boulton declined to respond further to the challenges issued from Channel 4.
Guru-Murthy, however, attempted to soothe egos at Sky News following his editor’s attack on the public visibility of the satellite broadcaster’s leading figures. “Ben wasn't referring to Dermot (Murnaghan) who is obviously huge star and ex-C4news,” he tweeted.
A senior Channel 4 news source said: “Matt Frei has just spent a week in Ukraine risking life and limb to bring viewers the most extraordinary reports out of Kiev. Cathy Newman broke one of the biggest stories of the year with the Lord Rennard scandal. Krishnan has just been nominated for RTS presenter of the year. If they are muppets, as Mr Boulton puts it, bring it on Miss Piggy.”