The anchormen – livid-skinned, stridently testicular, vocally booming – are in the public tumble dryer at the moment.

Andrew Neil, having abandoned his woke-watch at GB News, is now fulminating behind a perspex divide on Question Time. Piers Morgan, having walked off Good Morning Britain to defend his right not to believe Meghan Markle, is “back home” with Rupert Murdoch, as lead presenter on the mogul’s forthcoming channel TalkTV.

In addition, the scrofulous Nigel Farage has become the primetime anchor on GB News. And finally, the disgraced reality tv presenter Jeremy Kyle (below) returns to host a new show on Murdoch’s TalkRadio. Are you, like me, already preparing to run screaming to a meditation spot high on a mist-wreathed mountain, embracing flora and fauna? Well, before we all leave, we should dwell on a weird fact.

The National:

It’s not just the gammonariat who play the anchoring role in our lives (although there is a preponderance of them). When you switch on your screenworld, the anchors are everywhere.

They take many shapes and colours, inhabit many sets and contexts, from cluttered bedrooms to grandiose digitalised caverns. But still, it’s a chair and a face to camera, gazing directly at you. The tone is consistent and fluent, whether the topic is the deep state or deep bass. They’re often behind a desk, table or dais, like authority figures from the first city-states.

In these digitally democratised days—where autocue is an app on your phone, microediting is a convention not an error, and YouTube or Switch is your own broadcasting station – to be an anchor-person is an easy choice.

I’ve done the old school version a few times in my life – grumpy camera operators, a director barking orders from the booth, a make-up assistant hovering around.

I particularly remember how intimidating it was, on live TV shows, to perform my authority as host. The autocue was the tightrope for me: ennobling when you were in synch with it, terrifying when it glitched or failed.

So I can tell you exactly how much of a gob-on-a-stick you need to be (which I wasn’t) – always ready with a verbal torrent stemming from your own confidence – to become the kind of anchor-person that a channel or news-brand can be built around.

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It’s close to being pathological: a narcissism and egoism that’s functional to the task at hand. Yet it’s this personality type that we employ to sit in the big seats, sonorously framing (and taming) the chaos, as ecology and technology destabilises our world.

What is interesting about the current tumult of news anchors is the way their classic role is adapting to the multitude of voices coming from social media. The traditional anchors were Kenneth Kendell, Richard Baker, Moira Stuart, Alastair Burnett, Anna Ford, Sue Lawley. A mix of actors, journalists and sometimes ex-military, there to smoothly enunciate an unquestioned news orthodoxy.

These days, what an “anc w3hihor” anchors are demographically, even psychographically-defined audiences: people held in structures of feeling, looking for news that gratifies their preset emotions and values. For Farage and Kyle, the prejudices they’re trying to mesh with with are obvious. Morgan is much more clever and promiscuous. Somewhat like Trump, his much touted celebrity friend, Morgan has a nose for the issue that opens up a wedge in the consensus. This can skew left (his evisceration of Tory government ministers for their fatal ineptitude around Covid) as well as right (defending the Windsor monarchy against the “lies” of Meghan Markle).

The National: Piers. Morgan mocks Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after birth of baby Lilibet. (PA/Canva)

Neil is the figure that looks more out of time than any of them. His shock-horror at the turn of GB News towards a pungently anti-woke, ultra-right agenda sits oddly with his presentations of “Wokewatch”, in the few weeks he was on (though to be honest, he was visibly sitting oddly with it himself).

But if Neil really did believe the station’s model was to be “a news-led operation targeting disaffected viewers in ‘red wall’ towns under-served by the BBC and Sky News”, as one paper reported this week, then he’s more of a fool that I believed him to be.

This is hardly to place Neil on some throne of equanimity. He’s a dry-as-dust ultra-capitalist, chairman of the Spectator group, who’d sell his granny if that helped him proclaim the virtue of free markets.

But his forensic approach in interviews is an old-school virtue. Never again will a Green party spokesperson go on air pitifully unprepared to answer a question about universal basic income, after Neil disassembled their UK leader Natalie Bennett in 2015. We lack a left-wing version of Andrew Neil. Someone equally economically and historically literate, who could formulate questions able to deconstruct fatuous party-lines, across the political spectrum.

READ MORE: Andrew Neil humiliated in tense Question Time exchange over GB News 'dog whistles'

Viable UK candidates, of either gender, are not obvious. Paul Mason stepped out of mainstream news at BBC and Channel 4 into a much freer world of book-writing and opinionating. Yanis Varoufakis may have the breadth, depth and confidence. Nesrine Malik and Samira Ahmed are also imaginable options.

YET with the BBC, ITN and Channel Four all under the ideological frighteners from a culture-warring Conservative government at the moment, it’s very doubtful that any of these would get the requisite platform.

I examined my info-diet recently, and realised that I’m watching and listening to quite a few news “anchors”, who are turning towards what is being called the “creator economy”. Some use platforms like Patreon or Substack, which can host audio and text and offer a scale of payments for them. I myself Patreonise (as it were) writers like the brilliant leftist Richard Seymour, the podcast Politics Theory Other, and a few other content makers that hit my interests exactly.

The National: Columnist Owen Jones outside Snaresbrook Crown Court

Voices like Owen Jones (above) and George Monbiot (natural gobs-on-a-stick) are effectively translating their multimedia celebrity into a regular weekly editorial, paid for by fans and supporters.

It’s doesn’t feel to me that anyone is really going for that “creator economy” model in the indy-sphere. Partly this is because this paper itself is making a strong case to the movement. If you want to sustain a broad pro-independence editorial space we’re worth your investment, by means of a subscription.

But it’s partly because our existing operators, in the spirit of the early internet, have gone immediately to “free” with their content. That’s the stance of Independence Live, Talk Media (with Stuart Cosgrove), and Lesley Riddoch’s weekly podcast – though of course, with each, the begging bowl for donations is always out.

There is probably a step-up needed here. We need a new kind of media platform which can speak to content makers, advertisers and willing subscribers, taking marketing data responsibly and effectively from all, with the communities around it having a clear stake in its operation. (And which isn’t based automatically in California’s Bay Area).

You might ask: do we need another mechanism for producing more news-fuelled egotists, even if they’re foghorning for indy rather than the opposition? If you want to tarry with that phenomenon, you could watch the new series of The Breakfast Show (opening episode on Apple TV last night). Or of course, dissolve in laughter with Will Ferrell’s 70s abominable newscaster.

Certainly, observing the jowly escapades of Neil, Piers, Nigel and Jeremy could easily drive you to the mountain-top. Turn away from them to save your brain, as you wish.

But I think we need anchorwomen, anchormen and anchor-people pitching for our side too. That’s the terrain before us.