John Ryley’s acceptance speech for the RTS Outstanding Contribution award

Friday 26 February 2021

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At the 2021 RTS Television Journalism Awards, Sky News proudly collected six awards including Channel of the Year for a fourth year running. On the night, Head of Sky News John Ryley was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award for his contribution to news for over 30 years. In his acceptance speech he reflected on his career and championed the importance of accurate, impartial and original journalism. Watch his full speech above, or read below.

"Throughout my career I have always gone on record as saying that Awards of this type are outdated, inappropriately elitist and generally undesirable.

It’s amazing how my views have matured over the last couple of weeks.

A huge thank you to the Royal Television Society. Thank you to the jurors - I’m really chuffed.

And thank you to my brilliant colleagues at Sky News who work so very hard around the clock.

Luck - luck has played a massive part in my career since I first walked into the Invicta Radio Newsroom in 1984 with a shiny new degree in Latin. I was able to translate the poems of Lucretius at high speed parse an ablative absolute and count backwards in Latin from a thousand.

But I was not able to type or even pronounce my Rs!

In local radio I learnt the importance of accuracy. I was lucky to have worked at the BBC in the late 1980s where I learnt the importance of impartiality.

I was lucky to have worked on ITV’s News at Ten in the early 1990s where l learnt about the power of distinctive eye-witness reporting.

I have been lucky to have worked at Sky where I’ve learnt about the importance of challenging the status quo.

I hope that Sky News today is living proof that the proper role of any serious news organisation is not just to report the news but to analyse it too.

The biggest lesson that I have learned is this;

It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent that succeeds but those prepared to adapt and change.

Innovate... or perish.

And - wow - does our news industry need to change to reflect modern Britain.

Look at the black and Asian people nominated tonight at these awards. We all have more work still to do.

This is not just about changing who is on the TV screen. It's also about changing the people who make the decisions behind the scenes.

Luck - in television journalism - still too often favours the white and middle class.

Young people from ethnic minorities need far more than only luck to succeed.

They need advice, support and opportunity to get on in our trade.

And they need our respect.

Respect for the new ideas and new skills they can offer us.

So please give it to them.

I will end by thanking two special people who made a fundamental difference to my career.

The first special person is the founder of Sky, Rupert Murdoch.

I thank him for investing in high quality news and current affairs in the United Kingdom more than 30 years ago and for demonstrating that public service journalism cannot be left solely to the public service broadcasters.

The second special person to thank is Harriet Ryley my wife who died last winter.

I thank her for enabling me to pursue my career over the past 37 years while she, a more capable individual than me, put her career second.

So tonight I dedicate this award to all those who keep the home fires burning enabling us to go to work to focus on what we all must cherish – accurate, impartial. original journalism."

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