Archive for January, 2007
Alistair Darling’s continued delay in deciding whether to intervene in Sky’s purchase of 17.9% of ITV speaks volumes about this government’s attitude to media ownership. Unlike previous Labour administrations it has never had a problem with cross-platform ownership or consolidation of media. In the lead up to the Communications Act, when the government was looking to liberalise media ownership it took Lord Puttnam (BBC Chairman designate?) to force through a public interest clause. At the time he said that ‘a sizeable chunk of our own body politic’ seems to subscribe to the view that “the public interest is that which the public is interested in”.
One has to assume that the government would really rather not intervene but, given the advice by the Office of Fair Trading, feels it has to do something. Brown is almost certainly keen not to alienate News International in the lead up to his accession. There seems, at this stage, to have been little consideration of the implications – for example for ITN – assuming the BSkyB bid goes through.
James Silver’s interview with Mihir Bose, the new BBC sports editor, in yesterday’s Media Guardian, raises worthwhile questions about what impact the changes in newspaper production will have on original journalism. Bose talks about the different working practices of newspapers vs broadcast:
“[At the Telegraph] I could say ‘right, this story is the one I’m going to focus on this week’… Newspapers build up to a crescendo round first edition time. Once that is put to bed, you can go to the pub. The BBC isn’t quite like that. There are so many outlets, you can start on the Today programme or 5 Live Breakfast and finish off at midnight and still be doing the same story. And you wouldn’t have time to really go out and find out about the story beyond what is on the wires”
As newspapers adopt aspects of the broadcasting model – with podcasts, video interviews and multiple publishing deadlines – will we lose the in-depth original journalism Bose talks about?
I couldn’t help but do a double take this morning. Was The Sun really leading on it’s front page with an attack on racism and an appeal for tolerance? Yes, it was. 11 children of different races hold up placards with racist insults. ‘What do we all have in common?’ the paper asks – we’re all British. Blimey. OK, one could be cynical and point to the frequent attacks on Muslims and immigrants in the paper in the past; or one could note that after the jailing of one of its journalists and resignation of one of its editors News International might want to burnish The Sun’s image; or one could note that the 40-50,000 complaints about Big Brother indicate how widespread people’s intolerance of racism now is… But, it is still an astonishing front page for The Sun. This one is, as the papers so often like to say, one to cut out and keep.
How strange that it takes a US based media company to write a telling report about the sensationalisation of the British press. Carma International have just completed a study for Die Zeit examining the press’ approach to stories in 2006 vs 1996 (see James Robinson in yesterday’s Observer – unfortunately the full report does not appear to be available). Based on a sample of 200 stories from 6 national titles, the study found: increasing personalisation, more emotive language, greater use of relatives of victims vs professionals or academics – backed up by statistical evidence. People have complained about these trends before but few have conducted the research to support them.
Carma also wrote a fascinating report last year about western media coverage of humanitarian disasters. It seems very odd there aren’t more studies like these, particularly by British academic centres or thinktanks (if you know of any please do let me know).