Archive for the ‘Times’ tag

Times follows BBC line on repeats

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Was today’s Times being ironic when it decided to publish the same story on consecutive pages (‘BBC fined £50,000 for Blue Peter Scandal‘, p.4 & p.5)? Perhaps this was a cheeky nod to the BBC’s decision to increase repeats?

Printing cock-up aside, the OFCOM fine does raise perplexing questions about the regulator’s remit and the role of the BBC Trust. Does its decision to fine the BBC create a precedent? Or is this an ‘extraordinary’ fine which applies only to phone lines (in which case what is the role of ICSTIS?)? The BBC Trust’s response to the decision implies this could happen again (“Ofcom has been given powers by Parliament to fine the BBC if Ofcom finds that a breach of its Standards Code has been serious. Ofcom has exercised that power in this instance”).

So what purpose does the BBC Trust play other than mopping up the mess after OFCOM has already made its decision?

Written by Martin Moore

July 10th, 2007 at 7:25 am

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Scoop: British rail to be renationalised (apparently)

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When is a front page lead not a front page lead? When you can’t tell if it’s real. Today’s Times leads with ‘Secret talks open way to nationalise rail network‘ by Ben Webster.
Now this could be:
a) a genuine scoop
b) a semi scoop (i.e. a punt based on substantial sources and intelligent analysis)
c) a ‘manufactured’ story (i.e. story based on less substantial sources elevated to ‘news’ status)
The reason it’s so difficult to tell is partly because no-one else has it. I’ve checked the FT, the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, and the Daily Telegraph. Nothing. Which, in our age of 24/7 publishing either means they think it’s a non-story and/or no-one else has access to the same sources as The Times.
But what are The Times’ sources? The article refers to ‘secret talks’ between Network Rail and Scottish Labour politicians but doesn’t say how the paper knows the contents of these talks. It also refers to ‘a thinly veiled reference’ within Labour’s Scottish election manifesto; but it would be a great leap from here to a news story about renationalisation. Otherwise it quotes figures who say they would approve of such a policy if it happened.
If it is a ‘manufactured’ story – to catch the eye of all of us who dearly dream of a better train service – then why this? Why not, like the Independent, lead with the attention grabbing ‘Revolution in cancer treatment’ (rather than bury it on p.25)?
I realise that trying to work out the motives behind a front page lead puts me firmly into the category of news-nerd, but it also shows the value of editors blogs (like the BBC’s) in an age when we’re all becoming more sceptical about what makes the news.

Written by Martin Moore

April 12th, 2007 at 4:54 pm

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Weird lack of attention about Iranian abduction

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The remarkable thing about today’s Leader in the Times (‘Britain’s Hostage Crisis‘) is how isolated it is. ‘In earlier times it [the abduction of 15 British sailors and marines by Iran] would have been an immediate casus belli’ the Leader intones.
Perhaps, but in earlier times it would also have been a clarion call to the media to start poring over maps of the Shatt al-Arab waterway, to begin trying to work out the motivations of Ahmadinejad and to launch into endless predictions about possible outcomes. Instead, we get a fly-on-the-wall description of the lead up to the incident from a journalist on board the HMS Cornwall in the Observer, some decent speculation by Marie Colvin, Tony Allen-Mills and Michael Smith in the Sunday Times, and occasional reports and updates.
On the plus side, this means there has not been the usual ramping up of tension by the media, leaving the government free to negotiate behind the scenes. But, on the other hand, it also means we are deprived of information and analysis about a major international incident which could have significant diplomatic and political repercussions.
Perhaps news organisations think we’re tired of Iraq / Iran coverage. Or maybe they’d rather concentrate on other things (like Northern Ireland). Whatever the reason, ‘The relative inattention’, as Andrew O’Hagan writes in today’s Telegraph, ‘is weird’ (‘Iran? Remember the Falklands Mr Blair’).

Written by Martin Moore

March 27th, 2007 at 12:12 pm

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Why calling Brown's methods 'Stalinist' guaranteed blanket media coverage

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There’s no question that Sir Andrew Turnbull’s description of Gordon Brown’s methods as ‘Stalinist’ has provoked widespread media comment – overshadowing the Chancellor’s last budget. The Financial Times led with the interview in its prime front page spot yesterday. The 10 O’Clock news couldn’t resist superimposing Brown’s head on Stalin’s body, and today The Times continues to lead with it on its (print) front page.
Why have the comments of an ex-civil servant generated so many acres of coverage? For one thing, since Brown was going to be headline news anyway this week, this gives the news media another angle. We’re also preparing for Brown’s coronation as PM so an insight into how he’ll govern can be seen as being in the public interest.
But there’s more than that. Turnbull was referring specifically to the Soviet dictator’s methods, but Stalin’s methods were inextricably linked to his character. As Alan Bullock and Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s biographies both illustrate, you cannot separate Stalin’s personal cold-blooded ruthlessness from the way he governed. So, for a media more interested in character than method, the insult gives them an excuse to indict both at the same time.

Written by Martin Moore

March 21st, 2007 at 1:40 pm

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