Why blame the BBC?

The BBC is yet another irrelevant excuse for the decline in newspaper audiences, and I note that most of the comments reflect this view. A fact: In Scotland over two million people read a newspaper every day. Only 75,000 watch the flagship Newsnicht Scotland. TV news audiences are falling faster than newspaper’s. The only difference is that, given the fact that a 30 minutes news programme contains less content than two pages of The Daily Telegraph, newspaper media reporters are free to  report, indeed exaggerate, our industry’s position, you will never hear anyone on the broadcast media saying a bad word about their industry’s plight. (Can someone sub this sentence?)

Our industry’s problem is our introspection (and a fundamental misunderstanding of Media Econometrics), from the top down. We should be working out how to work with, or around, the BBC not criticize them.

Do less. Better

Are we all getting bogged down with quantity, rather than quality? Let’s face it. Most of us are increasingly time pressured, but are demanding more high-level relevance and knowledge.

There is a certain irony, that the richer, smarter and more influential one is, the more pressure you have on your life to filter the relevent from the time-filling.

As I’ve written many times before the wealthier a media consumer, the more promiscous and less loyal they are.

And quite right! Bright people canvass a wider range of opinions.

So why do we continue to produce more and more content, for audiences who want less and less? In print, let’s face it, the weekend papers probably enjoy less than a 10% content consumption. On-line page views per visit are around five max, and visits per month are maybe eight.. I confess to having moved from being a daily UK Telegraph/Guardan reader to read i. Not bcause of the price £0.20 v £1.20 but because as a self-confessed news nut it’s all I have time for.

In a society of over-engaged, time pressured, information exploding, the business and economic realities say we should give the majority of the people the majority of the content that they want, and not fool ourselves that we can do everything for everyone.



Has the post Leveson fiasco been kicked into touch?

So Michael Grade, an ex Chair of the BBC and ITV, and one of the most respected media players in the world, has put the boot into the UK government’s ambitions to downgrade the country’s press freedom status to that of a third world country.

Meanwhile, ironically, coincidentally (or not?), Theresa May  the UK Home Secretary suggested the BBC is threatening local media news coverage. Further evidence of the government’s nervousness.


With a delegation of the world’s leading Press Freedom organisations about to descend on London to protest about the lunacy of the government’s Royal Charter the whole process – post Leveson – is now collapsing. Congratulations to Messrs Black, Vickers, Hunt, et al who have responded superbly – if perhaps too quietly – to an unjustified and disgraceful assault on press freedom.

As for Hacked Off……… well my limited vocabulary precludes most words to precede Off.

Has Scotland’s First Minister missed a trick?

Nothing exposes the UK political parties’ determination to pursue their “Royal Charter” on press regulation more than the court case that is unfolding re former News International CEO Rebecca Brooks, and ex News of the World Editor, Andy Coulson, et al. 

It is clear that the law is throwing the book at a small number of executives from one company. We can speculate and ultimately determine whether this is justified or not. But legitimate legal process is in play.

What this case exposes is the stupidity of government intervention in the running of the industry. The defendants are facing serious charges across a range of established legal frameworks that already recognise decency, privacy, honesty and the rights of individuals.

The UK press industry has responded resolutely to the issues that the case has raised, and as I’ve written before, the witchhunt for further vengeance does nothing but demean the UK’s global image as a society of freedom of expression, which the international media community have condemned. The laws demonstrably already exist.

Meanwhile in Scotland, where press regulation is a devolved power, publishers correctly, at the time, aligned themselves to the position being taken in London. There are good reasons why they are awaiting the London outcome. Despite the industry’s best efforts, this has not landed perfectly. Hence a win-win opportunity for the Scottish Government, and the publishers.

Scotland’s ebullient First Minister, Alex Salmond, has uncharacteristically missed a trick. His initial response to the Leveson machinations was to argue for a free press in Scotland, separate from the UK. The subsequent farcical McLuskey report destroyed any opportunity for debate regarding Scotland’s devolved position on press freedom.

The Scottish Government, which is seeking broader international recognition, with ambitions for independence, has an opportunity to distance itself from a dubious process that has seen the UK’s rating on the World Press Freedom Index fall from 18 to 28.

There is a strong correlation between the quality of press freedom, and economic prosperity, which is seriously observed by the World Bank and IMF. Both UK and Scottish governments need to take notice.

Other’s faith. Why not ours?

Now we learn of another revolutionary step in the ownership  of news, with eBay’s Pierre Omidyar committing to investing $250 million in investigative reporting. Just go to Frederic Filloux’s always excellent Monday Note blog for more detail.

This on the back of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the Washington Post, which I wrote about in my monthly column.

OK Sam Zell’s acquisition of the Tribune Group, and Brian Teirney’s inspirational entry in Philadelphia, succumbed to the economic melt down. But look at what John Patton is doing for Digital First in Detroit. And how Evgeny Lebedev has transformed the fortunes of the London Independent. Le Monde is another example of entrepreneurial intervention.

But as I say in my magazine column, the question is how “normal newspapers” are to navigate the future. And how major conglomerates are going to realise any value, at a time when their assets are failing to achieve market traction.

We’re seeing global media geniuses locking into news. Why aren’t we?