With the sort of hype only the media can generate when talking about itself, Lord Carter’s long awaited Digital Britain report has been published. It’s supposed to be the blueprint for Britain’s place in the digital world. But is it putting us in a good place?
It comes as journalism’s plight grows even greater; ITV news, Channel 4, countless struggling radio groups and newspaper holdings will all be sifting to see if it contains their saviour…or their downfall.
The Promise: 2Mbps broadband for everyone (and “action separately to address the issue of next generation broadband”)
Result?: epic fail. While broadband for everyone is great, 2Mbps […buffering…] broadband is inadequate for […buffering…] the growing needs of digital journalism including […buffering…] the huge demand for […buffering…] video on demand. Separate action to […buffering…] investigate faster broadband looks like […buffering…] the buck being well and truly passed.
Meanwhile, in South Korea: “1Gbps Downloading by 2012”
Will it help journalism? Not really. If online video and multimedia is going to start picking up the cash from traditional media it needs to be reliable and fast.
The Promise: All national radio stations to be on DAB only by 2015 ending use of analogue. Spare FM frequencies for “new tier” of community radio. More local news.
Result: fail. DAB is soo last decade, and while the radio sets look quite pretty, by the time this is rolled out, we’ll all be listening to radio on our iPhones. Over the internet. The folks at MixCloud rightly pointed out last night the real investment needs to be in online radio, and making sure the network can cope with it. It also says nothing about the plight of local commercial radio stations, caused by the filthy binge on new licences by Ofcom.
Creating a “new tier” of hyper local community stations is a nice idea – provided they don’t have to be commercially viable. And more local news? Who Lord Carter expects to pay for that (when newsrooms across the land are cutting staff) is a mystery.
Will it help journalism? An emphasis on localness might fool some Whitehall bureaucrats into investing more in local journalism. But don’t hold your breath.
03. Regional TV news
The Promise: 3.5% of BBC’s licence fee (~£130m) to be available to help regional TV news on ITV
Result: good news for ITV. It has been long argued on all sides, the BBC needs strong competition in regional news to keep its standards up. And while that is the case £130m is a lot to spend investing in the “a local lady has turned 100” fluff which ITV regions currently put on air.
Will it help journalism? In the short term ITV local news does need the cash, and this might even save some jobs. But once again Lord Carter has missed the trick. What we need is a new way of doing television news, for example Michael Rosenblum‘s VJ newsroom model. Meanwhile, no word about the BBC’s real competition: Channel 4 News.
04. Hyperlocal news
The Promise: No promises here, just a recognition that grassroots online projects are good for democracy
Result: fail. Lord Carter says he likes the growing number of hyper-local community sites, but says there can’t be a gap between what these start ups offer, and what the traditional big boys offer. So he’s investing in making sure newspaper groups and the BBC can offer better online, including, bizarrely, an idea to let newspapers use BBC video content. Considering the row over BBC Local in 2007, that’s pretty hilarious.
Will it help journalism: well there’s no promises here, so it’s up to the people to forge the way.
05. Childrens’ Programmes
The Promise: Money to help Channel 4 develop services for that most difficult of audiences: 10-18 year olds
Result: good news. Channel 4 are best placed to understand this market, and embarrassing dad-dancing attempts by the BBC have shown they’re not really “down with the kids”. It won’t solve Channel 4’s funding crisis though.
Will it help journalism: any investment in actually creating content is a good thing.
All government reports, like Christmas presents from your grandparents, are always a little disappointing; sadly yesterday’s report fails to really grasp or embrace the mouth watering potential of the future.
Lord Carter: as us bluggers and twotters and myface yoof types say: “epic fail”.
A brief foray into the (now) seedy world of politics…but from a media point of view of course.
It’s fantastically scandalous isn’t it. Whether they meant to break the rules or not, it seems Britain’s elected representatives have spent quite a bit of time making sure they can get every penny from the tax payer possible; even if that has taken quite a lot of effort and thought.
“Is it possible to claim this portico back?” “Why not, it’s being repaired right?”
“16p for a lemon. Can I get that back too?”
And as for Elliot Morley, the mere suggestion it is possible to forget the end of your mortgage bill is ludicrous. For most human beings the final mortgage payment is serious party time. Especially if it’s costing £800 a month. Take our money, Mr. Morley, and try and take us for a ride, why don’t you.
So yes, I definitely put myself into the rather large camp of people pretty damn angry about our politicians’ behaviour.
But that’s only part of the reason I’m angry.
As a journalist, what makes my blood boil, is the sheer lack of accountability of these conmen and women. Let’s be straight: when you are elected by the public, and paid by them, you are 100% accountable to them. And even more so when you’ve been caught with your hand in their cookie jar.
So why have all these MPs been so hard to get hold of?
Friday: and John Prescott’s office never answered the phone. He also didn’t release a statement. For a man so tech savvy, his v-blog was decidedly unupdated.
Monday: and I was on the phone to David Davis’ office. “Oh he’s told me he isn’t going to hide away” his assistant Andrew assured me, “he’ll speak to you.” Several more calls and more answerphone messages later, and we still haven’t spoken to him.
Thursday: Elliot Morley’s office couldn’t even tell us where he was. “Somewhere in London,” they said, “we’re not sure where.” End of play Thursday and we hadn’t heard from the man himself. Friday morning and we decided to call his house. Amazingly he answered.
For 38 seconds, Elliot Morley was being held accountable to the public, through the media. But he even dodged our reporter Katie Hall‘s questions under the thin veil of legal advice.
Yes, they’ve released statements, and yes they’ve responded to the Daily Telegraph. But that isn’t being directly accountable to the people who put them there and the people who pay them.
When you’re elected by, and paid for by, the public you answer every question, from every media organisation.
If there was going to be a party for fraudulent politicians, chances are it would be held somewhere near Yorkshire, as its where a lot of them are. John Prescott, David Davis, James Clappison, Elliot Morley, Douglas Hogg, Austin Mitchell, Caroline Flint, and now Shahid Malik. Now four of these are supposed to represent the Viking FM’s listeners.
One week since the first allegations were published and they haven’t had their questions answered.
And the disclaimer:
All the views expressed in this blog are my own, only, and do not represent those of my employer!
After getting some extra views for directing people to the now world famous Christian Bale tape, it’s only fair to highlight his apology.
Apparently he called LA based station KROQ-FM today, after hearing on air skits about his behaviour.
He then gives a pretty coherent apology.
Another tip for TV news producers everywhere: if you’re going to play the Christian Bale outburst
1) do it before everyone’s heard it already
2) edit out the swear words
Lots of interest in Hull’s FA Cup fixture this weekend.
Partly because a bunch of Milwall hooligans stuck in the 1980s decided to tear up some of the ground, but also because the club unveiled their new signing.
Costing £5m Bullard is the big investment which they’re hoping will secure their place in the Premier League.
We first got wind he could be signing last Thursday but often with football, speculation is just that, and getting a confirmation (especially on a big deal) is near impossible before the job is done.
It happened that on Thursday evening I was part of a party of local hacks being taken out for a curry by Hull City boss Phil Brown.
Ahead of the meal my editor texted me: “see what you can find out about Bullard.”
Time for some snooping.
Phil and the rest of the management arrived at the restaurant as we were all sitting down. A hugely engaging and entertaining guy, he announced straight away:
“Can I just say lads, Bull is off the menu.”
Sometimes snooping for that exclusive will get you nowhere…
So I have a confession to make. Last week, I made an editorial decision; the wrong editorial decision.
It was a Thursday afternoon, and with my editor at a management meeting I was left alone, in charge of the news desk.
A press release from the police appeared in the inbox: “Police seek help in finding missing teenager, Cleethorpes“. I opened it up, scanned through it and pondered whether to include it.
After some umming and ahhing, I decided not to. Here’s why:
- She’d only been missing for about 18 hours
- Teenagers go awol quite often; if she was still missing in a week, then it would be news.
- The family were not giving interviews.
- We’d already run several missing persons stories in the week before
- My bulletins were already jam packed with big stories-local and national-on which we had lots of good audio; there was just no room.
It wasn’t a rushed decision or a lazy one; I gave it thought, and felt justified in my approach when I closed the message.
But that missing teenager would later turn out to be Laura Stainforth, and 7 days later her name would be in every national newspaper.
Later that evening, when the search was the lead story on the BBC regional news programme, was when I started questioning whether I’d been right to leave it out.
Now it wasn’t a disastrous decision. The next day we were able to pick it up when a new angle about her internet life emerged.
And this week I spent several days in Cleethorpes making sure we had all the right coverage, including interviews with the police and Laura’s headteacher.
Would our audience have noticed? No. Was it a massive boo-boo? No. But still I’ve learnt it’s important to always be prepared to question your decisions, but at the same time be prepared to stand up and defend them too.
What would you have done?
So it was as powerful and emotional and historic as November 4th, and more.
Billions, they reckon, watched Barack Obama’s inauguration; 4 million made the pilgrimage to Washington DC to see it for themselves.
From a journalist’s perspective days like this are always fascinating and exciting. I thought some mind find it useful to see how the local radio station I work for covered it today.
Local v national
Generally, local media have 2 choices when it comes to big national/international stories:
- You are a local station, you cover local stories primarily
- You are an outlet in tune with your local audience and the wider world.
In radio certainly – many managers consider local news a major facet of their “localness” requirements – and will often inforce ‘Lead on Local’ policies.
Even without, local journalists sometimes feel guilty at covering non-local stories.
Where I work, we take option 2. There is a wider world out there, and often things happen nationally/internationally which affect our listeners lives.
When people turn on the radio, they expect to be briefed on all the big stories – and what’s happening NOW.
We decided editorially last week it would be THE story today, despite another strong local story which has been developing for a week vying for lead.
So we put lots of effort in advance of today getting local reaction to the historic inauguration. In our main lunchtime bulletin we ran an in-house report looking back at Bush’s legacy. We also tracked down American’s living in our area, as well as academics and politicians.
Mixed with audio from our national news wire service we had comprehensive coverage.
Perhaps overambitiously we tried to take a live feed from Washington at 1700 to catch the opening words of Obama’s oath. A nice idea, thrown out of whack when the ceremony was delayed (for the first time in 200 years!).
In terms of writing, a day like to day is a journalists dream, with all sorts of options for epic and creative copy.
Compare that to our local rival (who I won’t name); at 5pm, as Obama was about to step up to take the job of President of the United States, they led with a local crime story.
The inauguration came last “and finally…”
As a listener/viewer/reader would you feel in touch with the world?
While reports this afternoon a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Palestine might be imminent, personal tragedies are still unfolding on the ground.
Perhaps none more extraordinary than this story which has just been published by Al-Jazeera International:
“… the tragedy of one father made real by the power of live television.”
Another year in radio news comes and goes. And that can only mean it’s time for another review of the year!
My three part special for Touch Radio in 2007 went down a treat; this year it’s one 10 minute long extravaganza, featuring Bob Geldof, David Davis, Alphabeat and Leon Jackson!
If you wanna know what we get up to in Hull, check it out.
It’ll be available for download on Viking FM next week.