Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

And so it begins…

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on September 29, 2008

Has it been 18 months since I wrote this?

‘….broadcasting on an analogue signal, all of the terrestrial channels have a certain public service remit. They’re all using large amounts of airwaves which belong to the public and in return they’re expected to provide us all with some news….

‘…But hark, on the horizon, the looming spectre of the digital switchover…and…a channel’s news remit will expire too.  Some channels – likely ITV and Five – may well say “screw news – why should I waste my money on that?”’

Last week of course we had the sad announcement ITV’s local output was becoming regional.

And today, ITV boss Michael Grade says “we risk loosing national news bulletins.

‘Grade voiced his concerns that national news might ultimately not be financially viable at a Royal Television Society London conference on Friday.

He said: “In a PSB world, you get guarantees in terms of privileges. In a non-PSB world you do things for as long as you [commercially] can.”‘

Well, news never was financially viable. I can’t believe that’s a surprise to Mr Grade.

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A future for Channel 4 News?

Posted in Broadcasting and Media by Adam Westbrook on March 18, 2007

Channel 4 NewsroomChannel 4 chief Andy Duncan’s been making some worrying noises about one of the channel’s greatest assets: Channel 4 News.

As Michael Grade’s been trying to secure future funding for ITV News in the digital era, Duncan’s told a select committee of MPs that Channel 4 News won’t survive in it’s current form.

According to the Press Gazette:

Andy Duncan, Chief Executive of Channel 4, told the cross-party media select committee that Channel 4 News was unlikely to survive in its present form without public subsidy.

He said: “Whilst Channel 4 News is a flagship public service programme on the Channel, it is expensive to make and has limited potential for revenue raising.

“As such it is unlikely to survive in its present form – a one hour peak time programme, containing 40 per cent international news – in a purely commercial environment.”

The reason is simple: broadcasting on an analogue signal, all of the terrestrial channels have a certain public service remit. They’re all using large amounts of airwaves which belong to the public and in return they’re expected to provide us all with some news.

And because of this, and it’s unique public service remit, Channel 4 gets some cash for news.

But hark, on the horizon, the looming spectre of the digital switchover. We know now it’s going to start in Whitehaven on October 17th and will be complete by 2012. By then, all homes will be expected to have a digi-box and analogue transmissions will be turned off.

Broadcasting in naughts and ones is nice and compact. You can fit more channels and and not take up as much public airwaves. And because of this, broadcasters are loosing government cash (except the Beeb, of course.)

And – more worryingly – a channel’s news remit (again, except the BBC), will expire too.  Some channels – likely ITV and Five – may well say “screw news – why should I waste my money on that?”

And it looks like Channel 4 News, in spite of it’s scores of awards and cult following, could be forced to change in the next five years.  Let’s hope it doesn’t ditch it all together.

Sky News announced it was taking itself off the Freeview platform last month. Fellow journo Doidge rightly says the loss of competition in broadcast news can only be bad. Imagine that on a massive scale – and the redundancy consequences.

News is a bizarre commodity- like war, it costs loads to do with little or no financial returns. Not one to pitch to Dragons Den.