Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ditch the news- who cares anyway

ITV, the UK's biggest commercial broadcast network will either rue the day or rub its had with glee crowing to its shareholders.

For today the the UK's regulatory broadcasting body, OFCOM will likely allow ITV to ditch its news.

So for example Bordertv will reduce its regional 30 minute slot from half an hour to 15, with news coming from elsewhere, Cumbria - a neighbouring region.

It's like saying New Yorkers will receive part of their news from DC.

The move saves nearly 200 million pounds ITV can give back to its investors and cuts up to 200 jobs.

So to be expected, a lot of people are livid, employers and viewers alike.

The harsh reality is the looming digital switch over, ITV's falling ad budget revenue, which has been slipping year on year and the fact news cost a lot of money, and pound per second doesn't square up the books compared with say drama or reality tv.

ITV effectively wants to relinquish its public service role, an anachronism you might say anyway in these free-for-all digital times.

So if you ever needed reminding, broadcasters aren't altruistic and while they use words such as audience what they mean is their shareholders and ensuring executive staff have a job to go to.

This is instructive, a model to befuddle the populace at the birth of TV and radio, when execs decided how expensive it would be to get a license to transmit, but would be cheaper with a TV set to receive pictures has had its day.

This is the industry's mini-financial crisis. It wasn't supposed to be this way, and five years ago most execs scoffed at the idea that TV, a structure built on solid business acumen would be in dire straights.

As Ed Richards, the chief executive of Ofcom, put it on Radio 4, it's about protecting peak time news, which audience TRULY want to see.

Earlier this year I was asked to a meeting of former broadcasters in the Midlands looking to exploit ITV's plans.

Whilst the BBC is considering going more local, its opposition is moving the other way.

Some one's right somewhere, but then the BBC does receive 3.4 bn UKP in license fee money.

So you're an entrepreneur with a local newspaper, what are you to do?


Anonymous said...

Hi David

Interesting, but surely the BBC will be rubbing their hand with glee, with less competition. I heard just the other day what you mentioned in your blog, about BBC going more local. Will this be through the TV or through local BBC radio stations employing VJ's for their websites? The latter is what i heard. Can you shed some light on this?



Dr David Dunkley Gyimah said...

Hi Martin

From what I know from sharing a platform with some of the execs (I really should post the video), it'll be through broadband aligned with radio/tv stations.

So London breaks down into say, North, South, etc with perhaps even greater division.

Interestingly, it's not far from how Channel One ran its operation as a cable news network many moons ago.

I imagine, if I'm in Highgate I should be able to log onto the BBC's website, navigate to Highgate, click news and then et voila.

When I interviewed Peter Horrocks, the head of Multimedia news, the plans had not yet been submitted to the BBC's overseers.

But that's now in train. Press Gazette reported how local newspaper editors were further outraged. ( must look for link)

So hyperlocal methinks will happen and there are videojournalists ready in the wings to make it work.

The BBC rubbing its hands with glee? You might suppose so, but there is a sparring quality about broadcasters where they much prefer to be in the company of others to justify their pole position.

Which is why the BBC Vs ITN scrap for news at ten draws such whoopees within the corporation, when actual figures emerge.

On its own, the BBC would not have any lithmus test to judge its health.

Same thing here for hyperlocal. It needs ITN or local competition to illustrate it offers a viable alternative.

But strangely given the 1000s of signatures protesting ITNs abandoning of local news, the BBC has a very sympathetic audience awaiting it now.

C'mon down Mr Hyperlocal

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot David.

Being a newly instated VJ for a local newspaper i don't know whether to be completely terrified or elated. I mean should i worry about going out of business or having a fantastic employer for my skills on my door step, should all collapse for the paper/web industry. Not sure. It certainly explains why my editor recently told me he wants to increase from 1 video per day to 10 per day, 9 to 5pm increased to 24hours a day. I'm just scared it will be Betamax vs VHS!

Keep us posted on further developements, and possible launch dates

Take care