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Listen to the latest editionHomepage of The Media Show, Radio4's weekly look at the media..  Wednesday 1.30pm.

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22 October 2008

Channel 4, Andy Duncan, America on all channels and BBC Local
Channel 4's chief executive Andy Duncan tells us about its future as a public service broadcaster. The prospect of global financial meltdown might be receding – from the front pages at least – but have the media had a good crisis? The BBC’s Local Video proposals have really put the wind up struggling regional newspaper groups. But has the Chairman of the BBC Trust – who is currently reviewing the proposals – already made up his mind? And three broadcasting heavyweights are on the telly this coming Sunday evening.  Comedian Natalie Haynes tells us why she thinks it’s a miracle they didn’t actually bump into each other.

Andy Duncan and Channel 4

Andy Duncan and Channel 4Channel 4 is cutting back on staff and issuing dire warnings about its future as a public service broadcaster. Like other commercial broadcasters they are wrestling with a worsening advertising recession and, they claim, longer term structural changes that are undermining their business model. Without a major injection of public money – as much as £150 million pounds - to supplement their commercial revenues Channel 4 says it will become a shadow of its former self. Now you probably won’t be surprised to hear that in spite of broad support from industry regulator Ofcom, elsewhere in the industry at least, almost everything Channel 4 says is disputed by someone.

So how much does Channel 4 really need? Is cash the best way to solve it? And might the consequences of taking public money in terms of increased accountability do more harm than good? Steve is joined by Channel 4's chief executive Andy Duncan.

BBC Local Video

NewspapersBBC management proposals for BBC Local Video are currently under review by the BBC Trust. Regional newspaper groups are deeply worried about the proposals, fearing that their commercially financed online local news and information businesses will be undermined. The Trust’s conclusions are due to be published around the end of November but comments from the Chairman of the BBC Trust, Sir Michael Lyons, have inflamed the regional press. Tim Bowlder, chief executive of Johnstons Press and Tina Stowell, head of communications for the BBC Trust join Steve to debate the issues.

The Financial Crisis Revisted

Financial CrisisAs the prospect of imminent global financial meltdown recedes - albeit to be replaced with rather more imminent economic slowdown – it is at last possible to buy a newspaper or watch the TV without seeing serried ranks of city traders – heads in hands.

From reporting stories that can move markets and change the course of events because of the effects they have on public confidence or share prices, to trying to explain in layman’s terms complex financial manouverings so little understood it seems even by the people who conducted them.

So has the media had a good financial crisis – so to speak?

Steve is joined by Patience Wheatcroft – long-time business editor of the Times, latterly editor of the Sunday Telegraph and now, amongst other things, a non executive director of Barclays Bank and from New York by Gillian Tett of the Financial Times.

America across the channels

Simon Schama, StephenFry and John SnowIf you turn on your TV on Sunday night, you can see The American Future: A History by Simon Schama at seven o’clock on BBC2, Jon Snow's American Journeys at ten past Seven on Channel 4 and to round off your evening’s viewing - Stephen Fry in America on BBC 1 at 9pm. Comedian and writer Natalie Haynes thinks she’s detected a pattern.

Comments on Today's Programme

DAB Radio:
Because I could not get good fm reception in my ground floor flat when I moved to Clacton and it drives me mad when long wave -with its good reception goes to cricket for days on end -even in the winter- I decided I would buy 2 good DAB radios but also had to have 2 airials outside to ensure good reception. Since the airials were installed in March reception had been pretty good with little of the burbbling -sounding like the radio was underwater -that sometimes occurs with DAB -happing. However the radio in the kitchen with the airial on the side of the building away from Bradfield where the signal comes from -less than 20 miles away -started 'bubbling quite badly in September and intermittently got worse until on Monday this week (19/10) -for several hours from 5-10 the signal was lost altogether-and of course I could not hear the latest reports from Robert Peston of doom and despair.It seems mad that I can get clearly umpteen stations on the TV but trying to get the best radio 4 -is like going on an expedition up the Amazon. The weak signal of DAB that can be affected it seems by so many variables must be a disincentive to buying DAB -after all Clacton is hardly out in the wilds!!!
Helen Rees

DAB Radio:
Your contributor was right in saying that FM can give better audio quality than the low bit-rate used for most DAB transmissions, but where DAB wins is in the environment for which it was designed, a moving receiver in a car.An FM car radio suffers pops, clicks and hisses because of multi-path reception, even where there is a strong signal, but DAB was designed to overcome this problem. (Actually, you don't realise how bad FM is in a car until you have listened to DAB.) Most cars are not suitable for hi-fi listening anyway, hence the acceptability of lower bit-rates, which permit more channels from which to choose.
C. Murray 

Overexposure to USA on TV:
I absolutely agreed with your last item that the current glut of programmes about the USA is beyond boring. There cannot be anything left about this country that we do not know thanks to Theroux, Fry, Schama etc. When will we ever be exposed to history and feature programmes about our european neighbours. Russia has been going through a transformation in the past 20 years - not a peep about it on the BBC. The Scandinavian countries are only ever seen through the natural history prism and the most we've seen of Eastern Europe was Palin's tour. As ever, if the interviewees can't speak English the BBC shows no interest. Bill Brown

Coverage of the financial crisis:
Your programme was full of praise for the reporting of Robert Peston. While I am sure he knows an awful lot about the financial systems, I have to say that in my opinion he is the worst communicator on TV. His delivery is faltering, full of pauses in inappropriate places, usually followed by a high speed rush through the next part of what he wants to say. As a result he is extremely difficult to follow, and I am afraid I cannot listen to him. Sometimes an ability to communicate effectively is more useful than expertise.
Malcolm Rose

DAB Radio:
Digital radio is great! We get a strong signal here in Rugby and at least one of our five radios is on most of the day. Our most listened to stations in addition to Radio 4 are 5 Live, World Service, Planet Rock and 6 Music. This is a far easier and more portable platform than via the internet.
Roger Wilcox
Multi-platform radio receivers:
The advice given was to avoid DAB sets, instead buying one that supports FM, DAB and Internet radio.In principle, that sounds good, but as yet, stand-alone sets that support Internet radio are still expensive. Better advice is to get a DAB/FM set now, then wait a while until Internet radio set prices come down. That may cost less in total - and provide two radios.My DAB/FM sets cost about 30 quid from Aldi. They give excellent DAB, but lousy FM, reception in our house.However, only FM gives accurate time signals.
Roger Beaumont 

Natalie Haynes:
Well, no I wasn't hoping for a black, female presenter for a documentary on the USA. Why would I? A competent presenter will do. What I do notice though is that historian presenters carve themselves very remarkable niches. Starkey seems to spot a huge number of gays in history, Bettany Hughes discovers periods which were run by hugely powerful wimmin and Scharma just has that irritating drawl so whatever he says is largely lost.
Petra Dye
How to listen:
I am listening right now via Internet Radio in Italy. Quality is perfect - better than when I am in London on FM.As a license payer why cannot I have access to BBCiplayer TV even if I wish to access this while abroad? Surely the technology can be used to identify me and give me access even though I use a non UK ISP?
Clive Aldenhoven

DAB Radio:
Forgetting for a moment that part of the Beeb's funding depends on persuading us to use DAB, how (with green and energy concenrs foremost) can they possibly justify forcing listeners to adopt a technology that consumes so much more power than a normal FM radio?
Graham Allen

Overkill on America:
Haven't heard Natalie Haynes' piece yet because I'm listening to the show now. But the trail said she's surprised the presenters in the States didn't bump into each other. She, or you, should listen to Front Row. Stephen Fry told Mark Lawson that he did, indeed, bump into Simon Schama while they were both filming. If my memory is correct it was in Washington DC... Arlington cemetery perhaps. Too late, I suppose for her to redo her piece, but why doesn't she ask the presenters concerned before pontificating?Like the show.
Tim Knight 

Tri-ophony suggestion to the B.B.C. The idea was to use the Radio 4 F.M., channel for the front, and the Radio 4 Longwave for the rear. They just sent a standard reply ( from memory ). It is, of course, possible to make the rear signal more sophisticated, but the mixed rear signal could provide enjoyment for many listeners. They use the Longwave for sport, why not for tri-ophony also ? Hold it though, what about , " The Archers " in surround sound ? ' I think I'd better think it out again '.
Colin Milne

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The Media Show

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Previous Programmes

1 October 2008
Andy Burnham on public service broadcasting

8 October 2008
Michael Grade on ITV
15 October 2008
Future of DAB Radio

22 October 2008
Andy Duncan and Channel 4
29 October 2008
Reporting Poverty

5 November 2008
Stephen Carter

12 November 2008
Lionel Barber and the FT

19 November 2008
Dr Tanya Byron on Kids TV
26 November 2008
Manchester and the Media

3 December 2008
Twitter's role in Mumbai Attacks
10 December 2008
Shannon Matthews and media coverage
17 December 2008
BBC Partnerships and media access to family courts
24 December 2008
Bush and the press and 1968 Apollo broadcast

31 December 2008
The Moralising Media
7 January 2009
Jeremy Hunt, Gaza Reporting and New Talent

14 January 2009
Prince Harry, Gaza, Persian TV and iPlayer
21 January 2009
Ofcom's PSB Review, Ross' return and British News
28 January 2009
Sir Michael Lyons, Hutton Report and New Nation
4 February 2009
Sky, Children and Reality TV and Financial Reporting
11 February 2009
BBC Children's Services, Jade Goody and  Journalists' Conscience Clause

18 February 2009
Reporting Trauma, Subeditors and Teletext

25 February 2009
Dawn Airey, Disability on TV and Facebook
4 March 2009
Media and The Miners' Strike and ITV
11 March 2009
The Editors' Codebook, "Crown Jewels" of British Sport and Viviane Reding

18 March 2009
Christopher Meyer, Metro at Ten, Phorn and Impartial Drama

25 March 2009
Future of Journalism, Obama, Radio Caroline

Steve Hewlett

Steve Hewlett

Steve Hewlett is a Guardian Columnist and broadcasting consultant. He is visiting Professor of Journalism and Broadcast policy at Salford University and a fellow of the Royal Television Society.

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