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What future for media and journalism?

Robert Peston | 13:02 UK time, Saturday, 29 August 2009

I presented the Richard Dunn Memorial Lecture at the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival. Here's the text.

It is an honour to be giving a lecture in memory of Richard Dunn. I never met him but he was - by all accounts - both an unusually charming man and a talented television executive who passionately believed in editorial independence, as he showed in his staunch defence of Thames's Death on the Rock Documentary about the shooting in Gibraltar of three IRA terrorists. And although as chief executive of Thames he confronted difficult issues, such as trade unions' resistance to change, ITV franchises were in his day advertising monopolies, licences to print bucket loads of money. In fact the one serious misjudgement he made was not to bid enough in the first ever channel 3 franchise auction. Yes there really was a time when the value of terrestrial commercial television companies was rising.

Today so much of the industry he knew is confronted by a crisis worse than anyone alive has witnessed. Now I'm going to be looking at just one part of the media industry, news journalism - which is struggling to cope with the combination of a collapse in advertising more serious even than the plunge of the mid 1970s and massive, disruptive technological change. It all feels as significant as anything the industry has experienced since the explosive growth of the great mass market newspapers in the early 20th century or the creation of the BBC and the establishment of its principles of editorial impartiality.

Now it is probably worth pointing out at this early juncture that what follows are my reflections - albeit the reflections of a not particularly dispassionate observer since journalism has been my life for more than 25 years - rather than some kind of official BBC corporate view.

No ordinary media recession

I will be looking at the future of our industry from the corner I know best, which is business and economics journalism. But what I have to say, I hope, has relevance for all news journalism. I want to make four points.

First that this is no ordinary recession - the traditional business model of traditional news providers is being wrecked and needs to be overhauled.

Second, in a globalised, 24/7 digital world, individual news organisation may be less powerful than they were, but stories - and to an extent the journalists who own them - shout louder than ever.

Third, I will argue - from my own experience - that the traditional distinctions between television journalists, radio journalists and print journalists are quite close to being obsolete. This has huge operational implications for all media companies and also for regulation of the industry.

Then I will make the case that the financial crisis we're living through - and the end of an era of what I call financial paternalism - shows that more than ever we need a choice of high-quality news providers which are confident in their ability to explain complex important issues in a clear and accessible way. And I will look at whether we can be certain that the commercial news sector's imminent revolution - in launching subscription or paid-for online news services - will meet that important need of any thriving democracy.

The party is over

Now I wrote all this before hearing James Murdoch's passionate call in his MacTaggart Lecture for the dismantling of the BBC and the near total liberalisation of the media. But if there is a thread running through my lecture, it is this. Market-based democracies like ours need two kinds of essential infrastructure: robust financial systems that transmit cash and allocate capital where it will be most useful; and competing independent news groups that distribute impartial information so that people can take control of their lives and rein in the over-mighty. Now we have just seen the near total collapse of our financial infrastructure, to a large extent because of misguided deregulation of banking; so we have to ask whether there is any rational basis for believing that withdrawing all regulation and subsidy from the news market would be any less costly to our way of life.
To state the obvious, and to move outside of the media industry for a moment, this has been no ordinary recession. It has been the worst global economic contraction since the Great Depression. And because the crisis had its origin in a glut of debt in the US, the UK and a few other economies, there are reasons to believe that - for the US and the UK at least - recovery may well be a rather long drawn out affair. As the economist Nouriel Roubini said just the other day, there is a significant risk that an insipid recovery could be fairly swiftly followed by another recession.

In the good years, a massive rise in borrowing by households, companies, the public sector and (above all) by banks fuelled an unsustainable boom (from which the media industry was a massive beneficiary) and a bubble in assets, notably housing and commercial property.

Well the party is well and truly over. That said, there are signs that the recession is ending. However the fundamental problem has not been solved. We were living beyond our means and we are living beyond our means. We have to reduce our debts, but doing that in a fashion and on a timescale that doesn't tip us back into recession will not be easy.

Now there is one thing that is absolutely fundamental to an assessment of how long the UK remains in a period of low or non-existent growth - and that is all about why lending to businesses is so weak at the moment. If that is because banks remain too weak to lend, then that is more easily rectified - as and when banks accumulate vital capital for lending through a recovery in profits that will come in the next year or two. If however - as happened in Japan - the more fundamental problem is that businesses have become chronically averse to risk and have chosen to pay down debt and to invest less, well that would remove a vital component of any serious economic recovery.

Collapsing revenues

In the mainstream commercial media industry, many big businesses are conspicuously choosing as their priority a Japanese-style reduction of their excessive debts, by slashing costs and investment. And it is easy to see why. Depending on which segment you look at - television advertising, national newspapers, regional newspapers, display, classified - advertising is down by between 15% and more than 50%. Worse still, many of the media executives to whom I talk don't expect any serious recovery over the coming few years - because for the best part of a decade there has been a partial decoupling between the performance of the economy and advertising revenues.

Google's income has gone through the roof, but advertising revenues for traditional TV, newspaper and radio companies have risen more slowly than the economy in the upturn and have fallen much faster in the downturn. Media analysts Enders expect newspaper advertising revenues to be £3.9bn in 2013 - a staggering 48% or £3.5bn less than in 2007. If that's right - and it is supported by what media executives say to me - newspapers will over five years lose advertising revenues equivalent to the entire annual licence income of the BBC. Which is why they need to find new revenue - and it is why charging for online news will become the norm. Television advertising is expected to suffer a bit less - falling from £3.6bn in 2007 to £2.9bn in 2013 - a loss of £700m of revenue. But - as has been widely noted - the aggregate revenues of ITV, Channel 4 and Five (perhaps £2.7bn) are significantly less than the BBC's and about half that of James Murdoch's British Sky Broadcasting. On the broadcasting side - if classifying a section of the industry in that way makes sense in this digital world - there are a pair of giants and some minnows with loud voices, strong brands but depleted resources. All of which - to state the obvious - makes the large and protected revenue of the BBC and Sky's monopolistic control of satellite distribution much more contentious than would be the case if the rest of the sector was booming. And, of course, it raises the question to which I will return of whether the BBC is the invaluable defender of impartial, public-service journalism, at a time of a massive squeeze on the resources of commercial news providers, or the monstrous squisher of private sector rivals.

To revert to the wider economic picture for a moment, there are two further relevant things to say. First that if there is a widespread trend of British companies paying down debt, as they did in Japan for a decade from the mid 1990s, then that will make it much harder for any new government to cut public spending next year without tipping the UK back into recession. And it would be unrealistic to expect heavily indebted consumers to pick up where they left off two years ago and spend the UK into a new era of growth. On my own estimates, consumers may seek to reduce their debt relative to income by 30 or 40%. Which has negative implications for all businesses depending on consumer spending - and media companies are among those, par excellence.

Animal spirits

How consumers and businesses behave depends on what the great economist Keynes called animal spirits - which as Bob Schiller and George Akerlof have recently pointed out was an important insight that was disastrously ignored by mainstream economists for 60 years. Most economists took it for granted that participants in a market will always behave rationally - which in view of the recent behaviour of bankers would be funny if it weren't tragic. So much greater account of psychology, of how humans actually behave, must be built into models of the economy and the rules that constrain the activities of banks.

Our viewers, listeners and readers believe that the media has an impact on those animal spirits, on their own mood and actions. When the BBC polled them in April, 63% thought there was "too much doom and gloom" in the media. As you would imagine, I would disagree that we have been too gloomy, but of course I would acknowledge that news stories can have a significant influence on people's psychology and actions. And that influence has increased very significantly as news has gone digital and global - as the run at Northern Rock may remind us.

Those queues outside the Rock's branches on Friday, 14 September 2007, came as a shock to me. But as the Governor of the Bank of England has said, the behaviour of Northern Rock's savers in asking for their money back was rational. Northern Rock made lethal mistakes in both the way it borrowed money and the way it lent - and it was several days before the Chancellor of the Exchequer made an unambiguous statement that depositors would not lose a penny. The incident shows how loud a voice a journalist and a media organisation can have and what a heavy responsibility there is to get the facts and context right.

Are journalists bystanders or protagonists

What this story brought home to me was how - in a broadband, always-on world - the media influences animal spirits unbelievably quickly and on a global scale. The images of the Northern Rock queues were distributed within seconds all over the world, as stills and as video. They came to symbolise the vulnerability of the banking system around the world. And in a UK context, they raised questions for investors and creditors from Boston, Massachusetts, to the Emirates to Tokyo about the viability of other British banks that had many of the same characteristics as Northern Rock, such as Bradford & Bingley and HBOS. Ultimately those banks too would have to be rescued.

It became even harder for journalists to be narrating bystanders, the chorus, rather than protagonists and participants after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which created panicked hysteria among even the biggest and most sophisticated financial institutions. Again, when I disclosed that Britain's biggest banks had been told by the government that they needed to raise £50bn of additional capital, which meant in the case of Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS that they would be semi-nationalised, I was staggered when the share price of RBS fell 40% within minutes on the morning of 7 October 2008. But this fall in the share price - and whatever impact there was on the confidence of the bank's creditors and the urgency with which the Treasury then organised a rescue of the banking system - reflected the painful financial reality. It was plainly in the public interest to disclose the weakness of our banks. And the primary justification - for me - of this kind of story is to democratise information that matters to all our livelihoods, which would otherwise be available simply to a few bankers, hedge funds and government officials. That said, no responsible journalist would fail to acknowledge that it would be wrong to weaken such important financial institutions through an exaggerated account of their vulnerability.

In general I would say that the media has had a more distinguished record than governments, central bankers, regulators and bankers in both seeing the risks that were being accumulated in the economy during the boom years and spelling out its implications after the summer of 2007, which is when the credit crunch began. But that would be to argue that the media was myopic while the authorities were blind. And some parts of the media did their bit to pump up the bubble. Newspapers' property supplements and televisions' property shows, for example, illustrate the greatest risk for the media in reporting so many issues, but especially business and finance. How do we have the courage and the insight to go against the mainstream and against powerful vested interests? Let's be under no illusion: the media did too little to challenge the consensus that the world had entered an era of continuous low-inflation growth - or at least not until it was too late.

The new journalism

To be clear, our frailty is not in the loudness of our voices it is in our determination to probe and to challenge orthodoxy. It may be a cliché to point out that there has been a massive fragmentation of news suppliers between the traditional media outlets and a new digital species - many of them highly specialist - with news you can use on everything from the number of potholes outside your front door, or what's going on for hedge funds, plus blogs, Twitter and so on. But although individual news organisations are probably in general weaker, facing both greater financial pressures and more competition than ever, the power of individual stories - and I suppose of journalists, from time to time - has increased. When a story takes off on the internet, as they have many times in respect of the credit crunch over the past couple of years, it's a massive worldwide explosion. But it's not just business or economic stories. Think about how TMZ's disclosure of the death of Michael Jackson went from internet scoop to global TV news within minutes - or how the Telegraph's website became the primary source on the biggest political story of the year, the revelations about MPs' abuse of their expenses. Which brings me to the associated changes in the way that hacks like me work.

For men - usually men of a certain age - there is no greater pleasure than watching the Dutch football team of the 1970s, total football. The point about that Dutch team, but especially the inspirational captain, Johan Cruyff, is that all of them could more or less play in every position. And my argument is that hacks like me increasingly have to become total journalists. When I started in journalism, I wrote one or two stories a week on a clunky mechanical typewriter - it was the last century but it really wasn't that long ago. Now I write up to five or six blogs in a single day, I broadcast on the Today programme, the Ten O'Clock News, as the broadcasting pillars of my output - and up to 20 or so other channels and programmes in a single day.

Rather than total journalists, perhaps we are becoming Denis Waterman journalists as per "Little Britain", i.e. we write the theme tune, sing the theme tune, and so on. Certainly my strong advice to any young person thinking of becoming a journalist is to acquire all the skills, don't think of themselves as wanting to be broadcast journalists, or radio journalists or print journalists: increasingly it's all the same thing. What matters is what has always mattered - the facts, the story. The skill for a journalist is unearthing information that matters to people and then communicating it as clearly, accurately - and if possible as entertainingly - as possible.

Global competitors

For me, the blog is at the core of everything I do, it is the bedrock of my output. The discipline of doing it shapes my thoughts. It disseminates to a wider world the stories and themes that I think matter. But it also spreads the word within the BBC - which is no coincidence, because it started life as an internal email for editors and staff. It gives me unlimited space to publish the kind of detail on an important story that I can't get into a three minute two-way on Today or a two-minutes-forty-seconds package on the Ten O'Clock News.

It connects me to the audience in a very important way. The comments left by readers contain useful insights - and they help me understand what really matters to people. That is not to say that I give them only what they want. I retain an old-fashioned view that in the end the licence fee pays for my putative skills in making judgements about what matters. Most important of all, the blog allows me and the BBC to own a big story and create a community of interested people around it. Sharing information - some of it hugely important, some of it less so - with a big and interested audience delivers that ownership and creates that committed community.

Now because of my own indifference to how I communicate a story, whether by video, audio or in writing, I regard the competition as the Telegraph, the Times, the FT, and so on, just as much Sky and ITN. And what's more for much of my output the competition is not just from UK-based organisations with UK audiences. The Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post are very much direct rivals.

Where audiences get business news

Also, it is increasingly clear that much of the audience doesn't care whether they receive their information via the blog, some other internet channel, the TV, newspapers or radio. We did a survey in February of where British people get their information about the economy. 84% still turn to television first, but 53% used the internet, as opposed to 52% who go to a newspaper, and 37% radio. For young people in the ABC1 category, 61% turned first to the internet - although even for this group TV was out in front with 74%. The point is that in national and international news, convergence has in a very fundamental sense already happened for TV, radio and newspapers. We all do video, audio and the written word.

Digital is our primary distribution network, even if it is a digital link to the micro-printing site in Southern Spain. We are all in the same market.
Here's an odd thing. Technology, working practices and consumer behaviour are all manifestations of the creation of a seamless digital news marketplace. But that is not how regulators or politicians see the news media - or at least not as manifested in the regulations that apply to the market.

Old regulations don't fit the new media world

Here's a tricky question. Are the rules restricting cross-media ownership fit for a digital world? Are the distinctions those rules draw between television, radio and newsprint companies relevant any longer? Is there industrial logic, for example, to the prohibition of a merger between a channel 3 franchise and a national newspaper with more than a 20% market share? Are those rules promoting diversity, choice and competition, or are they preventing a much needed rationalisation of the way that news is provided which is neutral about the digital method of delivery or distribution - video, audio, written - but releases vital resources for what really matters, the journalism, the investigations, the gathering of information?

Which is not to say that there is overwhelming commercial logic for the merger of a newspaper group with ITN or ITV. In a world where channel 3 and national newspapers are in dire straits, arguably such a merger would create as many problems as it solves. Two weak companies combined often create one much bigger but still weak company. And, as it happens, I do feel uneasy about the idea of a newspaper giant owning ITN, for example. But my uneasiness may not be rational. Are we sure that such a merger would any longer represent a grave threat to democracy? What I am saying - and there is nothing particularly original in this - is that we need to come up with a robust new way of measuring market share in news, one which properly captures both the rise and rise of Google in the advertising market and also doesn't seek to treat a television viewer, a newspaper reader, an internet user and a radio listener as though they are different customers of different industries. They should perhaps be seen, within the news market at least, simply as consumers of news.

The death of financial paternalism

But lest anyone should think I am arguing that choice in news provision no longer matters, I am in fact arguing the opposite. More than ever we need a choice of providers of high quality, authoritative news. The question is how to ensure there are enough competing groups with the resources to invest in news - because it is far from cheap to supply people with the information they need to take control of their lives and hold big institutions to account.

In my area, of financial journalism - but I think this argument can be extended - there is more-than-ever a requirement to fulfil that traditional purpose of serious journalism, to empower people to participate fully in democracy. The reason is that for the past 25 years or so we have seen the slow and lingering death of financial paternalism, partly by design of government policy, partly by accident.

There was a time when jobs were for life and a decent income in retirement was guaranteed by a benign employer, with the welfare state rescuing the unlucky or feckless few. Those were the days. Whether it's pensions, or buying a house or acquiring new skills so that we can remain in gainful employment, the onus has been put much more on individuals to make decisions that will determine whether they'll be prosperous or paupers. But are we equipped to make those life-determining decisions?

In that poll of earlier this year, the BBC asked those surveyed whether they were confident of explaining some basic financial concepts to a friend. The best result was for interest rates. But only a quarter of the poll was confident they could explain interest rates to a pal. 22% felt they knew what the credit crunch was (I'll bet they were wrong), 20% said they understood inflation, and just 11% said they knew what GDP was. Which makes me a bit depressed, given that I have been explaining this stuff for most of my adult life. But my goodness they have a hunger for information. 41% of our poll said they accessed more news as a result of what was going on in the economy. And never in my wildest dreams did I think that my blog would get more than 700,000 hits in a single day. People are desperate to know more. Out of 208 stories covered by BBC journalism between May 2007 and 2009, news about the state of the British and global economy stood out more than any other for our viewers - the election of Obama was placed only 8th, the start of the Beijing Olympics 16th.

When the high priests failed us

There has been another manifestation of the death of financial paternalism. We have also learned at great cost - from the worst financial and economic crisis since the 1930s - that we can no longer blindly delegate to a technocratic elite, a financial priesthood, vital decisions about how the global economy operates. We were, for example, wrong to allow a self-selecting international elite to set the rules for how our banks - the bedrock of our economy - are prevented from taking excessive risks.

These rules - that conditioned how much banks can lend and to whom - were decided completely outside of the normal democratic decision-making processes by a group of central bankers and regulators, the priesthood, gathered together in Switzerland in what's called the Basel committee on banking supervision. This may sound tedious and abstruse but it was those rules which allowed banks from Switzerland to the US to the UK to lend more than was sensible or safe relative to their capital resources. The severity of the global recession is directly related to the chronic misjudgements made by the priesthood. It was the system they designed that took the world to the brink of financial Armageddon last autumn. As a banking editor in a past life, I was a rare breed of journalist who took an interest in what they did. And I have to say that I would like that bit of my life back. Because it is perfectly clear to me that I was wasting my time taking them seriously. They weren't simply rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, they were actually steering the Titanic - our financial system - towards the iceberg.

And what worries me is that we are trusting these unelected officials from regulators and the central banks - like the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England - to take these decisions on our behalf all over again, without any serious popular debate about what kind of banking system we want. Unless media organisations are prepared to tackle these unsexy complicated issues, how on earth are we going to foment a national debate, how are people going to have a voice on issues that probably affect their prosperity more than whether the tax rate rises or falls by a few percentage points.

Public service journalism

What I am talking about here, as you know, is the importance of public service journalism, about informing and educating the public so that there is democratic participation in big decisions about the future of capitalism. Now at a time when the future of the financial underpinning of the economy is in question, so too is another part of the fabric of our society - the part that transmits not money but the news and information we need to hold powerful institutions to account. And for me, the issue is all about securing the greatest access for the greatest number of people to a diversity of competing high quality news sources.

Against this backdrop the certainty that commercial news groups will start charging for online access is relevant. We should be in no doubt about this. Every news organisation - with the exception of the BBC - will start charging very soon for any information that has any proprietary element to it at all. As I explained at the start of this talk, there is no way for these groups to survive unless they can generate this additional income.

Against that backdrop, much of what the BBC does - especially the stuff we do online - may look like unfair competition. And as someone who worked in the private sector without a break from 1983 to 2006 - and who rather assumes that he will return to the private sector one day - I completely understand why James Murdoch has argued that the BBC's online news service looks like state-subsidised unfair competition. Much of the private sector sees the BBC as crowding out legitimate commercial players. I feel the private sector's pain on all this - although there is a counter argument.

With financial paternalism in its death throes, just as we are being forced to take control of our financial lives as never before, are we sure that a wholly liberalised commercial news market would ensure that everyone has access to the kind of news and financial information they need and deserve? There already appears to be a consensus that in the provision of regional news there has been a massive market failure that will require state intervention and subsidy to rectify. But is that market failure limited to regional news?

Will the new paid-for online model inform and educate on hard issues - financial matters, but also medicine, the environment, education and so on - that matter to us, or will it concentrate on the more sensationalist and titillating bangs for the buck? And even if paid-for online services do endeavour to fill the gap created by the death of financial paternalism, will millions on low incomes be excluded from access to this information? Should we be relaxed if 'can't pay' means 'can't know'?

There is a debate here about two kinds of fairness. There is the fairness of ensuring a level playing field for players in a commercial market. And there is the fairness of the distribution of information and knowledge to all who need it, irrespective of their material circumstances. These are two different kinds of fairness. They are apples and pears of social justice. But having just lived through the greatest failure in history to distribute financial resources in an efficient and equitable way, we certainly shouldn't assume that a commercial digital market in news will distribute information in a way that would support a healthy democracy. Walter Bagehot - as luck would have it the greatest ever writer on banking - defined democracy as government by discussion. But you can't have a decent chinwag without having the facts. And the big question - one which perhaps Richard Dunn would have relished - is whether the incipient structure of our new digital news industry will promote or undermine the healthy discussion that is necessary for democracy to thrive.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Classy stuff, and thankyou. I only wish the timing had been better, because I think Mr Murdoch Jnr. might have a point. I would have liked to see that addressed herein, because to my mind the power of the Beeb is a serious issue.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am the first one to say that the BBC is far from perfect,however I can
    hardly bring myself to imagine what things would be like with the likes of Rupert Murdoch being the dominant News gathering service in this Country.Take for instance his "FOX" Network in the United States,where no
    opposition at all is ever brokered against the Republican Party.Even the
    last Repugnant incumbant the Moronic George W Bush.This utter "Nightmare"
    of an administration was inflicted upon the World and it was backed by the Reptile Murdoch all the way in whatever Law it chose to ignore or ammend.Bush preached freedom and Democracy yet he took away the right of
    Habeus Corpus,and the right of free speech, and the right of demonstration.Please just imagine if Bush had been a Democrat, the Murdoch owned media would have slaughtered the same sort of behaviour, yet because it was a hard right wing idiot it applauded it.The Rendition and the Torture of the American Prisons,all backed by old Roop.Now there is another great institution in his sights, the BBC.Murdoch only wants the incoming Tory administration to break up the BBC and halt the Licence
    fee it recieves,so as the Stage is then set for him and his "Stinking" filth to become "the" British Broardcaster.This man is unashamedly Right wing Biased.This will be waved in front of SCameron as a sure sign of Murdochs support,just like it was when Blair sold out the then Labour Parties Soul to Murdoch for it's backing by the stinking Sun Fish and Chip Comic.James Murdoch is very very envious of the BBC this is why he gave this green with envy speech,what this Kid covets is no opposition to
    his rotten biased criminal Snooze Intententional.The British Government
    "must" be ultra careful here,as give these creeps an inch and they will
    take a hundred miles.Murdoch should be told the BBC is staying put,he would soon get the message and go after something else.I for one do "not"
    want a National News outlet which will not even let the opposition speak.
    The way President Obama was and is attacked is most appaling,the Democrat
    is called onto Fox's so-called debates and is never allowed to answer any questions because they are always far too busy fighting off the imagined personal attacks dreamt up by Ancient Roops gutter stalkers.Also
    I do not think Cameron and his man Friday Gideon either have the where-withall or the street savy to refuse old Roop.In winding up this article,
    we once had scores of very good Documentary Programmes like TV Eye/World
    in Action/ 40 Minuets/ the Pilger report ETC ETC ETC.These fantastic informative tomes all went the journey through Thatchers giving their licences away.Which in turn was merely pay-back for the "Death on the Rock" ITV Investative Journalism.The TV Stations have Dummned down so much now I barely bother to watch anymore.Our young people learn nothing at all from the once all powerful all informative TV Screen.Surely we have lost far too much already,Radio is the only place left for finding out what is going on in the World, and yes you guessed it,it's BBC Radio
    4 who do all the informing.Letting filthy scum like Money and power mad Murdoch run our principal News Stations is exactly the same as putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank,it's is the start of Lord Hailshams
    favourite adage "Elective Dictatorship" and Murdoch know it,that's why he is so eager for it.

  • Comment number 3.

    I for one welcome the admission that we have been living in a World of financial paternalism and further I welcome the end of it. As for needing 'high-quality news providers who are confident in their ability to explain complex important issues in a clear and accessible way' - this is the false confidence of dusty financial paternalists 'who get it right' at the rate of a coin toss. Peston gives his own example of his own financial paternalism a few lines later : 'Now we have just seen the near total collapse of our financial infrastructure, to a large extent because of misguided deregulation of banking' and 'We were living beyond our means', 'We have to reduce our debts' and the calls Keynes 'Great' Well it No No No and more No :
    a) 'misguided deregulation of banking' - If I pay you 1 p to make a car and then you want to buy it off me you need to give me 2p for me to make a profit, you don't have 2p you only have 1p so you need to go into debt to get the extra 1p. The 'misguided deregulation of banking' has provided that 1p for the past few decades and has kept the economy going. Without it we'd have been flat broke 30 years ago.
    b) 'We were living beyond our means' no we are not - factories are closing down because of lack of orders from customers not because of lack of metal and stuff to make things - if that was the case then he's be right. The lack of orders is due to the lack of money of the customers which is caused by the lack of extra 1ps provided by the now guided and regulated banking system.
    c) 'We have to reduce our debts' - go get your accountancy 101 book out - debt is one part of an accountancy entry - the other is credit - money. To say we need to reduce our debts means we need to reduce our money - I'm not sure that's the case.
    d) The 'Great' Keynes. Keynes ran off a model that did not include profit. He saw me paying you 1p to make a car and selling it to you for 1p then I use the 1p to make another car and sell it to you again etc etc and only when there is a lack of 'confidence' did the system go off the rails. In reality our system is off the rails from the off. If you want to fix it using a model that includes profit and a simple way to get the extra 1ps then we need to use NEFS Net Export Financial simulation - Hurray for and end to financial paternalism !

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry I seem to have accidentaly scrolled through the part in which Robert does refer to the Murdoch comment. Please excuse me.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well said!

    "Here's an odd thing. Technology, working practices and consumer behaviour are all manifestations of the creation of a seamless digital news marketplace. But that is not how regulators or politicians see the news media - or at least not as manifested in the regulations that apply to the market."

    That about knocks the nail on the head. Whilst the Digital Britain Report was being written, the world actually changed.

    "Here's a tricky question. Are the rules restricting cross-media ownership fit for a digital world? Are the distinctions those rules draw between television, radio and newsprint companies relevant any longer? ... Are those rules promoting diversity, choice and competition, or are they preventing a much needed rationalisation of the way that news is provided which is neutral about the digital method of delivery or distribution - video, audio, written - but releases vital resources for what really matters, the journalism, the investigations, the gathering of information?"

    I find it so ironic that Ofcom was designed to be a "joined up" regulator, and it has managed to do almost the opposite. If we had a less weak government, someone would have spotted that the newspaper, radio and TV worlds had come together on the internet and the regulator is locked away in the Stone Age.

  • Comment number 6.

    He can whinge all he likes.
    The internet and mobile video phone have democratised the news out of Press Barons' hands.
    The BBC isn't his enemy, progress is.
    In precisely the same way he and Eddie Shah modernised news media in times gone-by, so he too will succumb to history.
    Many an ex-Fleet St. employee will have a wry grin on his face as he witnesses the Murdoch family discomfiture.
    He can't shut down the multiplicity of etherazzi sites which deliver his shoddy tat via a far more suitable medium, and the real news is being delivered without regard to political slant, long before the BBC coverage eventually makes its belated appearance.

    The King is dead. Long live the King.

  • Comment number 7.

    welcome back talk about fairness and level playing fields...what part does a publicly funded organisation play in this? To make the playing field level, the licence fee must be abolished and the BBC must live or die on its merits, the BBC always says it is "the finest broadcasting service in the world", ok well do what Murdoch did, put your money where your mouth is and become a subscription never know you may make more funding than present but i doubt it..

  • Comment number 8.

    I think one key element missing in Robert's analysis is how it is based on top-down approaches to providing information. In a world where the BBC is one provider of top down news, other top down providers have to create business models to provide an income - either from subscription sponsorship, or advertising.

    Yet, people's reality also contains many varied bottom-up sources of information and news.

    So, the pluracy of information sources is not necessarily having a multitude of major top-down news sources, but rather a multitude of sources, where people will refer to for information, comment and analysis.

    Hence, at a national level I am more relaxed about the limited availability of a number of news sources.

    I particularly fear however, for the traditional model of the local newspaper, being the bedrock of journalism and guardian of democracy at a local level, from which other news sources feed off, from the bottom up. I am concerned that the pluracy of information may not have sufficient critical mass to provide a counter balance to just one source of news, and that the whole news gathering system has been so dependent on feeding off news at a local level.

    Anyway, a thoroughly enjoybale, insightful piece from Robert.

  • Comment number 9.

    Robert I can't share your implied vision that the press is what keeps sections of society honest. The press goes after stories that sell newspapers and/or reflect the political slant of their owners.

    How many local newspapers bother to check where the local council has invested spare cash? Most local councils could use a dodgy bank wherever and who would know?

  • Comment number 10.

    I have just been given some copies of Vanity Fair, and see that issues April, June, July, September of this year have large spreads glorifying Madoff, his wife and family.
    This seems to tell me something about the media and journalism.
    Adrian FIRTH

  • Comment number 11.

    Dear Robert firstly I think it should go without saying that your integrity and loyalty to your principles and profession are both unquestionable and refreshing. Where maybe we disagree is your seeming belief in the modern public. Unfortunately I think the number of people who would prefer to read the latest on Jordan and Peter Andre compared to complex important matters would be 100s to 1. Even if people are interested in important issues it is generally limited to a sound-bite such as which banks may be going bust or who is getting outrageous bonuses rather than fundamental insights. Being first to know has also become much more important than understanding. In a market driven world advertising revenue will follow readership numbers rather than quality reporting. Also you only need to read or watch a Rupert Murdoch production to realise that money demands the absence of impartiality.

    I do however support the camp that the BBC has lost much of its Kudos. On a detailed point I saw an interview from Blackheath common from the climate change protestors recently where in my opinion one of the organisers was giving full and frank answers to each question asked of him. At the end of the interview the interviewer took the mike away and said “those were very rehearsed answers”. In general the art of impartial in depth questioning, has been lost. Unfortunately the interviewer’s opinion or charisma is often all that comes across.

    Despite this I genuinely would like to say keep up the good work to you RP. Unfortunately I suspect I will soon be saying that if we don’t have you sticking to your principles then who will we have

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks for your thoughts. What's important to me, having parcipated in your blog for a limited time, is to see BBC journalists and editors take on the establishment and challenge the status quo, question the priesthood and expose their jealously-guarded dominance of the control of capital. That priesthood includes the academics, the central bankers, the regulators, the politicians, the civil servants, the City clique and its prized institutions. Your interview of John Gieve is a good example of exposing the technocratic view that this is a correction, not a meltdown, and we should all turn back to the status quo. You drew out of him the point that his civil servants had warned the FSA in 2006 of the dangers building up. A paper was sent and I look forward to reading it.

    I think you're right that the need for this impartial deconstruction of the elites and holding them to account overrides the quibbles of Mr Murdoch.To do this effectively the BBC must be strong. I would like to think that impartial news delivery and an impartial probing of this disaster overrides the narrow commercial concerns of the commercial media. It is a public service. Some might say this is what our politicians are there to do. I take the view they have become self interested and self-serving by virtue of their whipped loyalties, narrow part political concerns and career ambitions.

    The other media have a real role. They provide a diversity of opinion which also complements what the BBC try to do. They can act to challenge you, on occasion, and quite right. If they are going to charge for their output, so they must. In doing so, they will need to get quality and depth to their output which will attract subscribers. They already set qualifying terms for their blogs.

    But if the BBC are to justify their privileged position, they need to take care of their impartiality and not spin the establishment line. What worries me about your piece is that your concern for the effect of what you say on the public psyche could deter you from asking those difficult questions or running that story just in case you add to deflationary outcomes. Thats not your business, Robert. Give us the facts.

  • Comment number 13.

    A good tour round this subject. I think you predicted the future though, Robert. If people WERE willing to pay for online news it would mainly be for frothy stuff, and "tell me what to think" stuff such as you see in tabloids. More difficult stories and impartial treatments of complex subjects will get far less patronage. This will intensify the divide (in all domains) between what we currently call "Serious" journalism and the rest.

    I'm very far from convinced that this new "pay model" will work anyway. It was tried in the early days of online newspapers and it simply didn't get the take up. I see no reason why now, when people have less money to spend and the free news sites such as BBC are still in operation, why that model should work any better. For world news there will still be international sites publishing for free and people may turn to those. Or, perhaps people will turn back to Newspapers again, but I think that newspapers have shot themselves in the foot and almost all are now seen as only sources of opinion rather than facts. That would perhaps militate against the dead-tree market picking up custom again.

    Also, I think the days of Sky's dominance are numbered, though it will be a slow erosion rather than a crash.

    ALan T

  • Comment number 14.

    I appreciate you weren't directly able to challenge Murdoch Jnr's points in your speech, Robert, but I think you allude to the key point. Murdoch is not opposed to a single organisation monopolising the news - providing it is a private company.

    Case in point, FOX and News International monopolise the newsfeed to tens of millions of Americans, to such an extreme that they can control elections and politicians. Whatever Fox says is often believed by millions not out of a lack of intelligence, but because they don't access any other news source to tell them otherwise.

    So where, in Britain, do we want the power to be? Would we rather it be in a not-for-profit organisation sworn to impartiality (even if it's not perfect) controlled by the us, as electors and licence-fee payers? Or should the power be with the unelected, unaccountable FOX with their own agenda and let nepotism (such as purely being the son of Rupert Murdoch) decide who has influence and a soapbox to billions of people?

  • Comment number 15.

    Murdoch only wants to consolidate his own power, no more.

    "News Corporation's James Murdoch has said that a "dominant" BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK."
    what rubbish. Anyone who cannot tell the huge vested interest that Murdoch has in getting rid of the BBC is an idiot. He wants the BBC out the way so that he and his cronies can dominate the media more than they do now.
    I mean, the media market is divided between Sky and BBC as it is. Sky want to remove the BBC from that equation.

    "The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision," he told the Edinburgh Television Festival."
    No, Sky's monopoly is a threat to plurality and independence. Fox in America for example, in addition to their polemic drivel which has no regard for facts or truth.

    "Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, told the BBC's World Tonight that Mr Murdoch had underplayed the importance of Sky as a competitor."
    I agree.
    ""Sky continues to grow and get stronger and stronger all the time so this is not quite a set of minnows and a great big BBC," Sir Michael said.

    "The BBC has a very strong competitor in Sky, and not one to be ignored."

    "Former BBC director general Greg Dyke said Mr Murdoch's argument that the BBC was a "threat" to independent journalism was "fundamentally wrong".

    reminder of what murdoch owns, just in case:
    News Corporation owns the Times, the Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and pay TV provider BSkyB in the UK and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US.

  • Comment number 16.

    I take it the above was a direct transcription of a spoken piece as that would excuse the semantic errors and very sloppy structure.

    7# Jolo13

    "Live or die by its merits" is a principal I could normally agree with, but it would be the content that lived or died and "Merit" would be defined by popularity/ratings leading to ever more rapid "Dumbing down".
    Only a ring fenced Public Service broadcaster could maintain output fit for viewing.
    11# Kudospeter

    To paraphrase you, advertising revenue follows readership/ratings is exactly my point above, but an edited quote of yours "Interviewers opinion...often all that comes across" hits the nail on the head.
    The loathsome (I have been everywhere, seen and know everything in the world) John Simpson epitomises this trait. Why broadcast a fact when I can say so much more with a sneer, seems to be his M.O. Any statement or rebuttal his pieces attract are delivered with the same old " They would say that wouldn't they" tone and facial tic. Give us the facts Simpson and we'll decide if its tosh.
    12# Shireblogger
    "need to take care of impartiality and not spin establishment line"

    When I was a young communist I believed the BBC to be the voice of fascism and the St James Clubland elite.
    Now as I'm an older "don't know what", it enrages me with its liberal wooly minded, we're all guilty, brain dead social workerisms.

    There is a test available on line somewhere that after about 200 questions rates you on an economic level between 1 and 10 with 1 being ultra communist and 10 being Capitalist, red in tooth and claw, let the babies starve. It also rates you on the same scale between 1 being a tree hugging gay rights "its ALL society's fault" to a 10 being a "where shall put the gas chambers?" position.

    I would put the BEEB at a 6 for economic stance; being vaguely in favour of the capitalist status quo (but only when its nice)and a 3 on a social/behavioural scale being so "goody ,goody, anti-history and "All men are rapists" liberal.

    As a disclosure I rated 3 economically and 8 socially. A bit Stalinist I suppose.

    Are there any projections as to what a Min-BEEB would cost assuming 1 million people would pay for such a beast?

  • Comment number 17.

    Please BBC do not surrender to this obvious attack from Murdoch on anyone and everyone who gives us high quality news, which will stop his absurd plans to charge us for websites.

    If this guy has his way, his news machine will aim to be able to sue anyone who gives us free news and what an absurd world that he paints.

    Quite clearly his business is in trouble however he should focus on quality rather then trying to eliminate the opposition which will inevitably lead to lesser quality, more advertising and having us pay for the privilege.

    At absolute joke and proves everything that is wrong with the so called american model of user pays.

    if BBC surrenders to this clown then someone else will take on the role of offering us webpages of news for free, at the moment BBC is one of the most reliable and independent news services in the World, it would be a tragedy to see them bullied out of this market or follow a murdoch pay service model.

    We may as well go back to having some vital news on at the picture theatres, i would rather that then the insult of paying for some woeful propaganda news from a corporate giant who has no interests in whats best for its consumers.

  • Comment number 18.

    In my opinion a pluralistic media delivery and editorial decisions model is the ideal. Both the BBC and Sky/Murdoch are monopoly players and both deny the public access to a wide range of views and opinions due to their revenue models.

    Both have a hugely protectionist revenue models - The BBC delivers news free at the time of delivery for an annual fee, whereas Sky's model forces purchasers to enter long term contracts, with restrictive penalty exit clauses and then forces large bundles of rubbish down the throats of its customers in the form of bundles of channels the vast majority of which are unwanted and never viewed.

    Both models are pernicious and exhibit classic monopoly characteristics. Personally I will have nothing to do with anything which has the Murdoch name attached in any way, but I appreciated other are prepared to sup with the 'devil' for the cricket. My personal view of Ofcom is that far from being too controlling it is far too lenient and far too permissive of the monopoly players continuing to act in ways that hurt the public and the consumer.

    Sky (and Virgin) should be forced to offer single channels to customers and forbidden to sell bundles of channels.

    The BBC should be prevented from selling its output to pay-per view channels. The public paid for the programmes and they should not be prevented from viewing them as repeats.

    Ofcom should not permit the bulk sale of sporting events to any broadcaster. Events should be sold one by one and not as a bundle. (After all you don't have to buy a ticket to see all of the football games of all of the clubs juts because you want to see one match and that is the way in which games should be sold not as bundles as this acts against the interest of the consumer.)

    We urgently need more consumer power, not less, - we need a far stronger Ofcom (and Monopolies Commission).

    Both the BBC and SKY are far too well protected and far too powerful and Ofcom should stand up for the rights of the customers and viewers not cave in to BBC or SKY bullying as it has in the past!

    If James Murdoch thinks he is hard done by (as a daddies boy) he needs to wake up and smell the gunpowder! He is living in a fools paradise and if we let him carry on, he and his Dad will destroy the media and democracy in this country, much as he has done, and is doing in the USA. We must not let the Murdoch's rule the UK!

  • Comment number 19.

    Very well written Mr Peston. Where have you been?

  • Comment number 20.

    So, the Murdoch's want to 'free' journalism from the grip of the BBC and other public broadcasters. And it's for our own good... We're told.

    Hmm... I'm guessing they'll do that in the way they've 'freed' the Premier League and more recently the Ashes. And the wisdom of the 'free' market' and greater choice will deliver better journalism will it?

    I wonder, then, why in spite of great enthusiasm for the event, only 1/3rd of the audience that watched the Ashes on terrestrial TV managed to see it on Sky? I'm not sure I want the Murdoch's version of freedom since it seems to involve paying them £35 a month or more (makes the license fee look cheap).

    And as for the spin about public service journalism not being truly independent of the Government. Nice bit of ideological sophistry that, but not something I recognize in practice. First I think the BBC is demonstrably capable of taking on the Government, sometimes without justification. Secondly it is the stomach churning way in which parties that wish to be elected seem to have to win the support of a certain media baron called... err... Murdoch that worries me more. Public service broadcasters are much more democratic than that.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mr Peston,
    Thank you for an engagingly-written and very thoughtful analysis.

    I thoroughly agree with all your points. I particularly liked the way you drew parallels between the folly of deregulation in the banking sector and the desires of Murdoch et. al. to 'deregulate' the media sector -- i.e. to emasculate the BBC.

    What seems to me to be the underlying issue here is what "model of man" do we adopt as a core axiom to undergird a vision of how society should be organised, and how it should be governed? Murdoch and the Basel bankers both have in common that they want to keep the discredited uber-rational homo economicus model of man from microeconomic textbooks at the centre of their explanations for how the world works, and how it should work.

    It would be much better -- i.e. more in accord with the evidence -- to see individuals as Freud saw them, driven by neuroses and psychosexual desires; or, to use a different label for roughly the same concept, as Keynes saw them (as you point out), driven by animal spirits. The important thing here is that people are not considered to be rational consumers. Seeing people in this way accounts for many aspects of the modern media's output, for journalists are both human themselves and are catering to a country of neurotic, sex-obsessed, status-obsessed citizens.

    I liked the way you invoked the term 'paternalism' in your speech. I would like to see a return to the days -- of the 1980s -- when the BBC was explicitly paternalist and sought to inform citizens, rather than chasing ratings. They used to do this by, for example, showing Panorama straight after a quiz show or soap opera. I believe the media must be organised in such a way that we try to tame people's animal instincts, and awaken people's higher faculties and appaetite for critical awareness of world events. Only then will we have an informed, and therefore healthy, democracy. Letting Murdoch control the agenda with their talk of rational consumers will only harm UK politics still further.

    Yours truly,
    Ian Hart

  • Comment number 22.

    #16.. your statement ..."Only a ring fenced Public Service broadcaster could maintain output fit for viewing..." would be fine if it were true. the BBC is always chasing ratings by showing populist dumbed down programmes...witness "strictly come dancing" head to head against X factor.... The BBC left behind it public service role many years ago, it is determined to dominate the entertainment field in an ever increasing rush for audience ratings.. a true public service broadcaster should not even look at ratings...

  • Comment number 23.

    " The way in which people actually behave must be built into regulations governing Banks" An obvious fact. But
    an elephant in the drawing room, so huge it has become invisible to the naked eye until illuminated by the
    high powered Preston searchlight. Many thanks Robert. But "Hack" is not the ' mot juste' to describe one of
    the finest writers of our generation, who is also one of its most effective journalists. If anyone else had dared to
    use it to describe R. Preston I would have been strongly tempted to give them a good thump.

    The BBC is flawed by human weakness, as are all our national institutions, but it has as much integrity as the best of them, and more integrity than many. Let's hang on to it . The old adage about frying pans and fire
    springs to mind.

    We've missed your blogs, but the text of your brilliant lecture has made up for the loss of our daily fix of Preston.

  • Comment number 24.

    If the BBC is so good and Mr Murdoch is so awful. Do away with the licence fee and let the Great British Public decide to whom their money will go.
    A tip for the next "big earner" ?
    Watch where the middle classes steer their siblings towards.
    As for the usual "armchair socialism" of some contributors. I would remind them that "The print unions" fought tooth and nail to avoid their stranglehold on the media being lifted.

  • Comment number 25.

    The fundamental underlying cause of the credit crunch was the power of very rich private sector companies (banks) who were able via lobbyists in the US to influence politicians to do their bidding (i.e. enact wholesale deregulation such as the abolition of Glass-Steagall) in return for large donations (bribes). In future the world should be VERY VERY mindful of the corruptibility of politics by big business. Obama's actions in banning lobbyists from his administration was both a recognition of this issue and a step in the right direction. Was that the answer you had in mind to your 'What is the credit crunch' question, Robert?!

    Tbh I read far more free blogs online than anything else, and consider myself probably amongst the top 1% informed people as a result. The general news output is just too dumbed-down to be especially useful (yours is amongst the best). If online charging is widely introduced, it'll just make the top bloggers (e.g. John Hussman, John Mauldin, Mish Shedlock, Bill Bonner & others) more widely read.

    As an example, there is nothing in the mainstream news currently about the huge wave of mortgage resets due to hit the US housing market in 2010 (guess this isn't news yet!). Nor about the vast problem with delinquent PRIME mortgages being seen in the US right now (I think something like 16% of ALL US MORTGAGES are in default right now) and the off-a-cliff fall in cure rates. These kinds of thing are the REAL (economic) news IMO, but the mainstream is waaay behind the bloggers ... who are free and, I think, likely to stay that way.

    All the mainsteam can offer is journalists like David Smith and Anatole Kaletsky ... who were cheerleaders in the bubble times and are unashamedly still there writing the same old drivel. Pay for that? Nah!

    Anyway Robert, I earned a packet from your breaking news of the LLOY/HBOS takeover (complete with price, which turned out to be wrong but hey) ... so keep up the good work ;o)

  • Comment number 26.

    mr bolt - i get all my news from bbc and im not british,
    the sun and others do not deal in news only headlines and
    pictures. The quality remains only with bbc, and perhaps the times and obviously reuters and bloomberg

    I presume you agree with murdochs comments such as :
    "Mr Murdoch, 36, the son of Rupert Murdoch, called for a “dramatic reduction of the activities of the State” in broadcasting, arguing that it effectively treated viewers like children. "

    Every body knows what he really wants is to eliminate a crucial competitor, no one will pay for his websites if remains and he knows it so why does he put this absurd spin on it? BBC offers impartial news and of a better quality then most of what murdoch offers.

    The guy is working an angle and my guess is this will be the start of a full-on attack on sites such as bbc etc. Expect him to stoop to new lows with this one, this is just the beginning.

    Why cant he give examples of how were treated like children?

    Mr bolt id like to know your views on murdochs tactics rather then just being critical of view is bbc is by far the lesser evil (if as you say of them may have some truth).

  • Comment number 27.

    Ian Hart is right.
    As I suggested in my comment about Vanity Fair, it comes down to moral issues. If the BBC cannot provide an alternative to Fox, then by dumbing down, even without the lies, 'democracy' will become just a slogan.
    Adrian FIRTH

  • Comment number 28.

    #22 JOLO13

    Apologies are due as I actually agree with you about the direction of current BBC output, I should have emphasised that I meant a future ring fenced Public Service Broadcaster, i.e if the Beeb went; a smaller Leithian organisation.

  • Comment number 29.

    Do away with the licence fee. The BBC like the government represents only the Soth East of England

  • Comment number 30.

    Only a small part of the criticisms of the BBC are valid I think.

    A state broadcaster could compete too strongly and, yeah, paying bucketloads to Mr. J Ross is too much.

    It is far more dangerous to let Murdoch be the chief medium for news even in a crowded field, however, given the unadulterated tripe that masquerades as "news" on Fox in the US.

    And given that Google can thrive on advertising revenue, I dont buy the argument that we must be charged for all news to sustain a quality market.

    Murdoch just wants to charge for news as he does for sport and the BBC is in the way.

  • Comment number 31.

    Dear Mr woody 75 @ 26.
    If indeed you are not British, let me explain;
    Every household in the UK must pay £140 per annum as a tax (called Licence fee) irrespective if the watch BBC TV or not, Failure to pay results in being taken to Court.
    I am a big fan of BBC and rarely watch (or listen) to any other channel. I do not subscribe to SKYTV at all.
    Nonetheless the BBC has a very clear and fixed agenda, that agenda is absolute and can, if it desires, ignore popular opinion,
    At least with commercial broadcasting the customers must at least play a role in the network policy.
    The BBC is,without question, an excellent organisation, a world leader, but it offers little scope for competition.
    What is it afraid of ?

  • Comment number 32.

    Maybe James Murdoch wouldn't be so happy if all the 'content with the stabilising effect of the BBC on the market' petitioned for the Break up of Sky's monopolistic position.

    Maybe Sky's proprietry and closed platform should be seperated from the content, along the line of British Gas and Centrica of old. for the benefit of all the broadcasters on it - BBC, ITV, Ch4, Ch5, Virgin, ESPN etc....

    James Murdoch, away with you and your self serving manipulation of the medi market - did you not learn from last time when it cost Sky about 1 billion pounds from trying to mess about with ITV.

  • Comment number 33.

    #26 thank you...apologies are rare in forums... And i agree with you..The BBC is not a public service broadcaster, it is competing with commercial stations ...just look at the pay structures, £90,000 for someone basically reading a teleprompt... Do you think Murdoch would pay jonathan ross all those millions...

  • Comment number 34.

    Yes i know how the model works, NZ has the same with TVNZ.
    I agree with you but its a hangover from the days where tv
    was analogue, if you bought a tv you got a signal
    (and still do),and so they charged everyone who bought a tv.

    As tvs eventually are more and more simply a output to a computer input
    from the internet, it will be interesting to see if they do indeed change this model.

    They may begin charning based on your connection to an ISP
    as opposed to charging if you have this tv device which is more and
    more something that can connect to any source.

    So BBC have challenges of their own, but Murdochs statement is simply a little too convenient and i believe he has a hidden agenda. I dont understand why he cant say "services like BBC are costing us millions in lost revenue if we are continue into our next growth stage we need to eliminate them"

    Im sure thats what hes saying to his board, and this is the underlying problem with big business controlling media is honesty and integrity is lost, i believe that is a far bigger loss.

    BBC do need to be afraid because even though they are yours and mines preferred medium, you or I also feel were entitled to this for "free".
    If BBC was a subscription service i would find a way to do without it, its not an essential part of my life, but still a very useful addition.

    Adding to that they would be far less agressive in their marketing and under hand tactics then murdoch etc would be in enticing us. I imagine Murdoch has plans for pop ups with "sun style" absurd headlines that catch your attention away from what you were doing, links to his site and subscription page, etc etc....the subtleness of news pages on the internet would be taken from us and i cant imagine it being for the better.

  • Comment number 35.

    One of the many things the internet does is make to make much information readily available and often free. So any business that is in the world of selling information, be it news, or just knowledge is going to find things increasingly hard. One of the many reasons why China has become increasingly inportant economically is that its industrialists no longer need to buy in knowledge, they can now just Google much of it.

    In the same way that the internet search engine has fundamentally changed the balance of economic power between those with knowledge and those with cheap labour because it has massively reduced the cost of information, so will it massively reduce the money coming into news organisations. Clipping the wings of the BBC may slow this process down, but it will not stop it.

    State sponsored news organisations maybe the only way forward if we wish to preserve news sources that people trust. The internet makes news at the point of reading it free, BBC or no BBC.

  • Comment number 36.

    #24. peterbolt wrote:
    'If the BBC is so good and Mr Murdoch is so awful. Do away with the licence fee and let the Great British Public decide to whom their money will go. As for the usual "armchair socialism" of some contributors. I would remind them that "The print unions" fought tooth and nail to avoid their stranglehold on the media being lifted.'

    The truth is, Peter, that there's no comparison between the print unions and the BBC. If the BBC seriously abused its position there'd be a public outcry. And the point at which the public perceives that to be the case will be followed quite swiftly by the end of the BBC. That's why the system works.

    The Murdoch empire is so hideously large and controlled by so few that the right man to take over at the head of News Corp. was... James Murdoch. Blatant nepotism. No freedom or even free market logic there.

    Surely you can see that the last thing the Murdochs want is true competition in the media? They just hate the fact that some other organization in just ONE of their business areas has more power than them. James Murdoch's speech is so deserving of ridicule of the pot/kettle type I'm surprised so many in the media apparently gave it some credence. Then again many of will be thinking they may need to go and work for the Murdoch empire sometime in the future and they'll be watching their words.

  • Comment number 37.

    Tim, great point, but murdoch has endless resources to ensure that his model of internet news is the only news. Which is what scares me, once he has successfully removed BBC from the competitors war field nothing will stop him and others will be eliminated too.

    News will always be available but it might be via sites that are constantly changing their address or always trying to stay one step ahead of murdochs lawyers and propaganda machine.

    Dont presume this guy will stop and be happy when he has removed BBC, i expect a full on targetted war from him over the next year or two against all sources of "free" information.,, bloggers etc everyone.

    As slowly he creeps in with small subtle changes to the way we get our news, consider the way sports have been taken from us over the last ten years as his rough the beginning "its going to be a small fee for high quality improved programming" suddenly each year a new additional and improved "service" is added....well we know we said it would be 10 a month, but look at this for just 20 a month you can get all these extra option, then suddenly the 10 a month option is removed leaving only 20 a month....etc etc etc....each year an increasingly aggressive strategy to squeeze more and more cash from us.

    This is just the beginning.

  • Comment number 38.

    Very thoughtful and probably influential.

    Poor Mr. Murdoch Jnr was obviously singing for his supper. He and others in the media have got themselves hooked up on the concept of intellectual property rights. As a concept this is fine but in reality it leaves the media admiring its own backside, forgetting that todays news is tomorrow's chip paper. Some of us older folk can remember when yesterday's news was gainfully employed on the fundament.

    I for one, despite my intense dislike of the BBC apparat lining its own pockets and those of its `talented' stars, appreciate what the Beeb provides even though John Humphries' discussion over Afghanistan this morning (Saturday) was puerile rubbish. As a license fee-payer I am free to say as such and hope that John, whom I also respect, does not take it personally.

    I take your point that given that the taxpayer had to step in last autumn to save the free marketeers so beloved by the Murdoch press, from the very effects of the free market, the free market argument is a tad dented. But then what is a free market? I doubt if such can exist as context is everything and the human mind can be selective.

    The BBC needs some reform: we can all agree on that. Like many parts of our society it reflects the mad values of the last ten years in which things could only get better; for a minority located not too far from the dining rooms of certain influential claques. Now we are entering new times, necessarily austere times but times in which most things will change.

    My hope is that sincerity and integrity will make a come-back. In that regard Robert, you can be assured of my support just as Mr. Murdoch can be assured of my continued derision.

  • Comment number 39.

    If Fox is anything to go by then Murdoch can keep that rubbish.
    I am not particularly well educated but I do know that the only channels I find worth watching in the UK are BBC1 and 2 occasionaly BBC 4 and rather more infrequently Channel 4. Radio 4 is a treasure, there is nothing like it the world over. So long live BBC and the reasonable licence fee, and please just return to Australia all you Murdoch clan. I detest you and your constant sniping of BBC.
    And Peston's blogs are usually spot on.

  • Comment number 40.

    This guy, James Murdoch, is absolutely hilarious you have to give him credit for this. Ok does not come across as very bright but again can you blame him, he got where he is just because of dady, so this explains that. Still you certainly get the entertainment factor with him even if we should not laugh about less gifted people...ok forget it...what a laugh!

  • Comment number 41.

    If the Tories do win the next election and if as I suspect Cameron is a wolf in sheeps clothing I think the BBC are in for a bit of a shock

    I doubt very much he will follow the old line of forgive and forget, during the last 12 years the BBC have abandoned any pretence at balance and have become nothing more than the mouthpiece and chief promoter for the labour party and it will be payback time very soon

    IMVHO that is :-)

  • Comment number 42.

    On a technicality, as this is the text of a lecture given in Edinburgh Robert isn't, strictly speaking, back yet. Come back Robert, we need you. As for Mr. M.; he would say that, wouldn't he.

  • Comment number 43.

    somehow this appear to be a lot of talk.... yr comment 'we are trusting FSA, BofE' I AM NOT TRUSTING any of them - however i have no choice... i am able, like may, to bleet about it all - listen to others plecating me - don't trust them but impotent to actually to do anything about any of it... HOW, how can change happen. dont' say vote as 'they' all appear to be in cahoots with each other out side of the political area and protecting themselves, their friends, and/or making £'s on the side. p.s i like you Robert - you say good stuff - you highlight and stur up but nothing changes... nothing get better b 4 n [bye for now]

  • Comment number 44.

    It has been clear for some time that the newspaper industry is at a crossroads. The old model of drawing in as much traffic as possible to gain revenue from display advertising has been found to be unsustainable and further to News Corp, the Telegraph, Guardian and Mirror Groups have all mooted charging for content but as Michael Beecroft, head of digital trading at Mediaedge:cia Global, concedes: "In many ways the horse has already bolted, and trying to close the door on it now will be very tricky indeed."

  • Comment number 45.

    An important part of the media is listening to your audience. And Robert, you've shown precious little of that to date.

    If that continues, you'll be surpassed, as the news becomes ever more important the the person that delivers it, and the person that seeks to deliver it becomes increasingly irrelevant to those that have something to say.

  • Comment number 46.

    The BBC is a bloated state monopoly full of overpaid fat-cats that need a cull. Theerguements put forward to presereve it on the grounds of quality are bogus.

    The fact that a market exists for quality news and information will ensure that it is provided by the private sector. The FT is good example of this in practice.

  • Comment number 47.

    No generation has seen its liberties and carefully fought for safe-future so shamefully smashed by this ‘priesthood’. By the same measure there can be no trust in the commercial media sector safe guarding anything for the public. Dogged by commercial lobbyists, the BBC has prevailed so far. Embryonic scream’s of jealousy and the death throws of a corporate parent, allowing its child to live at cost to its own future, are part of corporeal nature. However, if the BBC is to be a nurse and a doctor to the infant digital media structure, so be it. The viper at the heart of planet Murdoch will strike viciously, despite looking like it needs wet nursing. Perhaps a veterinary approach by the BBC is called for.
    Well done on the additional value added to your own CV Robert, if a little tedious to be told how it feels to have all that power.

  • Comment number 48.

    Robert Peston isn't a journalist, he's an accomplice to financial crime.

  • Comment number 49.

    The Murdochs - Major and Minor - seem unable to get to grips with the internet - you cannot own news, merely the method of disseminating it . There is no way they could ever control the flood of information on the web. It appears that they are still in the days of papers and tv. Minor Murdoch's outpourings seem to me to be the roars of dinosaurs trying to prevent the inevitability of their extinction . Still I expect that - after Cameron has handed the BBC to News International just after the election - the headline in The Sun will read GOTCHA .

  • Comment number 50.

    If Murdoch can get angry, you can get angry, eh Robert? Had a good time at the dinner?

  • Comment number 51.

    We have to pay to watch TV, regardless of what channel we tune to-even Freeview isn't free in this respect. As the BBC takes the fee from us, in a truly democratic society, we would be able to choose what they spend the money on, not have an analyst somewhere using 'computer models' to decide what we get.

    I would venture to suggest that all reporting has an element of bias-written for a target audience. If I want a daily paper I will buy the one that suits me personally ie, suits my own bias. I won't buy something which presents a bias I don't wish to read. Likewise for news websites.

    However, as I HAVE to pay a fee, and have NO control over what is produced for my consumption, I expect the BBC to present ALL sides of an argument, and not be so 'bloomin' obvious' as to it's bias. I pay for it, therefore I have every right to see a media engine cover all angles, all facts, and not be a government mouthpiece. Very often it's the unreported stories covered elsewhere which highlights that we are having our right to know decided in some mystefying office somewhere. Some reporters have their blogs and succeed in being factual, others, unfortunately think they know best and all you read is their own point of view. The ones that stick to the facts are the very best of reporters-they respect their audiences.

    As for James Murdoch? Well, he sounds like a 3 yr old stamping his foot in a tantrum because he wants his friend's toy cos everyone plays with his friend. 'It's not fair!' he cries! Oh well-he'll lose out even more when he starts charging for news sites-does he even know just how much free news there is out there? Surely he would do better to create a news service that delivers fact not opinion, and market his news as such? Watch his sales jump then! He wouldn't need to be charging for his news.

    What a thought! Unbiased News! Surely that falls into the flying pigs category?!

  • Comment number 52.

    I have been very impressed with much of which you have said, and of your News 24,(is the 24 tag now dropped?)reports on the financial crisis.One thing does bother me though, and it is your statement about the crisis being caused by mortgage debt arising in both the US and here at home in the UK at the same time. Normally I would be too busy to take in everything on the news, but from August last year I damaged the sciatic nerve in my right leg and consequently spent a lot of time on the sofa and listening to the news. So this is my query, why this really sudden crisis involving mortgages in at least two countries? could it be that many of these mortgages have not yet been signed off although already paid and are the papers being held somewhere and by whom and for what reason? Why did Gordon Brown follow George W Bush to Belfast last year,I thought he had already said bye bye in London. Was that banking business?

  • Comment number 53.

    I've just read about your 'exchange of views' with boy murdoch in Edinburgh. Well done Robert, thanks. I like your reports on TV and read your articles and this lecture was good. The murdochs have done more damage to journalism than anyone else, so their attacks on the BBC are a bit rich. The BBC might need reform, like not giving so much money to the 'talent', but given a choice between murdoch and the BBC, I and the majority of the UK public would rather have the latter.

  • Comment number 54.

    Why should we pay for the pleasure of news ala Murdoch (remember Wapping lies I do.)
    If the Murdoch Corporation wants to push their free market news, they are very welcome to do so, but please Mr Murdoch junior; leave out the pleas for future of independent journalism, your father has singlehandedly done more damage to that than the BBC could ever do!

    This is not about the integrity or future of journalism, this is about Mr Murdoch’s profits, and the truth is, they can't get us mugs to pay for their "news" on the web, when the BBC and Channel 4 give us a much better alternative free.

  • Comment number 55.

    A very interesting and insightful article. I have two points to make:

    You say "...we need a choice of providers of high quality, authoritative news" - I would add "...without an agenda of their own". I've been following tpmtv's youtube channel, and it's very clear that a majority of US TV news channels have an explicit agenda to promote, at the cost of impartiality, and at the cost of even the illusion of an impartially-chaired debate. We need to be careful not to end up there.

    Secondly, on the subject of news websites starting to charge - at the moment, most charging websites offer the choice of a reasonably-priced subscription for a year, or access to a single article, charging several pounds. It needs to be possible for a reader to click on a single article for a matter of pence, if it's going to be worth anyone's while to pay to read a single article.

  • Comment number 56.

  • Comment number 57.


    Very good stuff, I think (as we have come to expect).

    I recently received a 'friendly' verbal insult for describing our esteemed Prime Minister as 'Goondog Trillionaire Brown'. However, when I pointed out that the public spirited jibe reflected Mr Brown's pathetic attempt to gain Daily Star type publicity for getting his mug-shot and comments against the juvenile Indian actor that played a leading role in the film 'Slumdog Millionaire' and which I thought was exploitative and insulting to poorer sections of Indian society (as deeply hypocritical within Labour party principles)- and the fact that his policies have ran up over a trillion POUNDS in UK public debt - the response was then 'Oh, I see' - and I even got an apology.

    I have also submitted 'Goondog Trillionaire' comments on other political and economic blogs and these have generally been edited or have been not been published at all.

    Where the BBC scores highest is on 'independence and impartiality' and which is nigh on impossible to achieve, I think, for most of the news and media competition because the contraction in large media news sources seems to be pushing the control of the media towards the same powerful vested interests which feed on/off the 'priesthood'.

    So long as the BBC are able to keep and provide independence, impartiality, quality and stand their ground aginst the likes of Alastair Campbell and government spin/bullies then I think that the BBC news services will be and remain the first choice for most, not only in the UK but around the world.

    Personally, I don't like e.g. any Murdochian news - I can't quite get myself to stop thinking that there is always a vested interest (Murdochian priest?) behind the presentation and content.

    However, back to business - I think that you and your economics editor colleagues are being rather coy about the GDP figures of a number of recessionary governments (Japan, US, UK) being artificially inflated by stimulus money and QE for political purposes.

    Whilst no one wants to be branded the harbinger of bad economic news - isn't it time the real story behind QE/GDP is analysed properly and government ministers/BofE in the UK pressed to properly account for all of the expenditure with public money (QE is public money I think - the Bof E are not that independent?). This appears to be twisting the course of economic growth when knowing the real story is important otherwise economic confidence could take a significant dent again when the stimulus monies expire - it does us no good at all to con ourselves that things are better than they really are.

  • Comment number 58.

    How James Murdoch thinks he and his business has the right to comment on independant journalism, as he did, astounds me. The journalistic qualities of his father's media empire are all about taking over completely and should be regulated even further. Sky is nothing more than a channel to market for a very poor selection of content where it also thinks news is a commodity, its cost is one that I will never subscribe to. I rejoice that Sky continues to loose money and hope one day to see it disappear completely along with the Murdoch "viewspaper" empire. Long live the BBC with its range of programming and relatively "sane" news reporting. I for one would be prepared to pay more for the value I get from the BBC, freeview/freesat. In this age where we know the cost of everything and the value of nothing it is time now to start dropping the cheap rubbish, start with Sky! James Murdoch doesn't have a leg to stand on.

  • Comment number 59.


    It's been cited before, but it's apposite, so here it is again.....

  • Comment number 60.

    Robert, your article reminded me about parts of the debate that I have long forgotten. However, the terms of this debate are currently being set by the commercial interests. The Sun readership in the UK is extremely high, and for a significant percentage of the population, is the only input to forming their opinions of the world. I wonder how the people who understand the issues in this debate are planning to make it a national debate, rather than just an academic one? It's relevant that there are many markets in which the government is quite happy to play a part, markets which are fundamentally not free (rail, power, etc.) yet they seem to be unable to enter the debate about access to information to put the important points across to the general public. There are strong echoes of the EU abdication here.

  • Comment number 61.

    Dark surfer-excellent piece of interview technique-perfect example of how to keep your job when interviewing your boss!

    Jaded Jean-I'd never seen that before-just have a vague recollection of someone mentioning it in passing. An excellent and eloquent warning. Great speech altogether. It seems noone heeded his stark warning though!

  • Comment number 62.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 63.

    Could a possible compromise be to remove from the bbc website all stories that could be described as "sensationalist and titillating"?

    This would remove bbc competition from lucrative stories that are already well served by the market and allow them to focus on vital, but relatively unprofitable, provision of public service information.

  • Comment number 64.

    Can investigative journalism continue to exist in our society?

    Not in a society where evidence given by independent Freedom of Information expert Heather Brooketo a Parliamen tary Commission targetting fraud by MPs 'mysteriously' disappears from the online published evidence... after it was first posted!!!
    Check out the website;

    Is this not suppression of evidence of the most disgraceful kind? At what level of government was this action approved?

  • Comment number 65.

    An interesting essay. I think it safe to say that as media has advanced from sticks, clay tablets, vellum and parchment so we will advance from newsprint to other forms of media. In my estimation newspapers and news magazines are doomed, and thus explicit so is paid-for-news content.

    Paid-for services that include some news provision will, of course, survive. The question is balance. Will these services have much news at all and if so will be of the 'sound bite' variety?

    I cannot conceive that subscription and pay-per-item news content will ever make a viable business in the future. The relentless cost-cutting within journalism has had a serious impact on quality of the finished product and I doubt that journalism can recover from this decline. Part of the decline in newspaper readership has to do with the lack of a 'value' proposition. In an increasingly materialistic society unless you can instantly touch and feel the 'quality', people are unlikely to buy.

    Why pay for news content unless you are certain that it is going to be of value to you and that the quality of writing and presentation meets your expectations? Sadly, too few journalists these days write well and understand their audience's expectations. And it doesn't really matter if it is celeb gossip or political analysis, the material should be both well researched and enticingly presented. Not everything has to presented in a breathless, cliffhanger style of reporting - yes, Robert, I'm thinking of you. I find the trend towards instant detailed analysis rather silly and self-defeating. If analysis of weighty and complex issues were that easy then there would be instant solutions to the problems of mankind. I'd prefer one thoughtful, and thought provoking, blog post per day/week of much more value than a constant daily outpouring of 'stuff' that degenerates to 'noise'.

    In the same way as I trust certain authors to constantly produce books worth reading, I await the point in time when I have similar trust in journalists writing/presenting the news. Might well be a long wait?

  • Comment number 66.

    It is a gradual process but I no longer trust in the impartiality of the media. Some meida have become the unoffical offical media of political spins and opague self-interest groups. I bought less than 10 newspapers since the lies of WMD and the 45 minutes.

  • Comment number 67.

    Hi Robert. I heard about your "exchange of views" with that creepy Murdoch brat at that dinner, and would just like to say NICE ONE! Keep it up, you're a hero. Someone has to resist these vile optimates.

  • Comment number 68.

    I first met the young EMI executive that was Richard Dunn back in the 1970s when he was running Swindon Viewpoint - one of the UK's first local cable TV companies. He was a lovely guy who cared for those in his team and who had some great, forward-thinking ideas about the future role to be played by broadcasting in Britain. He died too young!

    Unfortunately, British broadcasting doesn't seem to have many people with his vision or passion these days and I often wonder what he would have made of the disgraceful state of things.

  • Comment number 69.

    Good quality journalism will survive, and because it is rare, it will always command a good price.

    Journalists who simply repeat what their colleagues are saying without any attempt to be critical and challenge the conventional wisdom or add anything new, might not survive, but those who are able to add some original thinking should do well because the internet allows them to be heard more widely.

    The media is full of statements which should be challenged, but are simply repeated ad nausea. GlenisDevereux points out a few. Another is David Cameron's statement that UK might have to default on government bonds. How is this possible when these are denominated in Sterling and the Bank of England can create as much Sterling as it is commanded to do by the government?

  • Comment number 70.

    "Where the BBC scores highest is on 'independence and impartiality"

    The BBC is the biggest propaganda machine in human history. It projects the view of the British state in a similar fashion to the civil service.

  • Comment number 71.

    Ofcourse, Murdoch is merely fighting his dad's corner inorder to corner more of the market. Murdoch is losing money which must be news in itself.

    I think he is wrong to believe that Beeb News is state funded. It is a typically Brit compromise.

    The Brits would be the first to complain were this so. The last we need or want is state interference in our news. So we get around this by a licence fee distributed by the organisation to where it thinks fit with the proviso of public service broadcasting. A neat arrangement all round.

    What hurts the Murdochs et al, is this arrangement protects the organisation against market storms leaving Aunty better prepared than most to survive the occasional tsunami. No wonder the Murdochs are spitting blood.

    I remember a not dissimilar argument being laid against the musicians of the Beeb's symphony orchestras ie state funded and therefore protected against the empty seats of other orchestral endeavours.

    And, I suppose, the same can be said of some of the Beeb 's presenters, performers and bloggers and er....pundits?

    One has only to read the histories of newspaper owners and news magnates to see the real business they are in. It is to influence governments to promote their money-making. Nothing more; no matter if the hews of the day is the end of the world. So who does Murdoch think he is kidding?

    Nothing needs fixing. Well, imv.

  • Comment number 72.

    We are waiting to see if Murdoch's empire will no longer back New Labour. Clearly Cameron will get the backing if he offers to end the license fee.

    As usual Mr Burns (sorry Murdoch) is happy when he is in the driving seat, but objects to monopolies when it suits him. Cameron could break both monopolies - Sky and the BBC - if he gets in without asking for the help of either.

    In an ideal world both are too large and should be broken up.

  • Comment number 73.

    # 69. stanblogger:

    Cameron's statement that UK might have to default on government bonds. How is this possible when these are denominated in Sterling and the Bank of England can create as much Sterling as it is commanded to do by the government?


    Will this action turn Sterling into loo roll? Is that not part of a plan?

  • Comment number 74.


    forumdude2 (#70) "The BBC is the biggest propaganda machine in human history. It projects the view of the British state in a similar fashion to the civil service."

    Much has changed since Thatcher (and especially since Blair), but to what end? If it's purely self-interest/greed, i.e asset stripping the state for market-share, that's one thing - but if this anarchism is but a step, i.e a part of a longer-term restructuring in pursuit of United NUTS of Europe, that's another. If it is the latter, all nationalist and other centrally administered bodies (even learned Societies) are for the chop in the short term. I guess we would only be able to tell it's the latter if the Regional Development Agencies (NUTS of 6m?) progressively become stronger and London becomes less of a cohesive capital/centre of power?

    It isn't just journalism at stake here and the first alternative really is just too ghastly to contemplate given the trend. The second is just the lessser of two evils too, as it appears that the right to freely run businesses (and we know what that means in terms of dergulation) and the sanctity of the free-market appear to be enshrined in the Lisbon Treaty's FCHR Articles - 'red-lined' or not.

  • Comment number 75.

    Well, I privately think that the future of journalism and media lies in development of electronic paper - a well-known eInk technology. Each subscriber of a future newspaper will get an electronic paper sheet that will be synchronized daily with the editor's HQ and fresh articles will appear. I think such sheets will be flexible, so there will be no difference between it an a regular newspaper. moving estimates -

  • Comment number 76.

    Have I upset someone? I don't seema able to get passed the moderator anymore.

  • Comment number 77.

    I formed the opinion - rightly or wrongly - that Mr Peston sits by the phone at the BBC waiting for leaks of information from which the BBC gets a Scoop and Peston gets credit for being an Oracle - independent on who gets damaged by the Scoop.

    "First that this is no ordinary recession - the traditional business model of traditional news providers is being wrecked and needs to be overhauled.'

    Statement one above is correct, statement two above is correct, but statement two doesn't follow from statement one. The provision of traditional news isn't being wrecked in my experience: if anything it has improved markedly because:

    (i) Yahoo/Google often report facts - and the web reader - doesn't have to listen to the spin placed upon news items by some Journalists.

    "Second, in a globalised, 24/7 digital world, individual news organisation may be less powerful than they were, but stories - and to an extent the journalists who own them - shout louder than ever."

    Small voices shout louder. See (i) above.

    "Third, I will argue - from my own experience - that the traditional distinctions between television journalists, radio journalists and print journalists are quite close to being obsolete."

    Is that because many now digest news items from Google (see (i) above)?

    Finally Peston comments:

    "shows that more than ever we need a choice of high-quality news providers which are confident in their ability to explain complex important issues in a clear and accessible way."

    Surely the point is that some people's risk taking (bankers?) needs to be detected by the regulators (FSA) and need to have competent people explaining the mess that those risks have gotton their companys in, rather than journalists playing the same role for the public.

    As Jo Public, I am quite unhappy to learn that HBOS by example loaned out a whole bunch of cash at cheap rates to people who could neither pay it back nor whose assets resemble in anyway the value of the original loan. Its not a difficult concept.

    The fact is - the future of journalism and Mr Peston's "speciality" - the banking crisis are independent topics.

    In trying to link them together Mr Peston reveals his journalistic qualities - keep sitting by the phone Robert!

  • Comment number 78.

    "Market-based democracies like ours need two kinds of essential infrastructure: ... and competing independent news groups that distribute impartial information so that people can take control of their lives and rein in the over-mighty."

    The BBC represented our last hope of anything like impartial public information. If it had done its job, the licence fee (surely TV Tax by now, like Car Tax) would have been worth paying to one monopolistic organisation. Sadly, in the media that seek to inform, it is still Citizen Kane's world. Elsewhere, news is hypocritically dressed-up entertainment.

  • Comment number 79.

    All journalists should read Bertrand Russell's 1928 essay entitled 'Men and Emotions" to understand the damaging effects on the social fabric of our society caused by the media and advertising. Comment and opinion disguised as news is unhealthy.

  • Comment number 80.

    "13. At 3:44pm on 29 Aug 2009, Trevennor wrote: "I see no reason why now, when people have less money to spend and the free news sites such as BBC are still in operation, why that model should work any better."

    Since when is the BBC news site free?* Actually to me it is free being a poor geriatric but does not the licence fee pay for this? Are we not the BBC's shareholders? Is not the BBC a business incumbent on providing accurate, objective logically based truth full and none sensational news and interest using truly investigative journalists covering all sides of the political opinion and not the sort of biased predominately RW propaganda pouring out of Murdoch's tabloids?

    Did not the BBC web site beat the New York Times as best site last year?

    As a point of interest is it true Fox news is campaigning against Barack Obama's attempt to give the 47 million unprotected USA citizens health cover which they do not have at present?

    * Free to overseas but a good propaganda outlet for the best of British

  • Comment number 81.

    I think it's a falsehood to think paywalls are the only solution for online newspapers. This one-sided business model simply doesn't take into account aspirations of the end-user.

    I understand the media's view, that when newspapers collectively barricade their news behind a pay-walls, the public will reluctantly accept inevitable, and hand over their credit-cards en mass. It may sound plausible, but it doesn't take into a few flies in the ointment:

    - It's been trailed many times before by newspapers, and failed.

    - It will harm Ad revenue. Advertisers will loathe the idea that their advert is hidden behind a members-only domain.

    - It doesn't take into account that users like to share, and debate their news now. Paywalls will not only sterilise the experience, but will diminish the number of blog-links to the article. In fact, Murdoch Senior hinted at aggressively suing blog sites for "any" infringement.

    - It's poor value for customers. Thousands of news website receive the same news from the same news aggregators. It maybe edited, but you'll basically getting the same story regurgitated at a price.

    - Competitors will simply fill the void left by the newspapers. It's lunacy to think that other companies aren't going to take advantage of this opportunity, and step in to offer freely accessible news.

    The press industry aren't losing money because of the BBC or Google, they're losing because they've bloated, and saddled with a loss-making printing press. Paywalls, and protectionism would simply excoriate their demise.

  • Comment number 82.

    Oh well can't be bothered anymore. Obviously got to be carefull what you say about the BBC.

  • Comment number 83.

    Mr Peston a couple of points,

    With your use of a publicly funded website to 'put your message across' I would hope that you will be rebuked as I care not that you have had your nose put out, and resent my licence fee being used as a vehicle to attack someone else.

    Will you also remove yourself from any further comments on the SKY group as you have shown yourself to be biased against them?.

    The BBC is bloated and requires much reform, your row with Murdoch has not helped get the BBC message across instead it has prooven some of Murdoch jr points.

  • Comment number 84.

    This is a truly wonderful article. Momentous. I will archive this somehow. Well done.

  • Comment number 85.

    I used to work for an R&D dept of a major internet concern. One thing we saw coming a long time ago (a few years ago), was the simple fact that abundance of information would lead to uncertain quality. Branded information would become valuable, and people would be willing to pay for that. The B2C models were the future. This was clear. Major internet companies already have preparations for this. You will probably find that some of the ideas regarding paid consumption of information on the web are prescription rather than description, given that this expectation is what was invested in. You know what I mean?

  • Comment number 86.

    Timely discussion on the state of contemporary media. Perhaps we should ask all those slagging of media studies to join us. I'd be interested to hear their worldly wisdom. Anyway enough of that and on to the subject of Murdoch and his pathetic news empire. The state of independent journalism in the UK today is lamentable. If we're not bombing independent journalists in our numerous war zones labelling them 'enemy combatants' were censoring sensitive stories to soothe corporate advertisers. Ultimately this is to the detriment of the vast majority of the population who still use mainstream media for their information (particularly in times of crisis). Ironically, UK media is still more impartial than the rabid nonesense inflicted on 300 million Americans. You only need to listen to their opinions to realise what a sorry state they are in. Murdoch's empire needs the same treatment as our big banks - It needs to be broken-up.

  • Comment number 87.

    You ask about the new media, "will it concentrate on the more sensationalist and titillating bangs for the buck?"

    Are you honestly proud of the BBC, its 'attack-dog' interview style, its personalisation of issues...If democracy is defined as 'government by discussion' what chance is there if politicians are torn to pieces on the 'Today Programme' if there is even a hint of reflection, never mind lets 'try this and see what happens', let alone 'I've changed by mind' or 'I think I made a mistake'. Get your house in order.

  • Comment number 88.

    The BBC represents unfair competition. Its fee is taken by force from anyone wishing to watch TV. It is little wonder that other news providers struggle to compete against a website that people think is free.

    However this is all academic. The private v public news provision debate is a distraction. Neither foretold the recession, warned people about debt or the overheated housing market. No real debate about the illegal war in iraq or even any attempt to explain why we are in Afghanistan.

    It is only the freedom of the internet that has shown that real economists like Peter Schiff foretold the recession and he was ridiculed by mainstream media. I stopped watching TV for news the moment that I realised that I had been defrauded into the ponzi housing scheme. Then I watched newsnight for explanations as to how this has happened and I saw state sponsored shills like Will Hutton wringing his hands and spouting nonsense. I only watch TV news of any persuasion to know what the latest lies are.

  • Comment number 89.

    Digital Britain.... except it's not of course.. We may produce some content but all the technology hardware is imported.....

  • Comment number 90.

    How on earth can a man like Murdoch or Mudoch Jnr criticise any organisation given their aweful track record; Sky One, Sky News and Fox News. I think we would all accept that the organization that these two men represent is a big player in the UK on the basis of controlling a couple of newspapers and an almost complete monopoly on TV sport, raking in vast profits and hence influence in the media. The point is that we are being bullied by such people and the likes of me, as an uninformed consumer of these services, will end up having to take what is offered should Murdoch have his way. Surely, what Murdoch Jnr is saying is 'we haven't made a very good job presenting the news (in any form), therefore get rid of the BBC and we'll look good'.

    The BBC is far from perfect; but heres the good part, it's less imperfect than Mudoch's empire. Let's be honest the BBC has upset the vast majority of the political parties (big and small) in the UK, whereas Murdoch's empire disingenuously panders to the know it all and illiberal right wingers wherever they may be.

    The very idea of global dominance by a single organisation is wrong (take note BBC). More to the point, the idea of such a bigoted individual controlling the media leads me to dread the future. Please Mr Murdoch, go away and take your profit oriented values with you.

  • Comment number 91.

    Remember 'Tomorrow Never Dies'?

    I wonder if Mr Murdoch has seen it?! Now then, which character reminds me of Mr Murdoch?

    Robert, a good contentious article, but please can you reduce the number of pregnant pauses and emphases when you speak on tv (I don't listen to radio very often, but if you speak the same there my comment about tv also applies). I watched Stephanie Flanders recently, and enjoyed her slot immensely as her speaking was fluid and not disjointed.

    Sorry, but it does rather grate on my nerves after a little while.

    Incidentally, I haven't read a newspaper more than twice since Princess Diana died. At least on line I can pick what headlines I read, and don't have trashy headlines and sensationalism leaping out at me at every page I turn. Maybe Mr Murdoch should realise this is likely where reducing readership may have it's roots. And when did anyone have the time (or inclination) to read all those adverts in newspapers?

    Other industries develop and move with the times ahead or fall by the wayside. They compete by offering something their competitors don't. Surely this is simple business sense?

    Strikes me Mr Murdoch behaves like a lot of politicians-have a go at the opposition rather than say what they do-usually because they have nothing better to offer!

  • Comment number 92.

    Public service journalism.
    Journalism for most of its part is owned by corporations. Corporations that are managed for the sole purpose of making profit. Corporations that have responsibility to its shareholders and no responsibility to the public they supposedly serve.

    Few and in reality none of the large news media corporations have any social responsibility to inform the public at large. For them "news" is a way of making money. Informing the public is a by-product of the business. Public service news organizations like the BBC have a social responsibility and can be held accountable for what they do and how they serve the public. Once corporations own all the news there will be no public accountability and no one will be keeping the balance of what is and is not reported.

    Today the news media industry (journalism) is not "confronted by crisis" but rather by a revolution. The revolution is fueled not by "disruptive technological change" but by the advance in technology.

    News media organizations will either die out or will have to become part of the revolution. Rome is burning! No one knows who will build the new city in its place. Evolution is not an option. Staging a revolution is. The one who stages that revolution will become the leader for many years to come.

    As it stands right now there is no one leading this revolution. The revolution is in its first stage - anarchy. There is no leadership. Until new leadership emerges the evolution of present news media organizations will continue its down ward spiral.

    All of the news media organizations are desperately trying to cling to the old ways. They try to evolve through evolutionary process by adopting new technology but adaptation does not work. What is needed is a revolutionary idea that stems from the technological advance of what we know as internet.

    Media news organizations including BBC are stagnant. The stagnation stems from the way large corporations are managed and financed. Revolutionary ideas in all large corporations are discarded, opposed and never taken into consideration, because revolutionary ideas undermine the very principles on which those corporations function. It will be only after the fire burns out and all that is left are ashes that the management of those corporations will start adopting a new revolutionary process.

    What they will adopt will most likely be based on a new comer. A new player that will emerge during the fire. One that will not try to put out the fire but rather one that will start laying new foundations before the fire is out. Right now, a new comer can't lay those foundations because the news media corporations are too big and too strong. It will be the weakening and possibly almost total disintegration of the established players that will allow a new one to come into the market.

    No ordinary media recession
    First the traditional model is incapable of changing. Overhauling it will not save the traditional model. Changing the model completely will.

    Second, in globalized, digital world individual news organizations will be even more powerful then today but only if they harness the capabilities of the technological change.

    Journalists don't own news stories, (they never did) news organizations do. Part of the impending change will be that the ownership of news stories will shift from news organizations to the consumers of news.

    Third, I will argue from my own experience that television, radio and print journalism are old descriptions. Those descriptions should stay where they belong in the old media formats. A new concept has to emerge based on the technological capabilities of news delivery over (www) internet.

    Today what we have or rather what we could have if we were to recognize it, is a much distinct and above all fractured description of journalism media; written word (text), still photography (multi-layer digital file), graphics, sound, and video (an interactive medium).

    Each of the media sources are distinct and none will become obsolete but rather each has a potential to bring a component to a story. That component has to be based on the strength of each medium and not (as it is today) on the need to present each news story in every medium that is available.

    Yes, what we need are high-quality news providers that can "explain complex important issues in a clear and accessible way". What we don't need is regulation of the industry but rather each news provider recognizing their strengths and concentrating on where they can excel as opposed to what is happening today with every news media organization jumping on every medium bandwagon.

    The new journalism
    As you rightly so pointed out "there has been a massive fragmentation of news suppliers between the traditional media outlets and a new digital species - many of them highly specialist" And that is what the new species understand. To be competitive in the age of internet technology you need to specialize. Specialization is their strength something that large media news organizations have a hard time to comprehend.

    Also, today's news organizations greatest weakness is the layers upon layers of management, bureaucracy and sheer luck of individualism and individual accountability. The new species have none or very little of what hampers the old established news media corporations including huge outlay of cost associated with the layers of management.

    Your analogy of the Dutch team, "all of them could more or less play in every position" is exactly the opposite of what the "new species" are successfully doing right now. They can't play in any other position but the very specialized one they excel in. That is what makes them highly competitive to all the big players.

    You, yourself specialize in financial news, through writing and on-air presenting of stories, but you can not play every position on the field of journalism.

    Although I agree with your advice that any young person thinking of becoming a journalist should acquire all the skills. Those skills should be acquired to understand the basic principles of the different mediums, but what is more important is that they acquire a highly specialist skill that will position them above the rest of all the mediocre; know all, can't do any thing really well ones.

    The reason why broadcast, radio or print journalism is becoming increasingly all the same is because news corporations feel a need to cover all the bases but in doing so none of them are excelling in one area. (speaking here purely of internet news delivery)

    Increasingly journalist who once specialized and excelled in one or two fields spend time and resources doing news stories in mediums that they have no talent to do well.

    No one can excel in every medium and in every speciality. A skilled, talented writer who can type out a story in minutes will rarely be great on camera or have the "voice" for radio. A presenter/(TV) journalist will also have the skills of a good writer, perhaps excellent skills but rarely will he be able to film, edit a story.

    You are right that the underlaying principles of journalism ("the facts, the story") stay the same and today those principles are more important then ever. But in order for a journalist to dig out the stories, to ask the right questions and to understand how to communicate those findings to an audience, a journalist needs to specialize. It is only through specialization that a journalist will be able to explain and communicate increasingly complex stories.

    It is the indifference of how news media communicate a story that is the underlying failure of news corporations in the digital/internet age. What news organizations at least for most part have not understood it the concept that today a news story should be delivered on the strength of the medium that is best suited for the story.

    Convergence was a knee-jerk reaction of porting TV, newspapers and to limited extend radio onto the internet platform without giving much thought of the new technology and as we can see convergence did not work.

    "Every news organisation - with the exception of the BBC - will start charging very soon for any information that has any proprietary element to it at all."

    And here is the biggest problem for all news organizations; few of them have proprietary elements in their news. Most news is generated from the same source or a small number of sources and repackaged to suite the needs or style of a given news organization.

    Until now the repackaging of news worked because the consumers of news were geographically fragmented but the technology of internet brings the fragmented consumers to a global table where those who choose can consume from the same platform regardless of where they live or where the news took place.

    The question is not will consumers pay for news but will they pay for news brands? Some most likely will but most will not and the resulting consequence of placing news behind walls will be the last nail in the coffin of global news media corporations - "news piracy".

    Any digital content that has a wide audience has a tendency to be passed, exchanged, circulated around the internet. Because news is free and available to anyone with access to the internet there is no need for "news piracy" but once the access to news is restricted consumers will start to exchange news by way of copying and distributing it.

    An exchange of news items between consumers on a large scale will lead to the eventual disintegration of large media news corporations. What will emerge is specialization of news. Just like bloggers specialize in a very narrow areas, news organizations will become very specialized and focused on a small, loyal audience that will be willing to pay for their content.

    This is already happening at a very local news level. Large news organizations are dropping local newspapers/TV stations/radio because they are loosing money. In their place slowly small locally run news portals emerge filling the gap that once was served by the big media owners. There is a real need for local news but local news can only be profitable when there is no corporate infrastructure that needs to be financially supported.

    Eventually what will emerge from the ashes of the Imperial Rome will be totally different from what we have today. Eventually a leader of this news revolution will emerge bring together the small, specialist and highly disintegrated news outlets under one umbrella where news will be easily accessible, searchable and consumer interactivity will become the basis of news ownership and certainly not for free.

  • Comment number 93.

    As a side note, isn't it noticeable that Sky News is much, much better than its American sister station? Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that the BBC is a DIRECT competitor of Sky in the UK.

  • Comment number 94.

    I would agree with Robert that access to good information on financial matters is crucial, otherwise people who do not have the financial wherewithal to pay for this news will continue to be left behind.
    I would sooner trust a good journalist who has a broad background then I would a narrow specialist in financial affairs. The problem for most of us is knowing who is a good journalist and who is not, although in some cases it is obvious. The other problem is that finding the time required to get the broad base of information necessary to make financial judgments.
    From what I can see the BBC, and the CBC in Canada, outclass other private sources of information in North America. In my opinion, the private sources such as CNN are too driven by the requirements to play to their audience rather than to inform their audience. While there are notable exceptions, most of the journalists on CNN, as one example, seem to play to the politics views of their audience.
    Watching the BBC, or the CBC, I know that there is a world out there. Watching the American version of CNN, for the most part, I would think that the world revolves around the United States. I do not believe that that is healthy.

  • Comment number 95.

    R.Murdoch.....''the only reliable,durable,perpetual guarantor of independence,is profit''.

    1)Money corrupts son,money corrupts.Depends also on what you call ''independence''.
    2)Very difficult to work in complete isolation,and if you could, money wouldn't be a concern.
    3)'Perpetual'? Is this after, or before barter.
    4)'Profit'' ...many different measures of this.

  • Comment number 96.

    The internet disintermediates.... so the images of the Hudson River plane crash were an instructive example of how stories break in a disintermediated world (the BBc ran a report on how it broke on Twitter as the pics were distributed worldwide).

    The debate on 'the future of news' is hopelessly confused...with 'news' being confused with the fossilised commercial organisations who happen to have been in place when the lava flow covered them.

    On local news...the BBC's subsidised service is marginally better than the car crash that is the financially battered independent Radio, newspaper and Tv sector... However the BBC's service isn't excellence it's one person ringing the Police, fire and ambulance and another one reading out what they have been told is happening---it's just marginally better than the opposition.

    I also think the Dr kelly story was instructive in simply assuming 'BBC public subsidy good- all other forms of funding bad'. The BBC, partly through wishing to be seen to be even handed, partly due to veiled threats about possible license fee pressure to come, became supine.... the fact that the real 'opposition' to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, possibly Iran has come more from the Generals than the BBC is a pretty damning indictment of a media organisation too reliant on a funding model supplied by Govt....and their perception of public opinion.

    Rather than learnbing various journalistic skills like a demented Jack or all trades..journalists should simply be well groomed, pretty/handsome and well turned out.... that gets you onto camera (which is where all video journos have to be now) better than 'media technical skills' you can hire those people by the lorry load per day, cheaper than a dustbinman ...and the price is falling with every new cohort marching from the media studies course each summer. (Because with new cameras, etc the fact is that the gathering of news is being de-skilled--as the printing press de-skilled the illuminated manuscript writing monks and liberated knowledge in the Renaissance.

    The 'bottom line' is that as the newspaper owners have always said to impertinent freelances 'There is no copyright on News' --- you can't own it.

    It just used to be very difficult to package and distribute---you needed a big factory and printing press,TV studio, large 900 foot mast etc--- and that was the 'barrier to entry'.

    The internet has removed that barrier to entry and reduced the cost of entry and therefore the average unit price....therefore not-for-profit seems most likely (for any news not exclusive as in celebrity type buy-ups) ---maybe local NFPs covering news with a plurality of funding (and influences) with 'many points of view' who then sell their material to the BBC, who collate the 'national view'.

    The safeguard and difference being the plurality at micro-level and the levels above and the 'national agenda' being presented by the BBC who weould have become a much smaller facilitation organisation--- presenting a 'news programme' but of course pointing back to the source material.

    The worst business jargon phrase ever does actually descriobe this well... less a monolithic 'top down' organisation that it is now..and more a anarchic 'bottom-up' organisation.

  • Comment number 97.

    The end of paternalism?

    That must be why you felt no need to explain your 3-week absence from this demanding role of banker`s frontman

    "Now I write up to five or six blogs in a single day"

    I could write 50 blogs a day for a fraction of your super-annuated renumeration!

    BBC impartiality,after all these "Green shoots" "stories"?
    The best of a bad bunch is not a sufficient recommendation.

    88. At 11:13pm on 30 Aug 2009, truths33k3r wrote:

    "I only watch TV news of any persuasion to know what the latest lies are."

    Just like the Russians during the Communist era,we just flip the spin 180 degrees and voila! you`ve got the truth!

  • Comment number 98.

    The Murdoch media empire is losing money and they think that the competition is unfair. Their preferred solution is a reduction of competition which they believe will solve their problems. Sadly they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The reason why they are losing money is because the quality of their content is dire, consumers, unhappy with the product are deserting in droves, even if they were the last broadcaster on the planet it wouldn't make any difference.
    TV content today on any channel is mostly tosh, I rarely watch it any more, newprint has gone the same way which is why the market is shrinking and advertising revenue is falling.
    Gone are the days when Panorama, World in Action etc. provided groundbreaking well researched stories in an intelligent manner, who is making top quality, informative wildlife programs like Survival and Life on Earth.
    There used to be a time when The Times provided top quality independent reporting that was well written, the editorial and comments were partisan but again always well written with clear and cohesive argument, now it is effectively competing with its sister paper The Sun for the lowest common denominator.
    The BBC, with its chase for ratings also risks sliding down the slippery editorial quality slope.
    It must not be forgotten that quality content will always find an audience and with an audience there is the opportunity for advertising/sales revenue.
    Poor quality content will only generate overheads.

  • Comment number 99.

    Very comprehensive and taking in most of the major happenings over the last year. Certainly too much to digest in one go.

    As far as I see the media are suffering like everyone else because of this recession and like everyone else know they are going to have to change if they are to get through in one piece.

    There are though other problems they must overcome. People in general have become much more sceptical about media manipulation and the power of advertising. They feel that the media should have taken a much stronger view on bringing governments to account. You yourself indicated at one point that although everyone in the media knew there were major problems mounting up no-one wanted to get off the merry-go-round.

    This in itself has brought a great deal of mistrust to ex readers who took notice of all this advice about no more boom or bust to make financial decisions based on some newspapers advice and made investments for their future that have lead to disaster.

    This has led to readers' distrust of both media and other so called experts so they feel the safest way is to make their own decisions using whatever information they can glean from whatever source. Then if they make mistakes they can only blame themselves.

    It is vital that we have a diverse range of newspapers but they also have to balance their need for advertising revenue with the need of their readers for honest and good investigative reporting. Holding governments and all pillars of society to account and exposing events before they become a total catastrophe as we are seeing now.

    The BBC itself although flawed seems to be adapting more quickly than most to the public demand for more accountability for it comes under ongoing attack from all sides so has no choice. As a public broadcasting medium it is doing a decent job and is there for the whole of the people so should not be charging for on line services if that's what people want.

    The rest of the media will once again thrive when they have restructured themselves and the recession is at an end but that is capitalism after all.

  • Comment number 100.

    Not sure if this is exoneration or explanation. Financial journalist seemed to have missed the coming of the worldwide financial crisis. Failed to see or report on the relationship between national legislation and banking practices and the influence of bankers with legislators. Journalist were as much of the mix as the culprits in the process. Journalist have yet to investiage exactly where all the money went. The debt that he blames for the collapse was generated by financial institutions agressively seeking borrowers and paying big bonuses to empolyees based on the number of loans obtained. Still the practice today. I find it interesting that journalist today still feel a need to defend financial services when they continue to obstruct any real change in the system that might benefit the small individual accounts. If they, the governments, had made the individuals whole and not the banks, the economy would be in recovery now, but the rich and powerful still run the world and their interests are always protected rather than those of a nation or a majority of the population. Neither bankers nor governments can be trusted. Highwaymen in suits.


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