Tag Archives: pa

NAPA challenges PA’s public service scheme – but where’s the money coming from?

Earlier this month at a Press Gazette and Kingtson University conference, Press Association training director Tony Johnston said funding for one of the agency’s pilots of its public service reporting scheme was close.

The public service reporting scheme, first mentioned in July last year, will aim to increase coverage of local public institutions and produce reports made available online for free to local news organisations. The first pilot partnership announced was with Trinity Mirror. As part of the initiative, the agency would recruit journalists and deploy them within a defined area and for a specified time period to cover local authorities and public bodies. The aims of the pilot would be to ascertain demand from local media for this type of news with a view to rolling out the scheme nationally – at an estimated cost of £15-18 million a year.

Johnston said the funding for the first pilot had come from an independent source, stressing the importance of this relationship for future funding of pilots and a long-term service:

The service would have to be completely editorially independent of the funding source. Content would have to be free to all and be generated in a way that delivers value for money.

Today the National Association of Press Agencies (NAPA), spurred into action by Johnston’s comments, said it would seek fresh talks with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to raise concerns about the PA’s plans to create a subsidised reporting network. The association is particularly concerned with suggestions made last year by PA managing director Tony Watson that funds from top-slicing the BBC Licence Fee could go towards such a public service reporting initiative as part of the Independently Funded News Consortia (though he didn’t explicitly mention the public service reporting pilot at this point).

Says NAPA spokesman Chris Johnson in a press release:

This would be the first step on a slippery slope to further demands for the BBC licence fee cash to be used to subsidise all kinds of reporting deemed “too expensive” for commercial companies.

Many NAPA members find that with the retrenchment of local newspapers they are increasingly being called-upon to provide grass-roots content of all kinds.

We can see no justification for replacing staff who have been made redundant with an expanded network of PA staff subsidised with public money. It would tend towards creating a dangerous reporting monoculture – some kind of UK version of Pravda – and a phenomenon that is quite alien to the British news industry and a free press.

NAPA will raise its concerns with Jeremy Hunt and will encourage the DCMS to examine the potentially damaging and distorting effects this plan would have on an already a fragile market. We believe that it would distort the market and seriously discourage new entrants from setting-up in business. It would be anti-competitive, and should be resisted at all costs.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Johnson said he did not question the need for strong local journalism, reporting on public bodies and courts, but is concerned that the PA has not been more explicit about its plans for funding.

It seems to me that the PA keeps flying this kite in the hope that some one or other grabs onto the line (…) I don’t know why any kind of public funding should be used to subsidise newspapers who have engaged in wholesale decimation of their staff.

I’m not sure top-slicing was ever particularly high on the PA’s agenda as a source of funding for this specific scheme, but the agency has kept its cards in its search for backing very close. The stakeholders involved in the local media scene will await PA’s funding announcement with interest…

Media Release: Tyne Tees and Borders picked for regional news consortia pilots

The Tyne Tees and Borders television region has been selected as the English pilot region for the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNC) proposed by the government’s Digital Britain report.

Additional trials in Scotland and Wales will also take place and the tender process for all three pilots was opened yesterday.

Full release at this link…

Several local media groups have already outlined plans for IFNC bids. ITN has proposed a ‘grand alliance’ between local media groups.

Responding to the announcement of the English pilot region yesterday, John Hardie, ITN CEO, said in a statement:

“We’re excited to be joining forces with the talented staff who provide the current service in the Tyne Tees and Border region and in Wales to create the backbone of our bids for the pilots announced today. We are building a coalition with newspapers, radio and community groups to bring together the best in commercial journalism in each of the regions to offer a compelling multi-platform news service for viewers, listeners and readers.

“IFNCs provide an opportunity to re-invigorate local and regional newsgathering across broadcast, print and online and to ensure that there is an innovative and comprehensive alternative to the BBC. We look forward to playing a key role in this bright new future for local news.”

Trinity Mirror, Press Association and TV production company Ten Alps have announced a joint bid for the IFNC pilot.

The Jobless Journalist: Week four – Are subbing and reporting roles merging into one?

This is the fourth post in a series from an anonymous UK-based journalist recently made redundant. To follow the series, you can subscribe to this feed.

Last week I blogged about whether you should apply for subbing jobs if you’re a reporter or a features writer.

This week I’ve spoken to two journalists – one print and one online – about the ‘concertina effect,’ i.e. whether subbing and reporting roles are merging into one, particularly in an online environment.

Peter Sands is a veteran newspaper sub and director of PA Training and insists that the standalone sub is far from dead.

Even with web publishing where content goes live before it is subbed (meaning the reporter has to ensure copy is clean first), Sands says the role of the sub-editor is still vital.

“I would definitely say that you have to have a second pair of eyeballs,” he says.

Sands was editor of the Northern Echo in the early 1990s and admits much has changed since then.

At that time there was real animosity between subs and reporters: “In Darlington there was the Red Lion pub for subs and the Britannia for reporters and never the two should meet,” he says.

While Sands believes the sub is alive and kicking, he acknowledges that their role is being redefined. “The divide [between reporters and subs] has really gone now,” he says.

Sub, web editor and corporate blogger Fiona Cullinan agrees: “Divide?  What divide? The divide is less about reporting versus subbing and more about are you engaged or not, are you digitally included or not?”

“By not engaging more in online environments, traditional journalists are not developing their digital writing or subbing skills, let alone all the other skills that go with publishing to the web, like picture research under Creative Commons licences, image manipulation, linking skills, SEO knowledge, how to upload and promote content, and the big one: the ability to deal with readers talking back to you.”

Apart from the odd typo creeping in when you publish first and hone later, many reporters who write straight to the web can face serious libel issues.

Cullinan says checking factual inaccuracies and avoiding legal pitfalls is ‘perfect sub-editor territory‘.

“From what I’ve read, reporters in multimedia newsrooms are being asked to sub their own work; meanwhile subs are being made redundant,” she adds.

“How reporters are supposed to sub to old-school standards, perhaps with minimal experience or training, and 24-hour newsroom deadline pressures, should be interesting!”

Cullinan also points out that the comments section can act as a ‘rather more public second set of eyes, pointing out your typos and incorrect facts’.

The upshot? To keep up with the changing face of journalism a reporter needs to be savvy about subbing as well as having other web skills, but it is still the sub-editor who has the last word.

Opposition to BBC’s newspaper video-sharing plans grow (the links)

Journalism.co.uk feels like its gone back in time today – specifically to autumn last year when regional newspaper groups, unions and industry bodies were voicing unanimous opposition to the BBC’s plans to increase its local video news content.

Well, another year, another video plan – and more opposition.

Yesterday the corporation announced an agreement to share news video from four subject areas with the Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and Independent websites. The clips will appear in a BBC-branded player and run alongside the papers’ own news coverage.

In the announcement, the corporation suggested it would extend the plans to other newspaper websites – and asked third parties to register their interest.

The reaction

Welcomed by its launch partners (The Telegraph described the deal as ‘a step in the right direction’) – the plans were quickly denounced by commercial rivals ITN:

“The BBC’s plans to offer free video content to newspaper websites risk undermining the demand for content from independent news providers, potentially undercutting a very important revenue stream,” said ITN CEO John Hardie in a release.

“The pressure on commercial news suppliers has never been greater which is why ITN has led the way in opening up valuable new lines of business, and the BBC’s latest move risks pulling the rug from under us.”

According to a MediaGuardian report, News International says the arrangement is far from a ‘free deal’ for the papers, but rather free marketing for the BBC, which will lead to less diffentiated content on newspaper websites in the UK.

Meanwhile the Press Association said it had spoken with the BBC Trust about the plans before they were announced and was hoping for a market impact assessment – a process it says cannot now be completed because of yesterday’s launch. In a statement given to both Press Gazette and MediaGuardian, a spokeswoman for the PA said there were other ways for the BBC to work with commercial rivals, such as by sharing facilities.

The PA launched its own video newswire for newspapers earlier this year and has said the BBC’s plans undermine investment in video by commercial players.

The questions

Arguably, providing a pool of news video for diary events/supplementary content could free up the titles’ staff to cover original content and produce more multimedia of their own. A similar argument to the PA’s recent announcement of a ‘public service reporting’ trial.

One question that should be asked – hinted at in Alick Mighall’s blog post on the matter – how will the commercial details be hammered out? Will the BBC add pre-roll ads for BBC programming to the clips; and what if a pay wall is erected in front of the video players?

Greenslade: ‘PA’s excellent plan to launch “public service reporting”‘

Roy Greenslade offers his thoughts on the Press Association’s (PA) plans for a ‘public service reporting’ scheme in partnership with Trinity Mirror, as reported by Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

He applauds the agency for a ‘bold and imaginative’ move, which, he says, warrants public funding.

“Essentially, it will relieve newspaper editors of their current headaches in trying (and failing) to cover the whole local agenda. The nuts and bolts will be available to them. Instead, their reporters can get on with digging and delving,” he writes.

Interesting comments left on the post too, including one from Blackadder, who claims to be a former PA employee:

“To turn the PA into a fully-fledged public service will involve a root and branch upheaval of the current company, and that will never happen if profit is the watchword. They should not be given a penny of public money.”

Full post at this link…

Where do news agencies fit into the online advertising model?

It’s interesting to note Google’s latest advertising move, as reported by the Guardian, and background summed up here, in links, at this link.

The Guardian reported: “Google is ramping up its efforts to make money from its controversial Google News service by striking deals with eight European news agencies, and launching a contextual ad service to display adverts around their stories.”

“The contextual ads will also run alongside content from existing Google partners AFP, UK Press Association, AP and Canada Press,” it also reported.

It reminded me of a chat I had with senior members of the digital team at the UK’s Press Association (PA) in early February, but never published. Now seems a good time to share that information. Colin Ramsay is head of the PA digital sales team and Chris Condron is the head of digital strategy at the PA.

They told me that selling commercial video with advertising is an increasingly important venture for the agency.

“One of the key areas is that we need to move our position up the chain a bit,” Ramsay said. “Rather than be a news feed supplier, we want to fully understand what our service can do for our customers and how we can link that commercially,” he said.

“One of the things we really want to do is develop and leverage strong relationships with traditional media, and also expand in digital marketplace. There are lots of new and emerging customers for us to have dialogue with,” Ramsay said.

The Press Association can offer content in new ways, on new platforms, he explained, adding that video is ‘a key area’.

“I think we’ve got a lot of opportunities around commercial video,” he said, which could include developing relationships with new advertisers.  Blue chip companies are particularly important as potential advertising clients, he said.

More and more video ‘is a key part’ of PA’s provision, which could be integrated with different editorial packages, Ramsay said, adding that there is now less emphasis on text provision.

Different types of video and advertising provision means new as well as existing partnerships, he said.

“We’re in the process of analysing the commercial market,” he said. “For first time we’re looking at the advertising market and where is developing the most revenue.”

“What we want to be able to do is develop zones or microsites which allow our customers to attract new audiences and dervive new revenue streams and which we can share in.”

“It’s going to be a very exciting year for PA, in how it develops and competes – we then become an extra resource for our customers,” Ramsay told me.

Head of digital strategy, Chris Condron, addressed editorial issues: “One of the key things is the scale,” he said. “PA is 140 years old – the reason it was set up in first place is because it made economic sense for each newspaper not to send people to same place,” he explained, as background.

While ‘times are tough,’ he said that one of the ways PA is ‘looking to be even more helpful, or relevant’ is to find strategies the company ‘can use straight away’.

For example, provision of a news channel for Virgin Media is a different kind of service, with different kinds of advertising opportunities. “The core values remain, but it [approach] is a lot more flexible,” Condron said.

It’s not just commercial companies they want to supply video to: “The newspaper companies have showed interest in further video provision, and with the BBC not going into local video, newspapers are delivering their own video,” he said.

That’s an example of where the barriers between broadcasters and newspapers are breaking down, he illustrated.

“They’re [newspapers] really focused on where the users are, and what the users want and it’s our job to help them do that.

“I think it’s fair to say it’s tough times – we’re focused on being as helpful and useful to our core customers as we were in the past,” Condron added.

Press Association opens up data to BBC developers

The BBC has been given free access to data from third parties for use by its BBC Backstage developers network.

The Press Association (PA) has opened up the API and data from its event listings information for no charge, Ian Forrester, senior producer for BBC Backstage, told an industry conference.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Forrester said PA had opened up its data to BBC Backstage, because they did not have a place to showcase the information themselves.

“They have this huge events database. They know they could sell certain parts of it but only a certain amount. The admin of trying to sell that stuff is too great, they may as well give it away for free, but they are also interested in seeing the creative use of this data,” Forrester explained to delegates at the Media Futures Conference.

Several data streams from within the corporation will also be made available to the network in the next few months, Forrester added.

Data from the BBC iPlayer will be opened up through BBC Backstage, he said, with plans to create personalised search functions and alerts when content is added to the player.

Following the recent addition of full text RSS feeds for the BBC’s blogs, Forrester told Journalism.co.uk that full text feeds for the BBC’s news content would be ‘a natural progression for newsgathering’.

PA Group appoints James Murdoch as non-executive director

James Murdoch, chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia News Corporation, has joined the PA Group board as a non-executive director.

Murdoch’s appointment, which was announced today as the group released its financial report for 2007, is one of a series of changes to the board with Sir Harry Roche stepping down after 20 years as a director and 13 years as chairman.

The group announced a 25 per cent growth in revenues from its digital business, but a drop of £1.2 million in its total operating profits.

The fall from £2.6 million in 2006 to £1.4 million in 2007 was a result of significant multimedia investment, the group said.