Tag Archives: Westminster Media Forum

Communication Bill must ‘give freedom’ to media companies, says Guardian chief executive

Moving to a digital first policy is “symptomatic” of what is going on in the UK market place, according to Guardian Media Group chief executive Andrew Miller.

Speaking today at the Westminster Media Forum Miller said:

The Guardian is a leading creative business in the UK, and we have a great international voice.

But internationally it isn’t a level playing field. Overseas communications competitors may have more freedom if law in the UK is poorly implemented.

He also echoed thoughts shared earlier in the day by Sarah Hunter, Google’s UK head of public policy, saying companies needed to develop a “coding mentality” by employing strong and innovative developers to work alongside creative and editorial employees.

The Communications Bill needs to give enterprises like the Guardian freedom. Freedom to innovate and freedom to carry on what we do best.

It must not compromise enterprises that act in the public interest. Regulators also must have more contact with the public – it’s they who should help decide the future of rights rather than exclusively those in the media industry.

 

‘Global view’ needed for Communications Bill

The main theme emerging from today’s discussion at the Westminster Media Forum is the government should embrace the idea of a globally connected internet when considering the Communications Bill.

Sarah Hunter, Google’s head of UK Public Policy, said the green paper should encompass wider policy in the UK, rather than just the Bill itself.

The government cannot make policy for the media industries without considering the wider impact on other industries that need the internet to survive.

It would be very dangerous if they went down that road.

Hunter said the most important thing to bear in mind for the future was to “bring back computer science” – building on the UK’s historical strength of bringing together creative and scientific talent and employing engineers to advise on future policy.

John Tate, director of policy and strategy at the BBC, spoke of a “competition for quality”, and how broadcasters should meet audience expectations in a converged world.

Tate also referred to Rupert Murdoch’s bid to takeover all of BSkyB, quipping: “BSkyB’s recent announcement is very welcome.”

“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – we’re very flattered.”

BSkyB’s director of policy David Wheeldon was also on the panel, he responded to Tate by saying “it’s nice to hear the BBC being complimentary about us for once”, to polite laughter from attendees.

Wheeldon oultined his four major concerns for the Bill as being a flexible copyright regime, online piracy, finding the correct balance between infrastructure and content incentives, and finally recognising emerging platforms.

In particular he earmarked piracy as a significant threat for the broadcast industry to monetise content.

This afternoon the forum will hear from Ivan Lewis MP, who earlier this year wrote to Jeremy Hunt regarding News Corporation’s acquisition of BSkyB.

PCC chair addresses issue of privacy in online media

The Press Complaints Commission is best placed to regulate the press in relation to privacy and online media, chairman Baroness Buscombe said today.

Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum Buscombe said:

Regulating online content is challenging. Let me pose the difficult question: what does privacy mean in an online world? There is an argument – with which Mark Zuckerberg might agree – that it means hardly anything at all these days. People have adopted a public persona online; they have developed a culture of information exchange such that privacy will lapse as a “social norm”.

Perhaps. But that doesn’t quite ring true to me.

An opposing argument would be that the online world gives people the chance actually better to define what they wish to be private: via privacy settings on Facebook, say, they can make clear to the world what information is for public consumption, and what they wish to restrict to a smaller audience.

In truth, there will be no clear answer. People will use social media in different ways, and with clear differences in their level of understanding of the implications of their actions.

What is clear is that journalists – both print and broadcast – now have the outpourings of non-journalists as a resource of information. And it is important that there are ethical guidelines about how to use that information. We believe at the PCC that we are able to provide them. We believe that a voluntary Code, reinforced by practical guidance from case law, is a model for maintaining standards in this area.

The PCC chairman cited examples of photographs and information taken from Facebook and Twitter and used in the press, reminding the audience of the PCC’s five key tests when it comes to using material gained via social media.

  • First, what is the quality of the information? How private is it in itself?
  • Second, what is the context of the information? Material that has been uploaded as a joke between friends, for example, may not be suitable for journalistic use in a story about a tragedy.
  • Who uploaded the material, or consented for it to be uploaded?
  • How widely available is the material online; or, to put it another way, what privacy restrictions were placed on it?
  • And finally what is the public interest in publication?

The full speech is available at this link…

WMF: Partnerships are future for UK regional news – but who’ll be in control?

The most salient comment in yesterday’s Westminster Media Forum on the future of local media came from Community Media Association (CMA) director Jacqui Devereux.

Having listened to presentations from several of the ‘big players’ (ITN, STV, Global Radio) interested in a bid to run the government’s proposed independently funded news consortia (IFNC) as a replacement for ITV1’s regional news service, Devereux said she welcomed talk of partnership, but was concerned about the ‘jockeying for position’ she had heard in the room.

Partnerships should not be established if the main issue is who controls that partnership, she suggested.

“There’s no reason why the bigger players and the smaller players can’t work together to make this work properly. But it will only work if there isn’t a big player in there saying we need to control this ‘because’,” she said.

Smaller players, such as the community radio stations and TV channels represented by the CMA, must have a protected place within the IFNC proposals, she said – a sentiment echoed by ITN chief executive officer John Hardie, whose vision for a ‘grand alliance’ of local media included an ‘open door policy’ to encourage smaller newsmakers to take part.

While the BBC is not bidding to run the consortia, the broadcaster, whose plans for a local video network were rejected by the BBC Trust last year, is in talks with the CMA and community radio stations about ways for working together for local news provision, David Holdsworth, controller for the English regions, said.

“The BBC can be an important catalyst in what is a burgeoning sector,” he explained.

Collaboration with ‘heritage’ media could help spur growth at this level, Steve Buckley, joint managing director from Community Media Solutions, added, suggesting that support should be found for financing a professional journalist as a mentor and trainer at each community radio station in the UK.

“The time is now – not to wait for a burgeoning sector to go into decline. We cost a fraction of supporting a Channel 3 output,” said Buckley.

However, as Devereux suggested, whether these partnerships will be iterations of the old ownership model or an attempt at a new layer of cross-media, multiplayer news providers is a decision for the government and media regulator.

In tune with Devereux and Buckley’s vision for better use of community resources and independent news organisations, former Johnston Press chairman Roger Parry shared some suggestions from his recent report for the Conservative Party on local media.

Parry’s research, which looked at production costs for local news and compared regional media in the US and Canada with the UK system, suggested a network of 80 city-based, local multimedia hubs could provide the future for regional news provision in the UK.

These centres could bring in a new local video layer to the bottom of the existing news pyramid in the UK – content which could then be aggregated up to local newspapers and stations and beyond.

But to achieve this the old divisions between TV reporters and a newspaper reporter will have to be broken down. The emphasis would be on journalists as content coordinators more than content creators, he said.

WMF: Could unversities provide facilities for new local news networks?

While partnerships between news groups and across local media platforms was the focus of many presentations at yesterday’s Westminster Media Forum event, Broadcast Journalism Training Council (BJTC) secretary Jim Latham raised an interesting idea from the floor:

  • Could journalism schools at UK universities offer equipment, facilities and trainee reporters in the form of students to local media groups and proposed independently funded news consortia (IFNC)?

Latham reference the multi-million pound investment that has taken place at some institutions – including new centres at London’s City University and the University of Nottingham.

Speakers from Ofcom and ITN acknowledge the potential and admitted that this hadn’t previously been considered.

Are there legislative barriers to this happening? Or could higher education institutions play more of a role in the plans for regional news?