The Media in the Press 26.3.10

MA journalism student, Matthew Nelson, of Edinburgh Napier University, takes a look at the media stories making the headlines today…

The old adage that the best things in life are free has been challenged by News International (NI) today. BBC News reports that NI, who own The Times and Sunday Times, has announced that, from June, they will start charging users to access the broadsheets’ online content.

Under the new proposals, users will have to pay £1 for a day’s use and £2 for a week’s access. The Times editor, James Harding, is quoted, saying that the decision to charge “came at a defining moment for journalism … We are proud of our journalism and unashamed to say that we believe it has value.”

Given the proliferation of free sites, the strategy would seem to be a risk, something Harding accepts: “But it’s less of a risk than just throwing away our journalism and giving it away for free.” Harding’s defiant sentiments are somewhat contrasted by the BBC business editor, Tim Webber’s sidebar, though. Writes Webber: “There are no ready-made solutions to survive the on-demand media revolution … newspapers that fail along the way will be commemorated in the Church of the Dead Tree.”

Of course, yesterday brought the news that a consortium comprising the publishers of The Herald, The Scotsman and Sunday Post newspapers had pipped a rival, that included STV, to be chosen the preferred bidder to run a publicly-funded news pilot on channel 3 also dominates the headlines.

The Herald (page 5) hails the move as a 'new dawn', the optimistic opening par beginning: “A ground-breaking change in the way Scottish television news is delivered and broadcast began yesterday as a group of the nation’s leading newspaper companies were selected to produce news programming for STV.”

The Scotsman (page 10) not surprisingly also welcomes the move. Analyst Andrew Jones says: “It comes as a welcome boost to beleaguered print journalists burdened by endless talk of their impending demise.” Words of caution from Paul McManus, of the trade union of BECTU Scotland, though. He is quoted, noting “uncertainty” among his members “because they are moving over to an organisation that has no track record or experience in delivering television news”.

Further changes afoot in the media world: The Independent has been sold to a Russian billionaire for £1. The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade and James Robinson pick up the story on page 12, charting the paper’s downfall since its “idealistic” inception as “a quality daily broadsheet that would be genuinely non-partisan”.

Staying with The Guardian (the front page of the sport section now), and sports governing bodies are preparing themselves for a tussle with broadcasting regulators, Ofcom. The alleged ill-feeling comes after Ofcom announced plans to require Sky into cutting the prices at which it sells its sports channels to rivals.

Owen Gibson, summarising the malcontent, writes: “They say the ruling will damage competition and severely hit the amount broadcasters are willing to pay for rights.” A clearly riled English Cricket Board insider is quoted, saying: “It’s no good starving the game of income and ending up with a product that no one wants to watch.”