The Media in the Press 31.3.10

Alex McConnell, second-year Journalism student at Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers…

The planned TV news pilot for channel 3 in Scotland – paid for out of public funds – looks to be on hold. Says The Herald (page 5) and The Scotsman (page 13), the preferred bidder to run the service has reportedly been told by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that the scheduled £16 million, two-year contract won't be signed until after the 16th of next month. And that's likely to be in the middle of the General Election campaign. And The Scotsman and The Herald both have a particular interest: their publishers are part of the consortium that was chosen as the preferred bidder, ahead of a rival including current provider, STV.

And, as it is, the Conservatives have intimated they are against the pilot idea, which is intended also for Wales and Tyne Tees/Border. The chair of the Scottish News Consortium, Mark Wood, is quoted saying he is “disappointed”.

In other media news, the front page of today’s Guardian centre’s on the BBC Today programme and comments attributed to its editor, Ceri Thomas, after he appeared to suggest that most female journalists do not have a 'thick-enough skin' to deal with the radio programme's “tough” environment.

Four out of the programme's five regular presenters are male as are most of its correspondents. Although Thomas told Radio 4's Feedback programme that the gender mix was not ideal, he continued: “You have to see Today as part of a broader broadcasting world – both the BBC and beyond – and in both of those women have not been well represented at the top either as presenters, reporters or senior correspondents. 

“That is changing. If you look at the news channel or other parts of the BBC you are beginning to see changes happening quite rapidly and before long I think you will see them on the Today programme as well.

“But what you can't expect is that the Today programme is the first place you'll see those changes because it's just too tough an environment for novices, frankly.”

In response, to his comments, Radio 4 listener, Kate Francis described them as the “extraordinary stereotyping of women” and former BBC Royal correspondent, Jennie Bond, who once regularly deputised as a presenter on the show with Sue MacGregor, said that although the environment is challenging, the suggestion that women journalists are not tough enough for the post is “complete bollocks”.

And finally, the Guardian comment section has an article by Mark Lawson over whether the BBC is letting itself out as an “advertising billboard” for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End productions, including the recent Over the Rainbow programme, aimed a finding 'a new Dorothy' for a musical revival of the classic film. Lawson discusses the relationship between film and theatre and says that he “feels uneasy” with television becoming a glorified casting couch and ensuring commercial success in what is already the most lucrative form of theatre – The Guardian, page 29.

Other media news:

* The publisher of the Scottish Daily Mail –  the Daily Mail and General Trust- has said that advertising has risen for the first time since March 2008 with an eight per cent rise in this quarter. DMGT has also forecast a “significant increase” in half-year results. Regional advertising sales have fallen five per cent, against a 13 per cent fall in the previous quarter – The Times, page 41.

* The first ever, televised 'Chancellors' debate brought an extra half million viewers to Channel 4. The hour-long show, in front of a live audience, pulled in 1.8 million viewers and a 7.2 per cent share of all TV viewers at the time. The broadcast peaked towards the end of the show, with 2.1 million viewers tuning in – The Herald, page 6.