The Media in the Press 6.4.10

Second year Journalism student, Alan Robertson, of Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making it into the pages of today’s papers…

Local media face “unprecedented challenges” from the economic downturn and the internet, a parliamentary committee has warned.

In a report published today, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee voices its concern over the condition of an ailing local media.

Says John Whittingdale, the committee’s chairman, in several of today’s papers: “Local media face unprecedented challenges as a result of structural challenges and the impact of a global recession. This has led to the closure of a large number of newspapers, many commercial radio stations becoming loss-making and the possible end of regional news on commercial television. This has serious implications for local democracy.”

The provision of regional news on ITV1, meanwhile, is reaching a “crisis point”, the committee of MPs warns.

The Guardian (page 9) features the findings of the 85-page report with a special focus on the committee’s condemnation of local authority freesheets that challenge commercial newspapers while acting “as a vehicle for political propaganda”. 

Says the Guardian: “The Office of Fair Trading should investigate the recent trend of councils producing their own local newspapers, according to a committee of MPs that accuses some authorities of using public cash to finance publications that are little more than political propaganda.”

MPs have also recommended a relaxation of local media merger rules to counter the challenge of online forces such as Google News.

Says the Times (page 38): “The committee wants the Government to press ahead with changes to cross-media ownership recommended by Ofcom, the media regulator. These include relaxing the rule that no local newspaper publisher with more than 20 per cent of a market may also own a Channel 3 regional television license.”

The Daily Telegraph (page 2) instead concentrates on the committee’s concerns surrounding the digital switchover planned for radio by the end of 2015. Remote rural areas could lose out on certain channels on DAB coverage, says the Telegraph, leading the committee to recommend certain local stations be allowed to continue using FM bandwidth.

Elsewhere, a Radio Times investigation has revealed the age gap between male and female broadcasters is shrinking. The Scottish Sun (page 9) reports the results under the headline, ‘TV’s Age Bias is an Old Myth’ while the Daily Record (page 11) reads: “More older women are getting the chance to host prime-time TV shows… at least compared with 1950.”

The finding follows a series of complaints of bias in broadcasting. Though the gap appears to be closing, the survey also found only nine per cent of women on British television were aged over 50, compared with 19 per cent of men. Among those who have spoken out on the issue is actress Joanna Lumley who voices her opinion in today’s Daily Telegraph (page 8). “If you don’t look good, you’re out. But only women. Men can look like dogs’ bottoms,” Lumley is quoted as saying.

Staying with ageism, and BBC broadcaster Fiona Armstrong features in the Scottish Daily Express (page 11) following comments concerning former presenters. Says Armstrong on fellow male co-hosts in today’s Express: “I’ve certainly sat next to my fair share of frogs in my time, and I’ve been moved off sofas to make way for younger women. If I’d gone to court every time it happened I’d either be very rich or constantly at my solicitor’s.”

And finally, newspaper readers from around the world faced the challenge of spotting the ceremonial April Fool’s Day spoof last week. Not all jokes were well received, however, as Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad discovered after printing a front-page article declaring aliens in flying saucers had landed near the town of Jafr. Says Jafr’s mayor, Mohammed Mleihan in both The Scotsman (page 29) and the Daily Telegraph (page 14): “Students didn’t go to school, their parents were frightened and I almost evacuated the town’s 13,000 residents.”

Other media stories:

* The Guardian is considering outsourcing up to 55 of its staff in a bid to stem costs – The Daily Telegraph (Business, page 3).

* Ceri Thomas, editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, explains the comments on female presenters that have seen him labeled a “misogynist, a mediocrity, a moron” – The Guardian (page 27).

* BBC radio listeners have voiced their anger over the current standards of spoken English on the airwaves. Says the Scottish Daily Express (page 4): “In the past week Beeb message boards have been inundated with complaints about lax English.”

* Apple sold more than 300,000 iPad portable computers on its first day of sales – The Guardian (page 24), The Scotsman (page 14), The Times (page 5), The Independent (page 34).

* Daily Record columnist Brian McIver reflects on the necessity of 3D television when watching football – Daily Record (page 13).