The Media in the Press 26.5.10

Alex McConnell, a second year journalism student at Strathclyde University, takes a look at the media stories making the headlines today…

The era of free online news is coming to an end – well at least if you are a fan of The Times or Sunday Times. A new website launches today – – offering one month free access before charging for it. It is a bold move which has been successful in publications such as the The Financial Times, but previous forays into charging have not fared well for broad ‘general interest’ newspapers and critics are seeing it as a desperate attempt to make money in the new digital age. 

Predictably, the website launch makes the front page of The Times newspaper this morning. After the free trial is up, users will be asked to pay £2 per week or £1 for a day’s access. Murad Ahmed discusses the move which has sparked fierce debate in the industry over how quality journalism will be funded the digital future (The Times, page 15).

Ahmed notes that, to “fund the Fourth Estate”, journalism cannot continue down its present path, with the steady decline of print sales. The Times' sister titles, The Sun and The News of the World, are to charge for online content later this year. Ahmed discusses the arguments for and against the move, going on to highlight recent figures from BPI, the music industry group, showing iTunes sales accounting for a third of all music bought last year. If the public is willing to spend money online, it might also be willing to subscribe to online news and features.

In other media news, the Guardian (page 14) reports on BBC plans for a multi-million pound re-development of its Television Centre site in west London, with a 23-acre 'creative quarter'.

The development, which will be one of the biggest projects in Europe, is still under discussion but it is believed that independent TV production companies, performing groups and media companies, such as YouTube, will be offered space at the redeveloped Television Centre, which celebrates its 50th anniversary next month. Under the proposal, the BBC would sell Television Centre to developers but rent back some of the studios to continue making programmes, while the rest of centre, parts of which are crumbling, are likely to be demolished to make way for the new buildings.

The BBC announced three years ago that it planned to sell off the building, as several thousand staff from the news, children’s, sport, learning, future media and Radio 5 live departments begin to move to new homes in the refurbished Broadcasting House in central London and Salford Quays in Greater Manchester..

And finally, the controversial BBC Scotland documentary, The Scheme – following the lives of residents in a housing estate in Kilmarnock – has been postponed because a 17 year-old featured in the final two episodes, still to be broadcast, has been charged with assault (The Herald, page 3, The Scottish Sun, page 1 and The Daily Record, page 1 and 7).

The BBC announced at the end of last night’s episode that the final two episodes have had to be postponed “pending legal action relating to a person not yet seen on screen in the series”. The 17 year-old resident featured has being charged with assault and intent to rob and the programme has been pulled to avoid prejudicing his trial. A spokeswoman for the BBC added: “We understand that many viewers will be disappointed. But it is not feasible to re-edit and screen the remaining two episodes in the series at the moment.”

Despite critics blasting the fly-on-the-wall series as 'poverty porn', the show has been a ratings hit for BBC Scotland by taking 28 per cent of the audience share in its first week.