Sunday 30 November 2008

Burrell complaint against News of the World: 'I had sex with Princess Diana' story is upheld

The Press Complaints Commission today upheld ex-royal butler Paul Burrell's complaint against a News Of the World story, headlined 'Burrell: I had sex with Diana', which was published on 15 June this year.
The article reported the claim by Ron Cosgrove, the former butler's brother-in-law, that Burrell had once revealed to him in a pub that he had had sex with the Princess. The PCC said the NoW should have published Burrell's denial to the allegations. The paper claimed it had other sources to support the story. The complaint was upheld on the grounds that it breached the editors' code of practice on accuracy. You can read the full adjudication on the PCC website.

Comic Cardigan gets serious and calls for local heroes to rescue regional newspapers

The author of Press Gazette's comic column Grey Cardigan, the curmudgeonly local daily paper down table sub-editor, knows the regional press inside out. When he writes in the December issue of the magazine: "I know for a fact, confirmed by colleagues elsewhere, that the financial crisis facing our industry is far worse than many people realise," then we know things are serious.
Grey continues: "There are evening newspapers out there actually running at a loss in bad weeks. Weeklies are faring marginally better, but only because of a lower cost-base propping up a diminishing cover-price revenue. The time is clearly coming when when we shall lose small dailies, either converted into weeklies like the Bath Chronicle or into complete extinction."
His answer to the crisis in the regional press is a return to local ownership. Grey asks:"Why can't the big groups sell off their failing titles to people who would actually love and nurture them?"

Green Guardian staff win Lord's blessing

Guardian staff fighting to save trees outside their London office in Farringdon Road have been joined by leading architect Lord Richard Rogers, this week's Islington Tribune reports. According to the Tribune, the Guardian's environment editor John Vidal and columnist George Monbiot are among more than 200 staff who have objected to plans to destroy the 10 plane trees when the office is redeveloped following the paper's move to Kings Place in King's Cross. I know the Guardian consumes a vast number of trees every time it publishes but that would be a cheap shot. These trees are beautiful, see my picture, and should be saved from greedy developers.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Are newspapers on the list to be saved from bankruptcy Mr. Mandelson?

Patrick Wintour reveals in The Guardian today that Peter Mandelson is drawing up plans to choose which businesses and industries are important enough to be saved in the event of their going bankrupt as the recession bites.
Newspaper journalists and publishers must be asking: "Are we on the list?" - as the industry faces wide scale editorial redundancies, with more than 100 announced last Thursday. In what is billed as "his first newspaper interview since returning to the cabinet", the business secretary told Wintour he planned a more interventionist policy for industry. Intriguingly, it was Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger who first raised the possibility of Government intervention being required to save regional newspapers which are facing unprecedented turbulence in the economic downturn and competition for ad revenues and readers from the internet.
In London today the NUJ is holding a crisis jobs summit of reps from regional newspaper groups across the country. The union wants to draw up a co-ordinated response to editorial cuts it claims will seriously damage the quality of journalism in regional newspapers.

Working for that monster Maxwell

There are many stories about working for the tyrannical Robert Maxwell. But imagine being night editor of the Daily Record when Scottish football legend Jock Stein has just died and 20 pages need changing with less than an hour to deadline. Then the phone rings and it's "the publisher" wanting to know how big you are using his picture. Jack Irvine tells all on Gentlemen Ranters. No wonder he fled into the arms of Rupert Murdoch by joining the Scottish Sun soon after.

Friday 28 November 2008

Guido's guide to guarding sources

Blogger Guido Fawkes is encouraging whistleblowers to come forward by offering them the following protection:
"If you call the voicemail number your speech is converted to text and SMS'd to Guido's mobile phone. Your voice is then erased. If you fax a document to Guido it is converted into an image file and emailed to Guido, if it is going to be used all identifiers are digitally removed, often by converting the fax image to clean text using optical character recognition software. If you want to send an untraceable encrypted email, Guido recommends using Hushmail."
This might be useful advice for any journalists working within the Thames Valley Police area (see post below).

Police and CPS in dock over Sally Murrer

Questions are being asked today about why Milton Keynes Citizen journalist Sally Murrer has spent the last 19-months with the threat of a jail sentence hanging over her. Charges against her of “aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office” were thrown out at Kingston Crown Court in Surrey this week.
Murrer was accused of encouraging a police officer to leak confidential information but she, and the officer, were cleared after a judge ruled that Thames Valley Police had no right to bug their conversation. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said today: “This judgment sends a clear message to the authorities: they must recognise the importance of free and open journalism. Hard questions must now be asked of the police and CPS as to why these costly proceedings were allowed to get so far.”
Sadly, Press Gazette which has championed Sally Murrer's case, reports here today: "She feels so psychologically scarred by the episode that she now questions whether she will be able to work as a journalist again." People should be as angry about this as they are about the arrest of Damian Green. It is an absolute disgrace.

Move to Associated will 'safeguard' Indy and IoS

The Independent and Independent on Sunday are to transfer from Docklands to Northcliffe House, Kensington, headquarters of Daily Mail-publisher Associated Newspapers, in a move which staff have been told will "safeguard" the future of the two papers.
Under an agreement signed today, Independent Newspaper titles will have their own dedicated office space and will share some back office services at Associated, which publishes the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard, Metro and London Lite.
The two groups’ editorial, management and commercial operations will remain separate. The Independent and Independent on Sunday will remain under the full ownership of INM. The move will take place at the end of January 2009. It follows last week’s announcement of a major editorial restructuring of The Independent which will deliver annual cost efficiencies of around £10 million. The new shared service agreement with Associated will deliver additional savings. Staff have been told that the chance to share office space and exploring sharing back-office services will help safeguard the future of The Independent and Independent on Sunday. Independent managing director Simon Kelner was on the Mail on Sunday and knows the Associated headquarters in Kensington well.

James Cameron in The Guardian today

The great journalist James Cameron knew my father. He was his doctor. James wrote a wonderful column about my dad Jerry Slattery when he died, which The Guardian has re-published here today as the archive piece on its leader page. It was a bit of a shock to read it again more than 30 years later. I hope they are sharing a whisky somewhere.

NUJ holds regional jobs crisis summit

An emergency meeting of NUJ reps from across the regional press is to be held in London tomorrow as the jobs crisis in the industry escalates with 100 editorial posts axed in one day. Yesterday, a total of 59 redundancies were announced across Trinity Mirror’s north west division, which includes 43 jobs at the company’s Liverpool titles and eight from north Wales. Telegraph Media Group has also announced plans to make cuts, which could lead to 50 jobs going and the Cumbria-based CN Group said yesterday that 30 jobs were being cut. The NUJ says the aim of Saturday's meeting is to co-ordinate a campaign against the job cuts.

Gaunty 'humbled' by Shami

Sacked shock-jock Jon Gaunt admits in his Sun column today to being humbled by the support he has received from Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti over his firing from talkSPORT radio for calling a councillor a 'Nazi'. Chakrabarti has written to Gaunt's bosses defending his right to freedom of speech and calling for his reinstatement, even though the right-wing pundit has dubbed her the "most dangerous woman in Britain". Gaunt reveals today that he was put in touch with the Liberty director by another of his supporters, ex-SAS author Andy McNab. Gaunt admits he thought it was a "wind-up" by McNab. He is also taking some stick. One friend (Kelvin MacKenzie?) told him:"Gaunty, all these Lefties backing you . . . it’s political correctness gone mad.”

More job cuts expected at Newsquest today

The NUJ is predicting that the latest round of redundancies will be announced at Newsquest's Bradford centre today. NUJ members in Bradford have voted to ballot for industrial action if redundancies are compulsory. The union claims the expected job cuts would leave the company’s editorial workforce at 60 per cent of its strength, compared to eight years ago. It also says that management last week broke off pay talks, withdrew an offer of three per cent and imposed a pay freeze.
According to the NUJ, managers have said proposals for job cuts will be revealed to journalists on the Telegraph & Argus, Keighley News, Craven Herald, Ilkley Gazette and Wharfedale Observer. NUJ Bradford FoC Bob Smith said: "First, managers told staff they would get no extra pay...then, they dropped the jobs bombshell, saying the editorial department would be cut by ten per cent."
The NUJ claims there was a "David Brent moment" when group editor Perry Austin-Clarke revealed he had been offered a pay rise for taking on extra responsibility following the departure from the company of the Newsquest Bradford managing director Charlie Birrell.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Black day in British newspaper history

Barring a newspaper closing down, today must rank as one of the bleakest in the history of the British Press with job cuts being announced across the country. Just look at the headlines today on Media Guardian, Press Gazette and Hold The Front Page. '50 jobs to go at Telegraph titles,' 'Trinity Mirror to cut 78 jobs in north-west restructure,' 'Savage cuts at Times's London bureau,' 'Newsquest axes editors and publishers', 'CN Group cuts up to 30 jobs' . It is the scale of the cuts that is so frightening: 10 per cent of journalists at the Telegraph and 25 per cent at Trinity Mirror in Liverpool. And no doubt there is more to come, both on national and regional newspapers. An announcement is expected tomorrow about redundancies at the Newsquest Bradford centre. It is relentless. I covered the newspaper industry for 23 years at Press Gazette and in all that time I don't remember anything remotely as bad as this.

Was Barter miles ahead of his time?

Interesting piece here by Miles Barter, the NUJ's new campaigns officer, on the 'grim state of the local press'. He writes on the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom website: "Britain’s local papers - and the journalists who work for them - are being run into the ground by five big companies who care nothing for communities, and are obsessed with profit." His comments were made not just pre-credit crunch but more than three years ago in August 1985 when the profits were still rolling in. I imagine his shocking salary figures - he tells of a news editor quitting to get more money at McDonald's - were gleaned when he was the union's northern organiser.

'Complacent' local press needs BBC challenge

Still a lot of fall out from the decision by the BBC Trust to block the BBC's proposal to spend £68 million beefing up its local websites with video reports. The decision followed intense lobbying by regional newspaper publishers. But Victor Keegan writing in Technology Guardian BBC has right to be in local arena today argues that more local presence by the BBC would lead to monopoly regional publishers being less complacent.
He writes: "The argument that local BBC video will depress commercial activity could be turned on its head: the presence of the BBC in many areas covered by local newspaper monopolies may be just what they need to galvanise them out of complacency. I come into contact with local papers in London and Herefordshire. In London my local paper covering Paddington, Marylebone and Pimlico last had a video on its website more than three weeks ago. In the country example, there are two papers in neighbouring country towns owned by the same company. I can't find any videos at all. If I owned them, I would like to keep the BBC out too."

Festive story intro of the week..

"A Santa Claus was removed from his grotto after a woman complained that he asked if she wanted to sit on his lap, despite warnings about his behaviour by his helper elf."

From today's Guardian by Alexandra Topping under the headline: Trouble in lap-land as Santa loses job

Regionals showing 'economics of the madhouse'

Pithy comment from NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear on the state of the regional press, from his blog: "It is to borrow a phrase the 'economics of the madhouse' that an industry which has had 15 years of huge profits and which is still for the most part profitable is hacking at its very core, axing hundreds of journalists and in effect destroying the ability of many of their titles to be able to thrive the other side of a recession."

Will the Government have to bail out regional press and prove Rusbridger right?

When the editor of The Guardian Alan Rusbridger suggested earlier this month that state intervention may be needed to save regional papers from closing and the country losing an important part of the democratic process there weren't many takers. Most of the people attending the Society of Editors conference in Bristol thought it was a non-starter. Since then the news out of the regional press has got bleaker and bleaker. Hundreds of jobs are being lost and closures coming ever closer. So interesting to see a piece today by Peter Kirwan, who writes on financial matters on the Press Gazette website, headed: Anyone up for nationalizing Johnston Press? Peter floats the scenario of the Royal Bank of Scotland, soon to be 60 per cent owned by the Government, taking control of Johnston Press. He asks: "Just got used to the idea of HM Government owning banks? What about the prospect of banks owning newspaper publishers? Or, more properly: the prospect of HM Government owning banks that in turn own newspaper publishers?" Intriguing.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Grey Cardigan:"Newsquest should be ashamed"

Press Gazette's columnist Grey Cardigan points out that the move by Newsquest in York to amalgamate the job of daily editor, managing director and weekly editor into the new role of managing editor will mean an industry first - a daily regional newspaper without a dedicated editor. As reported in the post below, Hold The Front Page revealed today 'Editors and MD to compete for single job' that in York, Press editor Kevin Booth, weekly editor Chris Buxton and managing director Steve Hughes have been made redundant and must now apply for the new managing editor's post. Grey Cardigan describes the move as an "utter disgrace" and says Newsquest should be "deeply ashamed". You can read his broadside 'Welcome to the editorless daily newspaper' here.

It's a different world for the BBC

The Guardian reports here today that the BBC is claiming that the blocking by the BBC Trust, following vigorous lobbying by regional newspaper publishers, of its plans to sink £68 million into expanding its local websites will cost 400 jobs, 200 of which would have been new posts.
That is little comfort for all the local journalists being made redundant who would love to work for the BBC. But it still seems amazing that the BBC could create 200 new local journalists' jobs in the middle of the worst recession in regional newspaper history. It has reached the stage where Hold The Front Page reports today that two editors and a managing director have been made redundant by Newsquest in York and are having to compete for one new post replacing their jobs!
I remember in the early days of the internet being at a conference at City University when an American asked the man who had set up the BBC's web operation what his business model was. What he wanted to know was what the BBC's profit and loss projections were. The BBC man replied "I was just told to create the best website I could." It's a different world.

Jon Gaunt: '20,000 want me back at talkSport'

Sacked shock-jock Jon Gaunt has said in an e-mail to subscribers to his website "There have now been the best part of 20,000 emails sent in to talkSPORT of support, so thank you very much. Plus the press are also supporting me and I am delighted that Liberty have taken up the case."
It was revealed yesterday that civil rights group Liberty had written to talkSPORT bosses urging Gaunt's reinstatement. This was despite the fact that Gaunt, in one of his Sun columns, had described Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti as the “most dangerous woman in Britain.” Gaunt, sacked for calling a local councillor "a Nazi", claims talkSPORT chief executive Scott Taunton is sending out a standard email to his supporters, stating: "Following a thorough internal investigation into events surrounding Mr Gaunt`s interview with Redbridge councillor Michael Stark on 7th November, he was found to be in breach of a significant number of obligations he made in a signed agreement with the station. I have, of course, set out each of these in a letter to Jon. As you are no doubt aware, Jon has stated his intention to take legal action over the matter and I am therefore unable to comment further to you at this stage."
Given, Gaunt's forthright right wing views he is attracting an unlikley alliance of liberal supporters which include Guardian columnist Mark Lawson. "He is nowhere near as right wing in real life as his on air persona would suggest," one of his supporters tells me.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

After the BBC is defeated ...along comes the Guardian's local web expansion plans

Just when regional publishers have beaten off a bid by the BBC to expand its local web sites...along comes The Guardian.
PaidContent:UK, whose parent company is a subsidiary of the Guardian group, reports here today that Guardian Media Group is considering starting news websites to serve local communities. Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is quoted by former Press Gazette staffer Patrick Smith as saying: "There’s plainly an interesting opportunity there… if the existing players don’t manage it.” PaidContent:UK was following up an earlier story from North West media website How-Do which claimed GMG was researching a Guardian-branded “Guardian Cities” project to “connect you with your local community, cover local issues and provide you with information that was highly relevant to your area”. According to How-Do, GMG is looking at launching a website to cover the whole of Manchester.
Rusbridger has suggested ailing regional newspapers might need Government cash. He said of the blocked BBC plans to beef up its local websites with video reports: “I’m sure some forms of local news coverage will replace it, whether it’s the current (print) players because they’re burdened down with debt, or not… "
That's not going to leave the victorious regional publishers (outside GMG) very happy.

Exclusive: Liberty's 'Most dangerous woman in Britain' backs sacked shock-jock Jon Gaunt

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, is backing sacked shock-jock Jon Gaunt who was fired by talkSPORT radio for calling a councillor "a Nazi".
In a letter sent to talkSPORT on behalf of Gaunt, the Liberty director said: “…As someone who has been on the receiving end of Jon Gaunt’s blunt polemic in print and on the radio, I believe that the airwaves of a great democracy would be the poorer for his absence. I urge you to reinstate Mr Gaunt’s programme without delay and have offered him support in the unlikely and unfortunate event that recourse to the Human Rights Act proves necessary.”
Gaunt, also a Sun columnist, is known for his right-wing views. He called Shami Chakrabarti the “most dangerous woman in Britain,” in his column in the Sun newspaper on June 19 2007 and has often voiced his opposition to the Human Rights Act. He told The Independent on Saturday he was the "antidote to the lefty consensus". Gaunt has already won support from another unlikely source, Mark Lawson in The Guardian. You can read the full text of Liberty's letter to talkSPORT here. Gaunt claims on his website that 15,000 supporters have called for his reinstatement.

BBC research shows newspapers, radio, tv, web and mobiles create "news ecosystem"

BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann has an interesting blog here looking at research into how people get their news at different times of the day, especially when they are on the move, and how likely they are to use their mobiles to access information. The results showed:
• Most people were getting their news and information in a variety of different ways and from different places in the course of a day or a week
• Researchers described each person as having a "news ecosystem", where an individual might read several papers, hear news on the radio, look at various websites and/or TV channels for news
• The habits of the modern news consumer were described as "increasingly eclectic and multiplatform"
• As for mobiles, people were typically using them for headlines, major stories and areas of specific interest
Herrmann says: "As mobile devices get smarter and connectivity better it seems reasonable to expect that people will increasingly be using them to do some of the things they already do on a desktop PC... For the BBC's mobile services overall, there are currently about 3.2m UK users a month, and this has grown by 25 per cent over the past year. But that number is still very small compared with those accessing the BBC website overall (22m unique users per week)."
The BBC has just launched a campaign to publicise how to get the BBC News website on a mobile phone.

How much is a weekly editor worth?

Good piece in The Guardian yesterday about a day in the life of the Leigh Journal by John Harris. It told of the uphill battle by editor Mike Hulme and news editor Brian Gomm to bring out the Newsquest-owned weekly paper with a staff of three, including themselves. Both are journalists with decades of experience in the regional press. I was left wondering what all that experience is worth to Newsquest and what these journalist earn. Looking at the jobs further on in The Guardian I hope it is more than a press office manager's post for the Borough of Barking & Dagenham, which is advertised with a salary of between £40,194 and £42,813, but I very much doubt it.

Monday 24 November 2008

Police alerted over BNP threats to 'visit' journalists who publish membership list

Police have been alerted over threats made to journalists who have published the BNP membership list which has been leaked online. NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear, who has himself been a BNP target, says in his blog: "We are dealing with the fall out of journalists being threatened who write about the leak and provide any details and or links. I understand the BNP legal team and security will be visiting errant journalists. The police have been alerted."
Surprisingly, given their divergent political views, Dear's blog praises Jon Gaunt's column in The Sun about the BNP on Friday. I also hear that Gaunt has been getting some advice about his sacking from talkSPORT, for calling a councillor a "Nazi", from NUJ communications officer Miles Barter. "Gaunty" and Miles used to work together at BBC Radio Coventry. The advice is being given as a friend rather than in an official union capacity. Gaunt is gaining support from some unlikely sources like Mark Lawson in The Guardian. Whatever next ? Will the right-wing shock jock be getting the backing of Amnesty, Liberty or even Matthew Norman?

More like 'Hold The Front Rage'

Wow! Some of the posted comments by regional journalists on Hold The Front Page take a very cynical view of what will happen now their employers have defeated the BBC's plans to expand local websites. Not surprisingly, there is anger at the spate of job cuts. Here are a sample:
Shuttleboy: "I am now really looking forward to seeing the newspaper groups invest in lots of new online journalists jobs. They will do won't they? They won't simply rest on their laurels and continue cutting back on editorial money to protect their bottom line will they? We haven't just seen 300-plus new journalists jobs blown away for nothing have we?"
Simon:"The newspaper lobby's argument has been that this would stifle their own online innovation and investment. The proof of the pudding will now be in the eating. If we still see jobs going, budgets slashed and weak, half hearted stabs at online coverage then that argument will be revealed as being nothing but profit driven humbug."
Douglas:" It's a victory for newspaper owners who want to keep their papers going, but problematic for journalists who will still potentially find themselves out of a job."
RichardB:"I'm really glad Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey will now be able to practice what she preaches and "continue to invest" in the regional press. Her recent decision to close 44 local titles, axe 1,200 jobs and freeze every one's pay rise next year is simply inspired - the epitome of investment. Serious competition from someone like the BBC is the strategically aimed boot this industry needs. Newspaper bosses' opposition has nothing to do with quality and everything to do with share prices, personal bonuses and utter greed."
hacked off :"It's a shame. Some healthy competition would have forced newspaper companies to properly invest in video and other online coverage. As it is, they'll continue cutting staff and expecting their dwindling news teams to somehow deliver hours of video."
Des:"This could be a Pyrrhic victory for the regional press, they'll now spend valuable resources spending money on websites which one man and his dog will view."

Sunday 23 November 2008

Revamped Sunday Times mag a winner

The new look Sunday Times Magazine is bound to pick up a clutch of gongs when the awards are handed out next year. The new lay-out is superb and best of all is its new Spectrum section showing photography from around the world. Today it has an 18 page photo special on Barack Obama's election campaign uninterrupted by adverts. Great stuff.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Charles Moore stands by pledge not to pay TV licence fee while BBC employs Jonathan Ross

Daily Telegraph columnist and former editor Charles Moore today repeated his pledge, made three weeks ago, that he will refuse to renew his television licence while Jonathan Ross remains employed by the BBC.
Moore, writing in the Telegraph 'The BBC Was Too Scared To Sack Ross' , says he will donate the £139.50 cost of renewing his licence to Help the Aged. He notes that £139.50 represents just ".002325 per cent of Ross's BBC salary". Fellow Telegraph columnist Simon Heffer backs Moore's campaign but confesses he won't be joining him in jail. "The BBC Trust clearly does not grasp the level of public anger, whatever it may say. I don't blame Charles Moore for leading the campaign to withhold the licence fee in response to this social atrocity. Were it not that I think Radio 3 alone is worth the fee, I should happily share a cell with him," Heffer says in the Telegraph today.

Friday 21 November 2008

Cuts, closures and pay freeze at Northern Echo

Newsquest announced today that it was axing 17 editorial posts at the Northern Echo and its related weeklies and closing five district offices, capping another terrible week of economic news for the regional press. Journalists throughout Newsquest were told yesterday a pay freeze was being imposed until April. The Echo district offices to close are in Stockton, Redcar, Barnard Castle, Richmond and Thirsk. NUJ members at the paper are to discuss the cuts on Monday. Trinity also imposed a pay freeze this week and Northcliffe warned it would have to make "significant" savings next year.
Update: The NUJ members voted to ballot on industrial action and say they are totally opposed to compulsory redundancies.

BBC News snubs Radio 4's Feedback again

Why won't BBC News put up anyone to appear on the BBC's Radio 4 Feedback programme and take a grilling from presenter Roger Bolton? Today Bolton said that no-one from BBC News would appear on Feedback to answer claims by listeners that news bulletins had plugged Panorama's "Baby P" investigation when it wasn't proper news but PR for the programme. It is the third snub for Feedback. BBC News refused to appear on Feedback to defend the BBC's coverage of the economic crisis and before that, John Humphry's robust interview with Alistair Darling. What are they afraid of?

Pics and video show grenade blast injuries to photojournalist covering Geneva demo

This is the moment a British photojournalist was injured by a stun grenade thrown by a Geneva police officer, according to the NUJ which released pictures and a video of the incident today.
The images will form part of an appeal by photographer Guy Smallman against a Swiss court ruling that police were not to blame for the injuries he suffered while covering protests outside a G8 summit in June 2003. In the video the photographer is seen running from a group of police officers throwing the grenades. Photographs also show him lying injured. Smallman is taking his case to the federal court in Switzerland. Lawyers in Switzerland are submitting the paperwork for his appeal this week.
A video of the incident can be seen on YouTube here

A Word about privacy

Great quote on The Word magazine's subscribers' email about the privacy debate. "When it comes to privacy and accountability, people always demand the former for themselves and the latter for everyone else" - David Brin, sci-fi author.

NUJ says Trust blocking of BBC local website expansion is a 'missed opportunity'

As regional newspaper publishers celebrated victory in defeating the BBC's plans for a £68 million expansion of its local website services, the NUJ claimed it was a "missed opportunity" for local news and a blow for new jobs for journalists.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “This decision is a missed opportunity to improve local news for communities around the country. Local papers are closing and job cuts mean thousands of journalists don’t have the time to do their jobs properly anymore. ITV is withdrawing from its regional and local news commitments. Against a significant decline in local journalism, here was an opportunity to take a small step in the opposite direction by actually enhancing local news provision.
"The BBC made commitments to invest in local and regional news services. We expect the corporation to stick to its promises and ensure that other news services now benefit from this investment. Newspaper employers have spent years taking huge profits out of local media whilst cutting jobs. Now they have helped stop new jobs being created because they said such competition would stifle their investment.
“Now is the time for them to put their money where their mouth is and invest more in local journalism - in jobs, in training and in resources for hard-pressed newsrooms.”

Was it Press Gazette wot won it for the regionals and kept the BBC at bay?

The Newspaper Society's excellent lobbying skills played a major part in getting the BBC Trust to today block the BBC's proposals to beef up its 65 local websites with a £68 million investment to add video reports.
But another important factor in stopping the plan was the ill judged comments on the state of the regional press by Trust chairman Sir Michael Lyons made at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch on 15 October, first reported by Paul McNally in Press Gazette. Lyons infuriated local newspaper publishers by stating: "There's nobody who can be satisfied with the quality of local news in most parts of the United Kingdom...The local press has nothing like the strength that it once had. It's not the same proposition that it was 15 years ago."
These comments left Lyons open to claims he had already pre-judged the issue and was biased. The NS threatened a legal challenge and newspaper executives like Trinity Mirror boss Sly Bailey slammed the Trust chairman. The remarks helped galvanise the campaign to stop the BBC which gained high profile support from the likes of Tory leader David Cameron. I am sure the top four regional newspaper publishers will show their thanks by lifting their ban on advertising in Press Gazette. The magazine's editor Dominic Ponsford reveals today in a comment on his blog that the Trust tried to make Press Gazette retract the quotes but it had them on tape.
Lyons said today the Trust recognised the negative impact that the local video proposition could have on commercial media services which are valued by the public and are already under pressure. "Our decision to refuse permission for local video means that local newspapers and other commercial media can invest in their online services in the knowledge that the BBC does not intend to make this new intervention in the market."

Thursday 20 November 2008

Now MPs tell Trinity 'scrap pay freeze'

The NUJ's Parliamentary Group of MPs has urged Trinity Mirror to scrap its staff pay freeze.
Austin Mitchell MP, chair of the group, said: ‘The answer to bad trading conditions isn't to reduce the quality of newspapers by firing journalists or cutting pay. Trinity Mirror has already axed 1,200 jobs. Enough is enough. Stop the rot and boost the quality. Don't attack the journalists."
Jeremy Corbyn MP, a member of the group, added: "Journalists at their best are the unsung heroes of democracy. Properly paid and effective local journalists are the life blood of local democracy and information provision." The Corbyn "democracy" argument might have some sway with MPs who are already concerned about the demise of ITV regional news and know the collapse of the regional and local press would give them much reduced media contact with the electorate. Maybe Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's idea that there may have to be state subsidies for regional newspaper will win some support among MPs.

MP urges Trinity re-think on job cuts

MPs have backed the Newspaper Society campaign to stop the BBC beefing up its local websites for fear of damaging the local press. So, it is interesting to see today that MPs are waking up to the impact of the growing cut-backs and job losses facing the regional newspaper industry.
Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Ashok Kumar, has tabled an Early Day Motion asking Trinity Mirror to think again about proposals to close district offices and cut editorial staff at the Middlesbrough-based Teesside Evening Gazette. The MP said: "The staff based in the district offices are simply the eyes and ears of the paper in areas where there is often a lot of news generated. These closures would mean that local news may end up unreported, and which in turn would mean a blander paper, and one that could lose readership as a result."
The EDM states: "That this House is concerned by the proposal of the Teesside Evening Gazette, as administered by the Trinity Mirror Group, to shut their offices in Redcar, Stockton and Guisborough; opposes the proposal to make a number of editorial staff redundant; notes that this will result in many parts of Teesside being under-represented in the media and could therefore cause a decline in local news coverage in the area; and requests the Trinity Mirror Group to reconsider its decision." The severe problems facing regional newspaper publishers were underlined today when Northcliffe Media announced profits were down 32 per cent and pledged to make "significant" savings in 2009.
Expect more action from MPs particularly if, as predicted by Roy Greenslade today, regional newspapers will close because of the financial crisis.

Grey Cardigan rages at Johnston Press

Press Gazette's famed columnist Grey Cardigan, the embodiment of a curmudgeonly down table sub on a regional newspaper, has really lost it and gone for the jugular of Johnston Press. Grey in a posting on his Press Gazette blog blames Johnston's one time bumper profit margin of 35 per cent for wrecking the regional newspaper industry. He says acerbically: "When the time comes to record the demise of this great game, that will be identified as the point that it all went tits up." Grey's outburst was prompted by the news that Trinity Mirror is imposing a pay freeze on its staff. The move has gone down badly with the NUJ which claims it is an insult to staff. The union is not mollified by the £720,000 a year Trinity chief Sly Bailey saying she will not take a bonus. The NUJ announced today it will be holding a "jobs summit" on 24 January to discuss the growing employment crisis in the media. Daily Mail & General Trust revealed today that it is in the process of cutting 400 jobs across the company.

Wednesday 19 November 2008

Dear 'sickened' by BNP leader Griffin

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said today it was "sickening" to hear BNP leader Nick Griffin saying he would use the Human Rights Act to protect the privacy of the right-wing group after details of its membership were leaked to the web.
Dear, writing on his blog said: "Like thousands of other trade union and anti-racist activists I'm busy scouring through the BNP membership list which has been published (and is on wikileaks) this morning. I've had neo-nazis threaten me at home, publish my details on Redwatch, the right-wing website designed to target and intimidate journalists and trade unionists, and was once physically assaulted by them and had to go to hospital. The BNP have staged demonstrations outside the NUJ's head office and have issued threats to dozens of our members - particularly in Yorkshire. How sickening to hear Nick Griffin on Five Live this morning say he would use the Human Rights Act to protect privacy when he stands for abolishing the act. Hypocrite."
Professor Adrian Monck, head of journalism at City University, has also been a victim of the BNP. Writing on his blog today, he said: "The BNP once posted my email address on their website. I got 400 emails of varying degrees of unpleasantness...Now the BNP says it isn’t a racist, thuggish party, but I’m certainly glad they didn’t know where I lived. And I’m very glad I now know where they live. But here’s my challenge - who’ll be first to mash up the data and produce a map of the membership?"

NS leading in fight to block BBC local plans

The Newspaper Society has done a great job on behalf of the regional press in lobbying against BBC proposals to beef up its local websites. Conservative leader David Cameron spoke out yesterday against the BBC "crushing" local competition when addressing the Newspaper Conference, which is made up of political editors whose newspapers are members of the NS. Sceptics like former Sunday Sun editor Chris Rushton, who wonder how regional papers can demand protection for their patches when they are chopping staff, appear to be in the minority. But there is a real dilemma for regional journalists. They know if the BBC steals local press audiences with bumped up websites, it could lead to lower ad revenues and threaten their jobs. On the other hand, if they are going to lose their jobs anyway because of the rise of the web they wouldn't half like to work for the BBC's local websites.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Desire for quality journalism as crisis pushes Paris Hilton down the news agenda

Despite the increasing number of staff journalists being made redundant, there are still reasons to be cheerful, according to Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger. He said tonight: "There are many reasons to be depressed by thousands of lay-offs, around 10,000 estimated in the US, but there are also thousands of people doing great journalism in new ways."
Schlesinger, speaking at the launch of a new book, 'International News Reporting: Frontiers and Deadlines' by John Owen and Heather Purdey, said there was "an insatiable appetite for news about the world, a desire and a market for news." He told the audience at the Cass Business School, London, that quality would win out. " Journalism was always a hard profession to get into. If you are really good you can find a niche." Reuters journalist Peter Apps, a fellow panelist looking at the future of international news reporting, agreed there was "still a huge demand for hard information. The internet is fuelled by it," but asked: "the demand is there but are people going to pay for it?" Schlesinger said that Reuters had 2,564 staff around the world, more than it had ever had in its history. And news about the credit crisis had meant demand for entertainment stories about celebrities, like Paris Hilton and Madonna, as well as sport had dropped off.

It was 30 years ago...and bloody freezing

This winter marks the 3oth anniversary of the NUJ's first and only national strike involving 8,000 regional journalists who walked out in protest at the Newspaper Society's pay offer. It is seen as something of a triumph for the union because it was solidly supported by members for seven long weeks and resulted in a 14 per cent pay rise. It was a high point of militancy in a union whose members often find it easier to disagree than show solidarity.
But before people get too overcome with comradely nostalgia it is important to remember the downsides. Going on strike in the middle of a harsh winter and over Christmas was extremely tough on the membership... it was bloody freezing.
The strike proved that without printers backing the journalists, newspapers could still come out using Press Association copy for nearly two months despite having large numbers of their editorial staff in danger of hypothermia on the picket lines outside.
NUJ members returned to work without being able to secure the reinstatement of members sacked on the Nottingham Evening Post who had backed the dispute, even though the Post was not covered by the NS agreement.
It led to the end of a national pay agreement with the NS which had at least set minimum rates for regional newspapers.
Finally, despite that show of militancy, rates of pay on regional newspapers are still dreadful.

Monday 17 November 2008

Something Dacre and The Guardian can agree on: massive legal costs are bad news

According to the latest Private Eye, law firm Carter-Ruck has sent The Guardian a bill for £800,000 for the costs of representing Tesco in its libel claim against the paper, which was settled out of court. The Guardian published an apology to Tesco and paid modest damages, said by the Eye to be around £5,000. Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre in his Society of Editors' speech highlighted a case in which the Mail on Sunday was last year ordered to pay Labour MP Martyn Jones damages of £5,000 after alleging he had sworn at a Commons official. The MoS faced a legal bill of £388,000 from the MP's lawyers plus its own costs of £136,000. In his SoE speech, Dacre said: "Today newspapers, even wealthy ones like the Mail, think long and hard before contesting actions even if they know they are in the right for fear of the ruinous financial implications. For the local press such actions are now, almost certainly, out of the question. Instead they stump up some cash to settle as quickly as possible to avoid court actions which if they were to lose could, in some cases, close them. Some justice."

Sign of the times?

Society of Editors' executive director Bob Satchwell in a review of the society's conference, held in Bristol last week, reveals: "The only serious downside was the relative shortage of regional editors. That is perhaps understandable in the current climate but hopefully those chief executives who attended will spread the word that the conference – the only one with converged, multi media credentials – is the one not to be missed for informed discussion, new encouraging ideas and a touch of camaraderie under fire!"

Friday 14 November 2008

NUJ's Journalist celebrates centenary with revamp but cuts back to six issues a year

Congratulations to the NUJ's magazine The Journalist which celebrated its 100th birthday at a bar in King's Cross tonight. Congratulations too to Tim Gopsill who has held the editor's post for 20 years. Not an easy task in a union which at times has been riven by factional infighting.
Tim, in a speech marking the centenary, told how in his first five years as editor the then general secretary Harry Conroy had denied him a computer on the grounds that direct input would "put printers out of work".
The Journalist has a new design and is embracing the digital age by putting more news online but is at the same time going bi-monthly, cutting back from 10 to six issues a year. The logic of this is easy to understand. It saves the union £90,000 a year and fits in with the current thinking that news should go online and magazines concentrate on features and analysis. I just hope the website can keep the personality and independence of the magazine. Who will run the website, the editor of The Journalist (who is elected by the membership) or union apparatchiks?
One bit of good news for the union is that Miles Barter, former northern organiser of the NUJ, has been tempted back into the fold to work for the communications department in London. Barter, a former regional weekly editor and one time Midlands' correspondent for Press Gazette, is a first class journalist. One of Miles' best scoops was tracking down and interviewing an NUJ finance officer who had disappeared and was the subject of a police investigation. The cops couldn't find him but Miles did.

Crisis costing '140 news media jobs a week'

At last someone has attempted to collate the number of news media jobs going in in the current economic crisis. Peter Kirwan, who writes a blog on financial matters for Press Gazette, has done the sums and claims that media jobs are being slashed at the rate of 140 a week - and that figure is rising. He estimates that 2,709 posts have been axed since the crisis began in July. You can read Peter's conclusions here. It is notoriously difficult to establish the exact number of redundancies. Some companies could be cutting jobs and not replacing staff without having to make any formal announcement. So well done Peter for having a try.
NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear in his blog today welcomes the Press Gazette story but says of the estimate of job cuts: "That seriously underplays the problem which is in large part caused by non-replacement of staff. The true picture in some newsrooms is grim. For example yesterday I spoke to a journalist at a daily regional paper who was the only reporter there that day. The reporting staff as a whole has dropped by half. It's a familiar story for those working in local newspapers. But it is also now becoming more familiar to those working across the media ."
Emap announced 40 redundancies today.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Would the PCC have backed Max Mosley and spanked the News of the World?

The Press Complaints Commission is probably glad that it did not have to adjudicate over the revelations in the News of the World about F1 president Max Mosley. The issue seems to have divided the media and flared up again with Paul Dacre's speech at the Society of Editors' conference attacking Mr. Justice Eady's ruling in favour of protecting Mosley's right to privacy. Dacre described Mosley's behaviour in paying women to spank him as "unimaginable sexual depravity". But what would the PCC have done? Talking to those in the know at the SoE conference was interesting. They believe that the PCC would have had to have found against the NoW because there were no overwhelming public interest grounds for invading Mosley's privacy. That would have been a highly controversial decision at a time when the PCC is worried that the poor financial state of the media may lead to calls to cut its budget, which is solely funded by the newspaper and magazine industry.

MPs join protest over BBC local web plans

Two Early Day Motions have been put down in the House of Commons attacking BBC plans to expand its local websites beacuse of the impact it would have on the viability of local and regional newspapers.
One by Tory MP Anne Main reads: "That this House notes BBC proposals to expand local news provision through 65 local video sites; further notes the benefits to local communities that commercial local news providers and their websites supply in reporting local news; recognises the tremendous work of local newspaper reporters and broadcasters in providing reports on local events and community groups; and is concerned that proposals by the BBC or any similarly unfairly state-funded competitor may challenge the viability of commercial local news providers."
And one put down by Carlisle Labour MP Eric Martlew says: "That this House notes with concern plans by the BBC to use money from the licence fee to fund a new service, BBC Local Video, which will threaten the viability of local and regional press; recognises that the intention of the BBC to spend £68 million will be hugely damaging to the newspaper industry and will duplicate local newspapers' online news and sports services with a network of 65 video sites; acknowledges that such proposals, financed by public funds, will give the BBC an unfair and disproportionate advantage over local and regional press; and urges the BBC to review these proposals and put greater investment into improving and extending local and regional television news services."
It seems the Newspaper Society is getting its message across.

Ad decline 'accelerating' says Trinity

More bad news today with Trinity Mirror announcing in an interim management statement that underlying ad revenues are down 20.1 per cent in the 17 weeks to 26 October. Trinity says that trading conditions have continued to deteriorate since the half year, with rates of decline "accelerating in all advertising categories". The company says it will deliver cost savings of £25 million in 2008 and at least £20 million will be delivered in 2009. Trinity Mirror closed 28 newspapers this year.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Johnston Press warns of 'deteriorating' job, property and display ad revenues

Johnston Press released its interim management statement today which shows total advertising revenues for the 44 weeks to 1 November 2008 were 15.5 per cent down on the same period in the prior year. The statement reflects concerns of regional editors at the Society of Edtiors conference this week (see post below) about the impact the economic recession is having on the profitability of the regional press.
The Johnston statement says: "At the half year results announcement on 27 August 2008, the Group disclosed total advertising revenues had declined for the first 26 weeks of the year on a like-for-like and constant currency basis by 9.5 per cent. Overall performance has deteriorated since then due to further substantial declines in property advertising combined with significant falls in employment and display advertising as the UK and Republic of Ireland economies suffered from both the "credit crunch" and a reduction in economic activity as both countries encountered recessionary pressures.
"In weeks 27-44, there were year-on-year declines in property of 48.4%, employment 32.1%, motors 24.3% and display 12.1% on a like-for-like and constant currency basis."
Newspaper sales revenues are said to be "slightly down" on last year with circulations suffering from both the general economic conditions and a significant reduction in levels of interest in the property market. Johnston's net debt at 1 November 2008 was £465 million, a reduction of £19 million from the balance at 30 June 2008.
The statement adds: "Given the challenging and deteriorating economic and operating environment, the Group is concentrating on managing its cost base." This suggest more job cuts could be on the cards.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Just how bad is it going to get?

The question posed most frequently at this week’s Society of Editors’ conference in Bristol was “just how painful is this going to be?” By “this” editors mean a combination of negative forces that are engulfing the regional press and some fear will create a “perfect storm”.
Falling circulation and ad revenues combined with the fallout from the credit crunch, all at a time when newspapers are trying to develop digital services, has led to the gloomiest predictions about the future.
Many of the editors say their papers have been cut to the bone and see regional newspaper closures as inevitable. No wonder that the idea of bailing out struggling regionals with state subsidies has been floated. Or that lobbying has already begun for the Government to relax the newspaper takeover regulations.
Some believe the picture will get even gloomier when Trinity and Johnston Press announce their figures shortly. Pessimists have not ruled out a major regional newspaper group crashing into administration because of massive falls in ad revenues. New SoE president Nigel Pickover has urged owners to stop “milking” the regional press and to take their “foot off the profit pedal”. But is there any milk left?” There are a lot of very worried newspaper people out there.

Bailey battered for breakfast

The Society of Editors’ conference in Bristol opened with a bang with Paul Dacre’s speech attacking a judge, and it ended today with a bang when a delegate asked Trinity Mirror chief executive Sly Bailey why she was still in her post.
Chris Rushton, former editor of Trinity’s Sunday Sun in Newcastle, said Bailey had presided over a 95 per cent fall in the value of her company and added: “I don’t know how you are still in the job”. Rushton, now head of journalism and PR at Sunderland University, also described Trinity’s regional newspaper websites as “woeful” and “a joke”.
Bailey hit back during the breakfast session at the conference, claiming Rushton was “quite wrong” and defended Trinity’s websites as award winners.

Peston makes case for older reporters

BBC business editor Robert Peston in roundly defending his reporting over the credit crisis made a case for older, experienced reporters who are something of a rarity in modern journalism. Peston, speaking at the Society of Editors' conference in Bristol, said: "I am 48 years old and still doing proper reporting." He added that his background in covering banking at the Investors Chronicle, the City for the Sunday Telegraph and finance and politics at the Financial Times meant he was the "right bloke in the right place" when the credit crunch story broke.

Monday 10 November 2008

World beating websites still need parents

British newspaper websites lead the world but still don't generate enough cash, according to Martin Clarke, publisher of the Mail Online.
Clarke, talking at the Society of Editors' conference in Bristol today, said five of the the 30 biggest newspaper websites in the world were British. "We are becoming global leaders in providing content," he said, but added:"None of us have worked out how to make enough money out of it." He claimed revenues were not enough to sustain the newspaper websites on their own and said:"Every UK national newspaper website only exists because of its old media parent."
Guardian chief executive Carolyn McCall warned that the days of regional newspapers making bumper profit margins are over. McCall told the conference local paper companies could no longer make 30 per cent profit margins. She branded BBC plans to boost its local websites as "not fair" competition for regional newspapers. A view shared by Clarke who also warned local papers against getting into joint deals with the BBC at a local a level, likening it to "partnership with a boa constrictor".
McCall, reflecting an idea floated by Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger in The Guardian today, said that the regional press may need state subsidies to survive.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Dacre wacks judge but praises Brown

Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre has hit out at a judge but praised Gordon Brown.
Dacre, speaking at the Society of Editors' conference in Bristol tonight, launched a scathing attack on Mr Justice Eady whom he accused of making "arrogant and amoral" decisions that shelter "the crooks, the liars, the cheats, the rich and the corrupt".
He accused Eady of bringing in a privacy law "by the back door" by his judgment in the case over Formula One president Max Mosley and the News of the World, which revealed he paid women to beat him.
Mr Justice Eady, claimed Dacre, "effectively ruled that it was perfectly acceptable for the multi-millionaire head of a multi-billion sport that is followed by countless young people to pay five women £2,500 to take part in acts of unimaginable sexual depravity with him."
But he also said that Prime Minister Gordon Brown should "be acknowledged as a great friend of press freedom". Dacre said Brown had listened to complaints over proposed restrictions on freedom of information, possible jail sentences on data protection laws for journalists and the impact of "no win, no fee" libel agreements. Dacre said a ceiling on "no win, no fee" agreement charges may be announced soon by the Lord Chancellor Jack Straw.
He accused media pundits on small circulation papers (i.e. The Guardian) of "poisoning the well" by constantly criticising the mass market newspapers. Dacre predicted that at least two national dailies and two Sundays could change hands or go to the wall in the economic downturn.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Dear urges editors to speak out on cuts

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has urged editors to speak out over cuts to their editorial staff. Dear wants editors to make a stand at the Society of Editors' conference which opens in Bristol tomorrow.
He said: "We believe that journalism matters and are calling on the Society of Editors to join us in resisting the cuts that are devastating our industry. Editors are journalists too, and they can show they care about the future of the press by fighting for editorial investment to shore up news organisations so they can weather the economic storms ahead.
“Whether broadcast, in print or online, the news media need to demonstrate their quality if they are to survive the economic downturn and come out the other side. They might not admit it, but editors know the scale of cutbacks we’re currently facing will damage newsgathering abilities and the quality of the finished products.
“It’s time for them to come clean about whether they think shareholder profit or quality journalism comes first.”

Friday 7 November 2008

Islington Council probes leak to Tribune

Islington Council has confirmed it is investigating allegations that confidential documents were leaked to the Islington Tribune. The weekly newspaper reports today the documents were left on the doorsteps of its office earlier this year and that they contained accusations against Islington's former head of equalitities Vernal Scott. The Tribune said Scott was given a £100,000 pay off after being suspended for six months. Reporters from the paper have been questioned by the council officer leading the inquiry, which the council claims follows a complaint from a member of the public.

Thursday 6 November 2008

NUJ warns mags subs' jobs at risk

The NUJ has declared a dispute at Reed Business Information over plans to cut jobs by merging subbing desks. According to the NUJ, four jobs are at stake. Maglight, the bulletin of the NUJ London Magazine Branch , warns today: "There can be no doubt that other magazine publishers will be looking to follow RBI's response to the economic downturn."

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Cheap shots

Can this be true? Chatting at the Journalists' Charity event at the Irish Embassy last night I was told that a national quality daily newspaper has reduced photographic costs to £9 per picture. This is due to having contracts with major picture agencies like Getty and PA. There is a general feeling that staff photographers are being cut back in favour of agencies to save money.

Online cartoon archive is a goldmine

A goldmine of great cartoons can be accessed from the British Cartoon Archive at from today. The archive is based at the University of Kent, Canterbury, and contains more than 130,000 cartoons as well as comic strips, newspaper cuttings, books and magazines. The collection dates back to 1904 and includes work by David Low, Trog, Ralph Steadman, Mel Calman, Nicholas Garland, Carl Giles, Martin Rowson and Steve Bell. One of the gems of the archive is a collection of cartoons dated from 1954 to 1966 by Vicky (Victor Weisz) who worked for the Evening Standard, Daily Mirror and New Statesman. He famously turned Prime Minister Harold Macmillan into "Supermac".

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Lord Chancellor Straw declares: 'FoI has improved the quality of governance'

Lord Chancellor Jack Straw tonight gave his full backing to the Freedom of Information Act and promised that more press access to family courts will come soon. Straw, speaking at a reception for the Journalists' Charity at the Irish Embassy in London, said FoI had "not only opened up the workings of governance but improved the quality of governance".
Straw added that the Government would "announce shortly" changes to bring greater openness in the family courts.
He also poked fun at the high salaries paid to BBC executives but said he realised that newspapers were facing very difficult economic conditions. He said of regional journalists: "They are not paid very much for a difficult and insecure job." A sign of the times when a politician can see regional journalism as an "insecure" profession.

Monday 3 November 2008

Charles Moore: "I won't pay licence fee" if Jonathan Ross remains employed by BBC

The Brand-Ross affair dominates the media pages in The Guardian and The Independent today and prompts an article on the BBC by David Cameron in The Sun. But this should not obscure a startling pledge by former Daily Telegraph editor Charles Moore who, in his column in the paper on Saturday, said he will refuse to pay his TV licence fee if Jonathan Ross is employed by the BBC when it comes up for renewal.
Moore also compared Ross to the torturers of Abu Ghraib. "When the Abu Ghraib atrocities against Iraqi prisoners filled our media, people rightly noted that the torment consisted not in physical pain, but in humiliation. The humiliation was increased by photographing the acts. The torturers thought that what they did was funny. They were arrested, dismissed from the US armed services and imprisoned.
"Jonathan Ross was doing essentially the same thing. He thought it was funny to use his power to torment someone mentally, and to let other people witness the torment."
Moore concluded: "If Ross is still in post when my television licence next comes up for renewal, I shall keep my television, but refuse to pay the fee. Instead, I shall hand over the £139.50 to Help the Aged, and wait for Mark Thompson's detector van to come to my door."
Could be an interesting court case.