Ben British Broadcasting Corporation, “mindful that the public

Ben MacDonald B00331080


With the continual advances in technology, news has never
been easier to access. Stories have been presented to the public for over 400
years, with “the first regular English
daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, launched with the reign of Queen Anne in
1702” (News Media Association, 2017). Newspapers have continued to be a
popular choice with the UK public, and were joined in the early 1920’s when the
creators of wireless radio sets began the British Broadcasting Corporation, “mindful that the public needed something to
listen to” (BBC, 2017). The evolution of television has helped produce news
being streamed 24 hours a day and nowadays the use of mobile, internet coverage
has offered the public even more opportunities to view the latest affairs. The
ease of obtaining news comes at a cost, however, and the status of news media
in the UK offers challenges as well as opportunities. To overcome such
challenges, different broadcasting companies have had to adapt to change.

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One challenge that affects a number of news corporations in
the country is subscription costs. As well as selling their programmes to
channels around the world, the BBC charge a licence fee to the public in order
to fund their programming. In a 2015 article for The Telegraph, when the
public’s opinion of the BBC changed due to the number of former employees who
were arrested as part of the Operation Yewtree investigations, as well as
accusations of biased reporting, Cristina Odone compared the corporation to the
NHS, stating that like the health service, the BBC “is a troubled national institution affected by demographics,
mismanagement, and the betrayal of the public by a hierarchy that protected
staff guilty of vile and cruel behaviour.” (C. Odone, 2015). Around the same
time, the Government had threatened to scrap the licence fee, with the former
head of public affairs at Sky, Martin Le Jeune, composing a report for the
Conservative Party entitled ‘A Licence to Kill? Funding the BBC’. In this
report, Le Jeune summarised that the fee “is
an outmoded system that deprives consumers of choice and forces the BBC to
offer a comprehensive range of content of variable quality, little of which is
distinctive, and much of which could be provided by commercial organisations
which are in day-to-day competition for viewers.” (M. Le Jeune, 2016).

The BBC isn’t the only company that charge their audience
for access to their news. Newspaper companies, such as The Telegraph and The
Financial Times, offer both print and digital editions of their newspapers but
only if customers take to their websites and pay a weekly charge for full
access. This could be seen as a bit of a challenge for newspaper companies, as
the public have so many ways of accessing news for free these days. An example of
a company who failed with online subscriptions is News UK. The company, owned
by Rupert Murdoch, decided to charge users of their website in order to view
their stories. Other companies that sell tabloid publications, such as Trinity
Mirror, decided to keep their websites free for readers and therefore The Sun’s
online circulation began to fall. In a report for The Press Gazette’s website,
Dominic Ponsford writes that “In June
2015 the Sun was in seventh place in terms of National Readership Survey monthly
print/digital readership” (D. Ponsford, 2017). After dropping so low in the
circulation table, News UK decided in November 2015 that news will be free to
view on the website again. Ponsford continues by saying that this was the
correct move for the company, writing that “the
figures show that The Sun has regained much of the ground lost (in terms of
overall reach) during the years when its website was behind a paywall.” (D.
Ponsford, 2017) News UK still offers a digital subscription for readers, with a
£4.99 monthly charge.


For The Financial Times however, the transfer to online
subscriptions has proved to be a success. In their annual report of 2016, the
company reported that they “achieved a
record high circulation of almost 850,000 across digital and print, up 8%
year-on-year”. The report also comments on the success of online
subscription. “Digital subscriptions grew
14% to 650,000, more than three-quarters of the total paying audience.”
(Financial Times, 2017) Two of the
major news events of last year also helped the Financial Times gain more
subscribers. “During the Brexit
referendum and the US presidential election, the FT saw subscription
acquisition gains of 75% and 33% respectively in the weeks surrounding the
events versus average levels.” (K. Eriksson, 2017).

A recent way in which journalists can gather news stories
and release them to the public is the use of social media. A BBC Academy report
titled “Original journalism: Finding stories” states that social media sites “can help you to source original stories, new
case studies, contacts and pictures” and is also “a great resource to enhance traditional journalistic skills rather than
replace them.” (BBC, 2017) One major flaw with social media, however, is
how can we identify how genuine a post is? In her 2010 report ‘Journalism in
the Age of Social Media’, Jennifer Alejandro includes a quote from Channel 4
News reporter, Jon Snow, who says “researching
for a story has never been easier. We get a lot of information from our viewers.”
(J. Snow, 2010) This could be seen as a positive for newsgathering online, but
there have been times when stories have proved to be false. For example, when musician
Tom Petty was sent to hospital after being found unconscious in his house, news
outlet TMZ posted a story saying that Petty had died, which at the time proved
not to be the case. This piece was shared by millions however, with leading
outlets like the BBC also sharing a post regarding Petty’s death. The
musician’s daughter had to take to social media to say that her father was
actually still alive and that people should respect the family’s privacy. So
how can future journalists rely on social media when leads they may receive
turn out to be fictitious? In January 2017, the Culture, Media and Sport
Committee launched an inquiry to what is now referred to as ‘fake news’, and
how the Government can combat it. The chairperson of the committee, Damian
Collins MP, stated “just as major tech
companies have accepted they have a social responsibility to combat piracy
online and the illegal sharing of content, they also need to help address the
spreading of fake news on social media platforms. (D. Collins, 2017) News
companies backed the inquiry, with ITN releasing a press release backing the
campaign. The release reads “Accurate
journalism and a responsible media is the cornerstone of any healthy democracy.
The recent phenomenon of fake news strikes at the heart of the democratic
process by damaging the public’s ability to differentiate between publications
that have high editorial standards and invest in thorough and fact checked
journalism and those which deliberately seek to mislead.” (ITN, 2017)

Another challenge for news corporations is the level of competition
that is currently available. Only thirty years ago, UK residents had four
channels on their television sets, nowadays they have over hundreds to choose
from. The way the public can access news stories recently has never been easier
and companies have had to adapt to the way they can reach their audience. In
their 2016 report ‘What Is Happening to Television News?’ for the University of
Oxford, Rasmus Klein Nielsen and Professor Richard Sambrook summarise that “many different kinds of news organisations,
including legacy broadcasters, print legacy media, and a range of digital pure
players, are experimenting with different kinds of television-like and online
video news to reach audiences, especially younger people.” (Nielsen &
Sambrook, 2016) Arguably the biggest player in news is Rupert Murdoch, who owns
a number of news corporations around the world, and in Britain his News
Corporation runs such newspapers as The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun.
Murdoch also owns 21st Century Fox in America and in September
attempted to secure a £11.7 billion merger with Sky. Culture Minister for the
United Kingdom, Karen Bradley, proposed that the move should be reviewed by the
Competition and Markets Authority. In his ‘UK competition commission to review
Fox-Sky merger’ article for Politico, Saim Saeed reports that Bradley told the
House of Commons that while the “legal
threshold for a reference to the CMA is low,” there was a risk that the
merger would “operate against the
specified public interests.” (S. Saeed, 2017). The news companies owned by the
Australian tend to side with his right wing views and with the chance of
Murdoch becoming the owner of one of the main news providers in the country, it
could lead to audiences receiving a biased view of what is happening in the

To conclude, the advance in technology has made news much
easier for the public to access. Social media and live streaming has led to
businesses changing the way they reach their audiences. Readers of The
Telegraph and The Financial Times have chosen to pay their subscription
charges, which shows that although companies change the way they release their
publications, they will have a loyal following. Members of the public may choose
to stick with the newspaper, radio station and television channel they receive
news from as it suits their lifestyle or social class.