Friday, 8 July 2011

Too big to succeed

At the time of the banking crisis, we were told that we had no choice but to bail out the banks – they had become too big to fail.  In the light of recent events at News International, I find myself concluding that some companies have become too big to be allowed to succeed.
There’s something very wrong with the idea that the editor and staff of a newspaper should pay with their livelihoods for the sins of, and to protect the backsides of, their predecessors.  The closure of News of the World may, of course, turn out to be little more than a cynical ploy, and the same staff may end up working on a very similar paper called the Sunday Sun within a short period.  For the sake of the staff (well, most of them – the exceptions still need to be properly dealt with), I sort of hope that that will turn out to be the case. 
But it should be something of a wake-up call to discover that the parent group has become so large and rich that it can afford to simply close down, overnight, a successful and leading brand.  It appears that the income and profit from that brand is little more than pocket money to the parent company. 
It makes me wonder whether, had the newspaper been a stand-alone brand, or part of a much smaller group, they could have afforded to take such risks in the first place.  It’s an open, and probably unanswerable, question – but would they have had to have been more careful about what they were doing had they not been so peripheral to the group?
The power of the media mogul behind the group to have politicians – Labour and Tory alike – supplicating before him has already been noted elsewhere.  The claimed influence of his titles on voting habits has probably been exaggerated, but the fact that parties and leaders fear him to the extent that they do is enough to make it a serious issue.
At the very least, the planned takeover of Sky should be blocked.  But it’s also time to start looking at breaking up the rest of the empire.

11 comments:

Glyndo said...

Perhaps the US rule about only "Nationals" can own the media has some merit? Wouldn't solve the NOTW problem, but would make retribution for the head of the well a little easier.

Welsh Ramblings said...

The whole episode demonstrates the power of markets, not only in the media but through their interactions with the police, the control they have over livelihoods and the way they pursue profits. Do we really live in a truly democratic society when a small group of unaccountable people have such influence? Some corporations and companies are now more powerful than elected governments, not just in the media but throughout the economy and society.

Spirit of BME said...

What makes him powerful are the millions of people throughout the realm that buy his paper as “consenting adults” week after week. 2.7 million buy it and 7.5million read it.
What “Digger” Rup knows very well is what sells newspapers and the more dirt, the more sales.
However, I think Digger has an ace up his sleeve and knows where “the bodies are buried” from the Battenbergs down and the last thing the State wants is his employees blabbing their mouths off in a witness box. When the heat is off this one I smell a deal in the air.

Siônnyn said...

John - do you have any ideas about how and independent Welsh press could be achieved? The Western Mail is on its last legs, the daily post is even worse.

The Evening Post - which has the largest circulation - is all about selling cars and houses.

Surely, with modern production techniques, and all the talent that is evident on the Welsh bloggosphere, something viable could be dreamt up?

Anonymous said...

Siônnyn, now how about something new like, say, Y Byd? Sorry, forgot, Plaid - in government - already screwed that one up.

Siônnyn said...

Anon - you appear to be just another another nihilistic anti-Welsh troll. Get back to Wales-online.

Boncath said...

John
I suspect that anonymous has a point on the matter of Y Byd. Could it be that Labour did not want to be exposed to the risks associated with a genuine Welsh press on their case whilst Plaid were happy to continue in perpetual opposition in Wales aided and abetted by a ? National paper trapped in perpetuity in its own Cardiff and valleys bubble

John Dixon said...

Anon,

I don't think I'd describe what happened about a Welsh-medium daily paper in quite the same words as you use. It would be fair to say, though, that a promise was made and then broken. The worst aspect of the whole saga was the attempt to deny that any promise had been broken. A bit of honesty and explanation about the why would have been a much better response. Nor, Boncath, do I agree with your possible interpretation - I don't think those involved thought things through to the extent suggested. I think it was a case mostly of making a promise without fully understanding the implications, and then trying to use spin to talk a way out of it.

But none of that answers the point made by Siônnyn, which I thought was more to do with a Welsh press, rather than a specifically Welsh-medium press.

Wales is certainly not too small to sustain a vibrant Welsh-based and Welsh-focussed print media, if the market were there. The problem is that the market is not there (as I think the declining circulation figures for the Western Mail suggest). People choose to get their news from the UK press. Until people think in more Welsh rather than British terms, that's unlikely to change.

And that's where we get to something of a 'chicken and egg' question. To what extent does that increased sense of national consciousness precede, or follow, the establishment of a more Welsh media? The hard truth is, I suspect, that we have to do more to change people's perspectives first, rather than simply bemoan the absence of that Welsh media.

Boncath said...

John
As a subscriber to Y Byd
I am a little saddened by the view that it was deemed to be a Welsh --Welsh speaking only publication this was clearly not the case as we are too only aware that the only viable publications of ths nature are the excellent papurau bro and are only so by virtue of the unpaid efforts of dedicated individuals
The decision not to support Y Byd was and remains a major tragedy

I am related to the founders of the Aberdare Leader my father was a respected journalist in South Wales and Birmingham and all I can say is that Newspaper mergers and closures have produced the scenario described by Welsh ramblings where traditional values of deceny transparency honesty good taste and integrity are despised

John Dixon said...

Boncath,

I'd draw a distinction between the specific 'Y Byd' proposal and the more general point about establishing a Welsh-language daily paper. The promise to act was on the general not the specific; there was never any political commitment to 'Y Byd'. Indeed, to have given an advance commitment to support a specific group of people in a venture like this would have been improper.

Y Byd was, though, the only specific on the table, and the real tragedy wasn't the decision not to support that proposal, but the decision not even to look for or consider alternative proposals which would have delivered the same outcome.

I agree with your comments about the effects of mergers and closures on the local papers across Wales. Even those still in operation have had their serious journalistic content cut back and live in thrall to the major advertisers (such as the county councils...) which is destroying serious coverage.

Boncath said...

John
On the death of Diana Princess of Wales in Paris a request was made to the Tenby Observer to release the entire front page to acknowledge her death
This was refused without discussion on the basis that the four advertisers who have occupied the corners of the front page for a considerable period of time would not agree to this. and yet at least one advertiser allows "their space" to be used by others this space donated by is the phrase used
The owner of the Tenby Observer has been a receipient in the Queen,s Honours List one wonders what for ???