Like a lot of things in the United Kingdom, the way that the media industry is run is due an upgrade, and in this unit, I have been asked to investigate the way the current system is ran by the industry leaders, amongst others, and give views on how it can be changed and improved upon.
Structure and Ownership
This section will look at how these media organisations are run, and whom they are ran by.
With there being many organisations which provide this country with their daily news, these different organisations also have different structures at the top where the big decisions are made. This report will look at and will help evaluate these different structures and see which one is the best.
Publicly Owned Organisations
British Broadcasting Corperation/BBC
With it being publicly owned, the BBC raises it’s revenue via the TV license which has to be paid annually.
On the BBC’s website, they state that:
“We issue a service licence to every BBC service stating what we expect it to deliver and how much it can spend. We set the BBC’s editorial guidelines and protect the BBC’s independence. We monitor performance to ensure that the BBC provides value for money while staying true to its public purposes.”
The BBC Trust, appointed by the Secretary of Culture, Media and Sport, are there to cast their eye over what the BBC produces, to make sure the taxpayer’s money is being put to good use, and ensure that it meets the public purposes set out in the Royal Charter and Agreement which was presented to the government and came into force in 2007, until 2016.
The current charters says that the BBC promises to:
- Sustain citizenship and civil society
- Promote education and learning
- Create stimulating and cultural excellence
- Represent the UK, its nations, regions and communities
- Bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK
- Deliver to the public the benefit of emerging communications now and in the future
The people in charge of the day to day operations of the BBC are the executive board whose performances are assessed by the beforementioned BBC Trust in an annual report, which is out every July.
The board, chaired by the Director-General Tony Hall, is made up of five non-executive directors from who provide external advice and expertise, and executives from inside the BBC:
One positive you can take from the BBC being publically owned is that it is the corporation’s duty to report the news and create programs so that there is something for everyone in the broad demographics which make up our country. For example, look at the how the news is presented on BBC One in comparison to how it is on BBC Three:
On BBC One, it is usually in 30 minute segments going into great depth with the stories, and they deliver the news in a very professional and serious manner – HERE is a clip of an example, the first story mentioned is unintentionally fitting for this unit.
On BBC Three however, instead of a 30 minute news program, they use 60 second segments between shows in which they deliver the stories in a condensed and slightly more casual/light hearted fashion which is to appeal to the 18-34 year olds which make up their target audience – HERE is a clip of an example.
The shows created for their individual channels are also dependent on the specific target audience. HERE is a link to a Powerpoint presentation overviewing the said programs and channels.
Another plus point is that there are no shareholders within the BBC, which means that there are no dividends and all profits made will be invested back into program making.
However, you could argue that this money, as well as money from the TV license, is being misused in some cases. The salaries of some TV personalities and people within the management of the BBC are being paid astronomically high figures, with the chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patton making his concerns public at the TV and Radio Museum in Turin in THIS article in The Telegraph.
This doesn’t just end at people in the BBC either, as it carries on in regards to people on their way out as well.
THIS article on the BBC website shows how much has been spent on severance packages despite many of the contracts showing that these people were contractually not entitled to this – Between 2006 and 2012 alone, it is suggested that the BBC had overspent £2.9 million of the taxpayers money.
The most shocking situation from all of this in my eyes is the case of George Entwistle.
In THIS article in The Telegraph, it talks about the former Director-General George Entwistle, who was in charge during the outbreak of the Jimmy Saville stories and its aftermath. When he resigned following a controversial and incorrect Newsnight report which named Lord McAlpine as somebody who was involved in the North West child abuse scandal, he was given a severance package of £450,000, double of what he was entitled to after only being in the job for 54 days.
Whether him leaving post was the right or wrong thing to do in this scenario is irrelevant (HERE are some of the reactions to the story from Twitter from the likes of Stephen Fry and Jeremy Paxman) when you look at the sheer amount of tax payer money being handed to him, if only “so he would go quietly” as The Telegraph story puts it, after such a little amount of time is wrong in my eyes.
Another quality of the publicly owned media structure is that it should be totally free of any government bias or influence.
Again though, it could be argued that this isn’t the case when it comes to the BBC.
In THIS article in The Independent suggests that it is “too open to political influence” . The main concern comes from the fact that BBC governors are appointed by the government, rather than elected, which is a point I agree with.
Before David Cameron and the Conservatives came into power, you never really seen many documentaries on the BBC about the benefit system, but now you’ll regularly see them on television, not just on the BBC but on Channel 4 and Five also.
This however could also just be down to a demand created by the government due to the fact that they are constantly mentioning points on the subject.
One change some would like to see when it comes to the structure of how the BBC is run, is that the TV license fee payer has a lot more say on what is show on their channels.
THIS article on the website, opendemocracy.net, it talks about “inverting the pyramid”, to give the public, who at the minute fund, rather than actually own the corporation, the power to decide how things are run.
One sentence which stands out for me says:
“the notion of public service broadcasting has always carried a whiff of paternalism: the sense that someone other than the public will decide what’s good for them. From their earliest days, mass communications have been feared by elites, for having a corrosive impact on the public’s morals, and the public realm.”
This is something I have always felt when it has come to TV in general – that we are given what somebody else thinks we want. It would explain some garbage put on air…
The writer goes to the explain how if the relationship between the BBC Trust and the BBC Audience Councils, the taxpayer representation when it comes to all things to do with the BBC, was inverted – meaning that the Trust had to answer to the taxpayer rather than the government, who really, should have nothing to do with it.
When it comes to publicly owned organisations for media companies, I like the idea that it works with it’s only function to provide the paying audience with entertainment and unbiased coverage of the news, but the current system at the BBC is outdated and wrong for the 21st century.
To improve how the BBC is run they should:
- Bring in a cap on salaries and redundancy payments so that the taxpayer’s money is not wasted
- Invert the BBC Trust and Audience Councils so the taxpayer truly owns the BBC
- Have BBC board members elected rather than appointed by the government
The result would be a more economically efficient business with the people whom fund it and it is suppose to represent in charge, which really, what it is suppose to be in the first place.
Privately Owned Organisations
The biggest different between publicly owned and privately owned organisations is that the latter is usually owned by a person or/and parent company.
However, this doesn’t mean that all privately owned organisations are ran the same way or have the same intentions and views:
Daily Mail and General Trust/DMGT
DMGT is a privately owned organisation, which owns the Daily Mail, as well as the Daily Mail’s umbrella of outlets such as the Mail on Sunday and the Mail Online. It also owns the free newspaper Metro.
They describe themselves on their website as one of the UK’s leading media companies with a portfolio consisting of the most influential brands and business which reach 55% of the adult population.
The Daily Mail follows the traditional privately owned model, with the head of the business being the chairman, who is in charge of overlooking heads of different areas such as editors, finance and marketing.
The chairman of the DMG Media group has always been referred to as Lord Rothermere, with current one, Jonathon Harmsworth, taking over when his father died in 1998.
What is interesting about this is the fact that in THIS interview with The Independent back in 2004 with Lord Rothermere, he said that his personal views didn’t reflect those of the paper, but rather it was editor, Paul Dacre, who was in charge of making sure that the paper shared the views of it’s “middle England” readership.
Guardian Media Group/GMG
Unlike the DMGT, the GMG use a different type of private ownership, putting the business in the hands of a Trust rather than a person.
The Scott Trust was set up back in 1936 to protect the future independence of the Guardian, with a view to run the paper and report the news in line with the qualities C.P. Scott described: “honesty; cleanness (today interpreted as integrity); courage; fairness; and a sense of duty to the reader and the community.”
On the Scott Trust website, they outline the core purposes and responsibilities of the group in full detail:
The core purpose of the Scott Trust is:
• To secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity: as a quality national newspaper without party affiliation; remaining faithful to its liberal tradition; as a profit-seeking enterprise managed in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
• All other activities should be consistent with the central objective. The Company which the Trust owns should: be managed to ensure profits are available to further the central objective; not invest in activities which conflict with the values and principles of the Trust.
• The values and principles of the Trust should be upheld throughout the Group. The Trust declares a subsidiary interest in promoting the causes of freedom in the press and liberal journalism, both in Britain and elsewhere.
The formal responsibilities of the Scott Trust board are:
• To secure and preserve the financial position and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity
• To monitor the organisation, financial management and overall strategy of the Group, holding the board accountable for its performance
• To appoint and ‘in extreme circumstances’ to dismiss the editors of the Guardian and the Observer
• To act as a ‘court of appeal’ in the event of any dispute between the editorial and managerial sides of the operation
One of the main differences between the Daily Mail and Guardian private ownership models is the way that they handle profits.
At the Daily Mail they, like any other private business, will share out the profits between all of the shareholders depending on the amount of shares they hold as the 2013 annual report shows:
Whereas at the Guardian, the profits are reinvested back into the Trust to “sustain journalism free from commercial or political interference” in line with how the Trust was set up initially by John Scott.
These structures still share the benefits and drawbacks of most private ownership media businesses though:
For example, they are free from political influence.
However, this doesn’t stop a bias towards a certain political party and it’s views, but this is usually down to a purely business purpose most of the time:
Below you will see a diagram of where these media organisations are when it comes to their and their reader’s political bias along with the key characteristics:
To further illustrate the differences between the two, here are two front pages from The Guardian, which you can see is under the “Liberal/Left wing” category, and the Daily Mail, which is under the “Conservative/Right wing” category, regarding the riots which happened in London and other major cities in the UK back in the summer of 2011:
Straight away you can see the difference between the two papers – The Guardian has gone with a headline which describes it as a “battle”, which suggest that there are two forces behind the carnage, whereas the Daily Mail simply calls it “Anarchy”.
Also, when you look at what is written in the subheadings of the left wing Guardian, it points out that the Prime Minister, Conservative David Cameron, is still on holiday while all of this is going on, whereas the right wing Daily Mail comments, saying “to blame the cuts (by the Conservative government) is immoral and cynical. This is criminality pure and simple.”
Other examples from The Guardian include:
Being a newspaper with the left wing, working class as their target audience, they will usually use stories about high earning bankers wanting taxpayer money, or stories which will damage the reputation of rival companies and/or friends of the Conservative party – i.e Head of News Corporation Rupert Murdoch.
Other examples from the Daily Mail include:
When you look at the front pages, you get a sense that everything to do with modern day society is bad and you should be frightened of it.
You can imagine a Twitter-less Curry’s employee looking around at modern day Britain and suggesting to his mates that they head to the local pub and wait for everything to blow over, passing time by watching their Cliff Richard DVD of course.
Of course, that is merely a metaphorical caricature.
Bar all of that though, I wouldn’t say it is necessarily wrong for privately owned newspapers to be politically motivated, after all Great Britain is still a democracy with a vast array of viewpoints, and every one of those deserve to have their views heard, even if it goes against the grain of the majority.
Shareholders get dividends if the company makes a profit, the amount depending on how many shares they own.
Most papers make this profit by producing high class journalism, which helps sell their product whether it is in print or online behind a pay wall, or by advertisements on either form.
But, it could be argued that some companies have let the standards of their journalism slip, and/or use more unorthodox/illegal methods of finding stories so they have that exclusive in order to sell more copies (which will be covered in more detail in the next section).
Scare mongering or sensationalised/scandalous stories are something that are used, where a newspaper front page headline will be something which makes someone walking by stop and buy a copy.
For example, most recently some newspapers have been leading with stories about halal meat being used in restaurants in a way which almost seems as a means to create faux outrage on a subject that a vast number of the country will not understand completely.
Another con of shareholders is that some may share a different view to the another so it can become a struggle to make them all happy.
After looking at both forms of private ownership, the preference of one or the other will depend on the individual, and whether they want to provide the country will high standard journalism, or make as big a profit as possible with the evidence showing that neither of these really meet in the middle.
The people who buy the papers are more likely to be spending their money on the highest quality journalism, and they are more important than any shareholder in this relationship so I believe the Guardian Trust model would be the better model for other private media outlets to follow.
Regarding the balance of private to publicly owned media organisations, I feel the current balance in this country is about right as the people of the country only need, and can probably only afford to pay for one publicly owned organisation in the BBC.
Ethics, Legal and Social
The past few years have not been quiet for the PR department in the countries media industry with scandal after scandal being exposed. Due to this, the journalist has become something of a folk devil to the public who rely on them for their daily fix of news.
Daily Mirror food bank front page
One of the more recent points brought to attention was the Mirror’s use of an image to accompany the front page story about food banks in Britain.
You see this photograph with the headline – How do you feel about it?
Naturally, you will be saddened, maybe even a bit angry that this could be allowed to happen in the 21st century Britain when we have, as the headline suggests, “more millionaires than ever before”.
But, what if I told you that the photo isn’t even from 2014, and what’s more, isn’t even of a child from Britain whose family is relying on the mentioned food parcels?
How do you feel now?
This was exposed on THIS website, which also goes on to ask whether it is right that the Mirror used this photo out of context in order to create a reaction?
Is it right that, whilst it is made sure that the arguments used in the writer’s article are backed up by the facts, the photograph used to accompany it is allowed to be one that is used out of context in order to provoke a strong emotive reaction, mainly from parents? It could be argued that it is misleading, potentially dangerous, and also, a form of mental manipulation.
Of course, it could be argued that the Mirror did nothing illegal, it is merely a representation of the many struggling in the current economic climate and that in this case, those people or getting the news out the public quickly without having to go out, get the photo and all of the necessary paperwork filled in is more important than a photo used out of context, but there is still something that is quite unsettling about the use in the first place.
The subject of photography used by the media is a tricky one to deal with, as is shown with the next subject:
The Pulitzer prize winning photographer was fired by Associated Press (AP) for editing a photo he had taken while covering the Syrian war, as reported by the Guardian.
Upon investigation taken by AP they found that none of this other work was edited and that this situation was only a one off, but regardless of this, they still cut ties.
In some ways, they were correct in doing this as an example of the principles that they want their photographers to uphold, as well as them having a very strict no editing policy which he went against when he removed a fellow photographer’s camera out of the shot.
However, it can be argued that it was a very minimum amount of editing and really didn’t the effect of the photo in terms of deceiving the audience about what is going on. The change was really quite irrelevant in the grand scale of things yet the consequences for Contreras’ actions have been massive.
It is strange that the smallest of edits are punished so heavily in this situation yet in another section of the media, mass editing is rewarded, as is the case in the next section:
Where the changes in Contreras’ photograph were minimal and affected nothing, the changes made to photographs of models in the media can have and have had mental, and consequently, physical repercussions.
These are the words of Jennifer Siebel Newsom, writer and producer of the documentary, Miss Representation, which features prominent females who work in the media industry giving their views and experiences about sexism within the industry.
As the trailer suggests, the average teenager will consume around 10 hours and 45 minutes of media a day, leaving them open to taking on board the wrong when it comes to attitudes towards themselves or the opposite gender. One of the more dangerous sides to this is when they see images of models in magazines or in advertisements who have been edited in order to detract or hide any aesthetic imperfections they may have.
Alongside the lack of females in high and important jobs – “The U.S. is 90th in the world in terms of women in national legislatures. Cuba, China, Iraq, Afghanistan have more women in government than the US” – it’s easy to see why some impressionable young people (because males are affected by this too) will believe that beauty, rather than brains, is what is more important, especially to the opposite sex.
This is where they will begin to compare themselves to the flawless models, wondering why they look nothing like that muscly lad off that god awful TV show or her, who looks good, but sounds like a cat getting strangled before auto tuning.
What those people don’t wonder though is – Why do they look like that?
It is generally accepted that images of models are edited, but the amount that they are “enhanced”, as shown in this video by Dove, will shock a lot of people:
As you can see, it isn’t so much enhancing as it is virtual plastic surgery.
So we are now in a situation where normal, everyday women and men are comparing themselves to people who are molded into figures of what is imagined to be perfection – People who technically don’t really exist.
What does this lead to?
What can be done?
So, going back to Narciso Contreras – a small, slightly irrelevant piece of editing resulted in him being sacked, yet when it comes to the subjects covered in the Miss Representation section, mass editing which leads to people being emotionally, and even physicality harmed in some unfortunate situations, it is rewarded with money.
Overlooking the evidence, it is evident that there are massive inconsistencies within the media industry when it comes to regulating the images used, and misused as is found in the first subject – it is all very much, one set of rules for some and another set of rules for others.
At the moment, the content that appears in our newspapers and magazines is regulated by the Press Complaints Commission, which includes the complaints about images used. What could happen is regulators and the editors of the nations newspapers can get together and agree on a set of legislation which will make regulation become more consistent across the board.
It would probably be best for all parties if they agreed to ban editing photos of people, a fortunately, this view is reflected in the US as well, where lobbyists are pushing for a bill to stop the use of misleading Photoshopped ads.
However, when it comes to the misuse of images found on the internet, like in the case of the Daily Mirror girl, tackling this subject is a lot more difficult.
In that situation, it really becomes a matter of what an editor deems to be acceptable or unacceptable because what they are doing is not illegal, and banning it wouldn’t be right, it all depends on their judgement and integrity.
One solution could be to make use of citizen journalism, which would mean the editors use photos that show real people with the food packages, as long as they have permission.
The advantages of this is that the photos would be less misleading, just as powerful, and to the newspaper, cheaper and easier to get hold of.
However, some could question the validity of the photos if they are not from a professional photographer. The professional freelance photographers could be affected too, as they would lose out on being paid for their images.
The Leveson Enquiry
The Leveson Enquiry was a public inquiry into the ethics of British media after a series of events which put the integrity of the industry under scrutiny:
What his report suggests is that the media should be regulated by a new independent body which is backed by a new law, which was almost instantly opposed by David Cameron, but embraced by Nick Clegg and David Milliband.
It is of course a divisive subject, especially as we are a democratic country which values its press freedom for all of its drawbacks, but there are some creases which need to be ironed out. The way some in the industry have acted over the last decade and a half in regards to their activities which are unethical and, in some cases, illegal.
In THIS video of when Piers Morgan was interviewed during the inquiries he was asked about a time he was shown a recording of messages from Heather Mills’ voice mail, he repeatedly refused to reveal information which would in turn reveal the identity of his source.
Later on in the inquiries, Heather Mills says that she didn’t give anyone permission to listen to her messages, which in turn would mean someone had illegally gained access.
Surely at this point it becomes a case of Morgan covering up the crimes of someone in the name of “journalism”? It could also be said that in doing this, the former Daily Mirror editor is an accessory to the crime, as is the case if anybody in normal society holds back information which would lead to identifying someone who breaks the law?
Unfortunately for the British public and people who try to give journalism a good name – This was only one of the many cases the inquiries uncovered.
Going forward, it is most likely that Leveson is correct – after all, in his own words:
“Too many times […] parts of the press have acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist. This has caused real hardship and, on occasion, wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people whose rights and liberties have been disdained.”
In a new independent board, as well as it being backed by law, where people can be prosecuted if they break the law, like any other normal British citizen, it could be in the media industries best interests to also have one or two members of the public in the board the regulators so the opinion of the consumer on individual matter is heard.
In the latest released report from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on the Creative Industries Economic Estimates 2014, it says that the creative industries* made up 1 in 18 of the jobs in the UK at the time that the stats were collected (2012), making it one of the biggest employers in the country at the time.
*When the term Creative Industries is used, it is referring to this:
The graph also illustrates what would be meant if the term ‘Creative Economy’ is used in the government report.
So where are these jobs exactly?
Here is a table showing the number of jobs within in the creative industries in 2012, as well as in 2011, showing the amount of growth or decline in individual sections:
Straight away, what stands out are the groups which have had meteoric rises in the year – with Design (16.2%), IT/Software and Computer Services (15.6%) and Film/TV/Video/Radio and Photography (13.6%) all increasing by at least 13%.
Out of three groups, the most noteworthy for this report is IT with a lot of media companies now using the internet and social media to share news stories.
Because of this, the companies which publish the print media are in danger as it is cheaper, and easier for consumers, for the news to be on the internet or on an app on their phones, rather than in physical form. Like with books though, regardless of whether how many people now read on tablets, there will always be those people who would rather have a book in their hands, and I think that’s a possible scenario with print too, so I don’t think it will totally disappear – it will just be scaled backed.
One thing that is interesting with these stats is that with IT rising, advertising and marketing have gone down – due to the fact that this report has no access to any more recent stats, it can’t confirm if it’s a trend or just a coincidence – it could be argued that companies may be finding they can scale back on the number of advertising and marketing staff they need to employ because they are able to market and advert their products so efficiently and cheaply on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
Of course, it is all well and good the numbers saying that these jobs exist, but what about people trying to get into the industry? How do they go about putting their foot in the front door?
One possible way is by being self employed.
As a class we went to meet David Parish, who spoke to us about employment within the creative industry, and more specifically, being self employed. This is a form of journalism which is definitely on the rise, and is backed up by some interesting stats on THIS website:
- Of journalists in Britain, 28 per cent are self-employed compared to 14 per cent across all employment.
- Writers and reporters are more likely than other media professions to be self-employed.
- There was a 60 per cent increase in self-employed workers from 2011-2012.
Why are writers and reporters more likely to be self employed though? HERE are some more facts about why people become freelance journalists.
One fact that stands out on that list is: “Part-time freelance writing is a path to full-time employment as a full-time freelance or staff journalist.”
Along with having all of the essential qualifications, it is also well known that work experience is also preferred by employers, so having the experience as a freelance journalist could help hold the key to a career in the industry.
Looking at the BBC Careers website they offer a number of doorways into the industry in the form of job vacancies or various training schemes.
Upon completing university, any budding journalist is free to apply for a job and for the most part, they go for entry level jobs. On our tour of Media City, the people who spoke to us talked about how most people start at the bottom as either a runner or a form of assistant before working their way up the ladder if they show any skill and potential. Here are the usual paths described to us:
Runner > Researcher > Producer > Series Producer > Executive Producer
Assistance > Coordinator > Manager
Other ways of getting on the ladder at the BBC is by partaking in one of their work experience placements which can be found HERE.
When it comes to helping people get into the industry, the BBC has a lot in place to assist, but it still all feels a bit “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Perhaps if the BBC began to offer more paid scholarships to a set number of young people learning the trade they it could help get exceptionally talented people the assistance they need to make the best of their potential, regardless of their background.
If other companies within the industry followed suit it could result in them producing their very own crop of talented journalists in the future, and thus making the future of journalism brighter.
The majority of the changes that can be made to improve the media industry in the UK come in the form of improving the ethics and how what is produced is regulated. The media bosses can complain about how acting on Leveson’s report may infringe upon a free but they should have thought about that before acting unethically and in some cases illegally to obtain information just to sell papers.
When it comes to structure & ownership and employment it is really a matter of tweaking what is already there to make it more efficient and effective.