Thursday, June 28, 2018

Not the BBC's fault ?

The Cairncross Review on sustaining high-quality journalism in the UK, has NOT yet finished, despite what Radio 4 bulletins reported this morning. It's issued a call for evidence, with a deadline of September, to help it form conclusions. Alongside that is a report commissioned by the DCMS from consultants, reviewing existing data, looking at trends over the last ten years, and summarising some new (anonymous) interviews with key players. Mediatique's report also considers the argument that the BBC online offering is the problem for newspaper groups. Here's the key bit.

5.11. Some of the people interviewed for this report referred to the BBC as a potential ‘brake’ to the establishment of an online pay model for news. They cited the availability of a publicly funded online news service as the reason why consumers would not engage with content behind paywalls, as there is a free alternative available to everyone. Indeed, 54% of those who do not pay for online news cited the possibility to get news for free among the main reasons why they do not do so.  However, this seems to be contradicted by research which suggests that people who consume free news from public media such as the BBC are not less likely to be paying or willing to pay for online news than those who do not. 

5.12. Furthermore, others pointed to the traditional newsbrands as partially responsible for conditioning readers into expecting to be able to access news online for free. When newsbrands launched their websites and started charging advertisers to place their banners around their content online, the substitutive effect of the internet over print was not yet as acute as it is today, and therefore the internet created opportunities for publishers to gain additional revenue at little incremental cost. By the time audiences started abandoning print in favour of online for their news and for classified advertising, it was too late for newspapers to reverse the strategy.

5.13. Finally, it should also be pointed out that there is also a strong belief among several members of the industry that UK citizens, and in particular those with lower means – e.g., young people – have a fundamental right to free public-service journalism. In that sense, the BBC plays a crucial, though not unique role. Several newsbrands have committed publicly not to erect paywalls; for them, the answer to the question of sustainability lies elsewhere.

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