When news broke last week that Express Newspapers and its titles the Daily Express, the Daily Star and their Sunday editions were back up for sale, the sense I had was that the other shoe had finally dropped. The only linked buyer, Trinity Mirror, had been in talks with Richard Desmond’s media empire-ette about the acquisition three years ago, only for the discussions to collapse over a dispute about pensions.
Although a Trinity Mirror spokesman hedged about the exact date the £127m takeover bid would go through, saying “there’s still some way to go. This is not yet a done deal”, the reality is that those titles, plus celebrity title OK! magazine, will almost certainly be helping to prop up Trinity Mirror’s business very shortly (Friday if you believe the reports). There’s too much synergy between the two companies’ strengths and their needs for it to be otherwise.
Trinity Mirror (which happens to also be in the news this week for another, less savoury reason) still needs to make savings. At the same time it is very keen to expand its portfolio and create a genuine national-to-local appeal to advertisers, as can be seen by its acquisition of regional newspaper group Local World. And just as with Local World, a big part of the appeal of the Northern & Shell assets is that it can conduct significant backroom synergy while retaining the coverage and scale.
Rupert Murdoch, like most media moguls, craves two things: money and influence.
What is so fascinating about last week’s proposed sale of Fox to Disney is that it demonstrates how much he values one over the other. Of course, this is not a deal that will make him any poorer – the Disney offer is strong, and Murdoch and other Fox shareholders will end up with an estimated 25% of one of the world’s largest media organisations – but this is a deal which sees him giving up a lot of control over profitable businesses, whilst retaining almost all his political influence.
As part of the deal, he is selling the Fox stakes in Sky and Sky News, despite fighting so hard to gain full control of the business. Even if Sky News is a loss-leader, Sky itself is extremely lucrative for Murdoch, earning him and his fellow Fox shareholders around £500m each year. But the deal
It’s hard to believe that ‘fake news’ didn’t really exist as a term until a year ago. The accelerated pace of controversies and outrages that has driven the conversation around media bias has had such an impact that the term has now entered the Chambers dictionary.
In fact, it was only when politicians seized upon the term in November of last year that the term entered public consciousness with its current, woolly definition of ‘news that I don’t believe’. Prior to that, it was a specific if vague industry term referring to emotive misinformation created by scammers to game the algorithms that powered Facebook and Google to generate ad revenue.
Now though, the term is out there, for good or ill. A recent Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report found that most people surveyed were at least aware of the term ‘fake news’ and its negative connotations. It also suggested that the term was able to enter the public lexicon so easily due to the ongoing trust issue people have in the mainstream media – and might in fact exacerbate it.
Speaking at The Truth Spectrum, an industry summit based solely around the ‘fake news’ problem, Quartz’s Global Finance and Economics Editor Jason Karaian said
This time the US media is in trouble for real news. Following the dreadful events in Manchester on Monday evening, the New York Times has published sensitive photographs and documents which, it is feared, might compromise the ongoing investigations into the bombing. The source is said to be from within the US security services – but the question of media responsibility again raises its head.
The NYT has been widely condemned in the British media: yet, as Hacked Off’s Brian Cathcart pointed out in a column last week, mainstream US journalists have in recent times been standard-bearers for the profession, in the face of a lot of pressure from government and commentators.
One of this blog’s favourite journalists – David Walsh – gave a talk this week on the Moth Radio Hour – one of my favourite radio shows. A pretty perfect combination.
For those that don’t know him, Walsh was the first journalist to raise, in print, suspicions of Lance Armstrong’s drug cheating. He was reviled by many, and ignored by most of the cycling world, but stuck to his guns. Ultimately, of course, Walsh was vindicated.
The point about the Moth Radio Hour, though, is that it is a place for personal reflection, with stories told by people from all walks: Walsh, in his quiet and faltering way, told a story as personal and moving as any I have heard on the show. It is a story from which all journalists could learn something.
By anyone’s standards 2016 has been a peculiar year. But, at Facebook HQ, the last 12 months has been largely business as usual. Of course, business as usual for the social networking giant can have a huge and lasting impact on countless other media businesses and (as we’ll see later) on billions of people across the globe.
As the fallout over Brexit rumbles on, with infighting on all sides of the debate, it’s perhaps worth considering the part the media played in the run up to the polls.
The three main media influences – broadcast, newspapers (and their digital equivalents), and social media – all played very different but significant roles in the debate. For one reason or another, and whether through omission or policy, it is my view that all three ended up broadly supporting the intentions of the Leave campaign.
The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, has called for a Bill of Rights to protect its users. It’s a move that deserves attention and praise.
Berners-Lee marked the 25th anniversary of his invention by this week calling for a Magna Carta for the web to establish a series of rights that protect against online surveillance.