I’ve had to find time to try and make sense of the argument presented by The Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, but going by an article on Paid Content, it’s going to be a fruitless task.
It seems that ‘Making Good Society’ will warn against recycled news and that the Government has to guard against media being owned by the few, with levies on Google to fund new media.
And evidence of that?
It says four publishers control 70 percent of the local and regional press, three companies – BBC, ITN and BSkyB – produce national television news and just four companies have nearly 80 percent of the commercial radio market. Apparently 100+ local and regional newspapers vanished last year:
“The advent of free newspapers, the emergence of 24-hour television news and the popularisation of online and mobile platforms have all contributed to a far more volatile and unstable environment for news organisations.”
So the arguments for taxing digital news aggregation sites are that print,TV and radio are owned by a tiny amount of companies, and local newspapers need propping up despite the fact people are looking elsewhere?
If people are increasingly looking online for their news, then where’s the stimulus for more online news products from a wider range of people? Where’s the suggestion to open up media production, which is far more possible online than ever before? I could start a TV station today on a video streaming site, a radio station by streaming over IP, or any number of text publications, but the biggest challenge for most of these is the cost.
Solving the problem of local newspapers vanishing:
Here’s the idea I’ve been thinking about to solve the problem of local newspapers dying off and leaving a gap in useful local news and information.
Fund an online resource for local news and info – if you’re finding money to do it, then use it to either pay someone at the hub of a local community, or fund ways for them to be able to effectively monetise what they do. Encourage it by people who already exist in the community e.g. librarians, schoolteachers etc who have access to IT equipment, and potentailly news gathering volunteers.
And then allow anyone who doesn’t have internet access to request print copies in person, by text or phone. Forget the cost of printing newspapers and instead use a flyer as a starting point and build from there.
That way you can attempt to kickstart local news sites across the country with a tiny amount of resource, with existing equipment, and with the ability to also reach those who require print for the time being, until eventually everyone ends up online. Plus the information will be more relevant and interesting, and less commercially orientated to please advertisers.
And it’ll hopefully inspire a new generation to try to serve communities by providing information in an engaging way, rather than luring them into a profession which has less and less opportunities as time goes by – after they’ve invested time and money to get into it.
Personally, I’d quite like to know more about what’s going on in the local area, but I’m barely sat still long enough to read a paper, let alone pay for that content on a daily/weekly basis for the percentage which is of interest to me.
But give me an online and smartphone resource I could use to find out the things I really want to know about e.g. local gigs, football games, motorsport, road closures, council tax rises, but leave the rest, and I’d pay a small amount for that so I could check up on it at work or on the train.
Link it into booking tickets, contacting the local council, or watching highlights of the football with pre-roll advertising, and it’d have the chance to make even more.
That’s the future of local services.