F**k off Auntie Beeb?

26 10 2008

Staff at Bobballs are amazed. There we were thinking that Robert Peston was having such a good Credit Crunch, when this turned up in last week’s Observer.

The allegation is that Downing Street has been using Peston (the BBC) to move the share price of banks around. Apparently, 20 million HBOS shares got snapped up just an hour before a Peston exclusive on the HBOS/Lloyds deal. The buying price was 96p before Peston went on air. Shortly afterwards the shareprice shot up to 215p.

Of course, Peston has done nothing wrong. But, yes, he does have fabulous contacts with Downing Street, having written a glowing biography of Gordon Brown. And, yes, this wasn’t the first time that a Peston scoop has moved markets as he himself concedes in this article for Management Today in 2000.

Sure Peston would have been aware of the consequences of his actions, but he is compelled to file the story. However, can it really be greed, venality and connivance in Downing Street behind it all?

The Sunday Herald has a good round up on the attention Peston is attracting.

But Auntie is getting slapped around a bit in the media (it slaps itself about at one stage). When the BBC isn’t (allegedly) helping insiders to cream off illegal swag from the stock market, it’s (allegedly) destroying the local newspaper market.

On this occasion, it seems plans to create 68 regional video news hubs will unbalance competition and destroy regional digital reporting. BBC radio’s The Media (available on iplayer) interviewed the head on Johnston Press (owner of our own News Letter) on this and Holdthefrontpage has covered this pretty well.

So Auntie is in hock to the market money men in London, and is intent on destroying variety in regional news. At the very least Michael Lyons think local digital news is rubbish. Jeez, anything else?

Yip. Licence-payer funding is protecting the Beeb from difficult commercial market terrain at the moment. So it’s also destabilising competition in regional television.

Apparently, the guaranteed funds and its charter commitments means it must necessarily provide strong regional output, which places it in a uniquely strong position vis as vis its rivals.

The BBC’s position (and its supposedly more populist, commercially driven scheduling) allows it to absorb ever greater audience share and undercut the value attached to UTV advertising. And having further depressed advertising value (during an ad slump), can we be too surprised with UTV’s decision to slash its staff roll by a third? Bye bye Insight etc etc

[There alternate view to this is that OFCOM’s pronouncements, and Channel 4 and UTV’s rush to slash locally generated content, makes the uniqueness of the BBC’s position all the more necessary in defence of regional output.]

The Belfast Telegraph was concerned in a recent editorial. So is it true to say that variation in NI production was deteriorating, only for the NI licence-payer to deliver the coup de grace (in the form of the BBC)? F**k off Auntie Beeb?

Lots and lots of things going on in local media market. The DCAL Committee is undoubtedly planning a far-sighted inquiry as we speak…

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