Tag Archives: View from the North

Carrie Gracie Gives Evidence To MPs About Equal Pay

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I’ve been asked to write another article for the University of Huddersfield View from the North blog, this time about the gender pay row at the BBC and Carrie Gracie’s appearance before MPs yesterday. And here it is.

THE BBC is in a bind over how much it pays its journalists.

In particular, Auntie’s accused of giving prominent female reporters a raw deal, by keeping them on salaries far lower than men doing similar jobs.

The issue – rumbling for months – exploded to prominence at the start of the year when China Editor, Carrie Gracie, announced she would leave that role in protest at discovering she was paid significantly less than, for example, US Editor Jon Sopel.

Gracie’s intervention demonstrates the BBC was in the wrong twice over.

First, she underlined the uncomfortable reality that the BBC was indeed short changing its female journalistic talent.

Radio 5 live Breakfast presenter Rachel Burden revealed last summer she was paid a third of the salary of her co-host, Nicky Campbell.  Sure, he has a long history as a Radio 1 DJ and TV star and his pay is certainly a legacy of that, while Burden’s relatively modest wage reflects her more conventional background in BBC local radio.

Campbell is a hugely experienced and capable presenter, but is he three times better than Burden?  Of course not, and he’s acknowledged as much by joining Sopel in agreeing a pay cut.

Second, the idea that BBC journalists need to be paid more to prevent them being poached by rival organisations is nonsense.

This does happen from time to time – see Robert Peston’s switch to ITV – but if commercial broadcasters really are prepared to pay top dollar to get leading BBC names, then what’s the problem?

It’s an organisation full of journalists like Rachel Burden, ready to take the step up from local radio or regional TV, who have lacked only the chance to prove their abilities on a national stage.

BBC News is already trying to find savings of £80m a year as part of BBC-wide cost cutting.  I’d expect to see far fewer big salaries and more internal promotions from here on in.”

Sky-Fox Deal Not In Public Interest, Says Regulator

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The University of Huddersfield press office asked me to write something about the latest twist in the Fox takeover of Sky. It’s for the uni’s View From The North blog. This is the article in full.

ONE of the longest-running sagas in media has taken another turn, with Rupert Murdoch’s latest bid to take full control of Sky hitting a new setback.

The Competition and Markets Authority has provisionally ruled such a move would give the Murdoch family too much control over the UK’s media.

The Murdochs already own newspapers including The Sun and The Times, along with radio stations from talkSPORT to Bradford’s The Pulse.

They’ve got 39% of Sky too, but putting Sky News completely into their hands is proving to be the sticking point.

Since it launched in 1989, Sky News has established itself as a lively and valued competitor to the BBC, popular with politicians and viewers alike.

Broadcasting rules mean there’s no chance of it becoming a British version of the right-wing U.S. channel Fox News.

But even in its current form, Sky News has a big enough share of the TV and online news market to make regulators balk at allowing it to fully join a larger news empire.

One option would be to try to sell Sky News or spin it off as a completely separate company. But with the channel traditionally losing tens of millions of pounds each year, it’s tough to see anyone willing to take it on.

This inquiry is already being overtaken by events, though.

Rupert Murdoch sprung one of the biggest surprises of his long career last month by announcing he planned to sell most of his media assets – but not his cherished newspapers – to Disney.

The biggest threat to consumer choice might come from Disney deciding the cost of running such a loss-making news brand is an unnecessary distraction from its entertainment businesses.

Disney boss Bob Iger has already insisted that Sky News “absolutely” has a future. Viewers who routinely turn to it for breaking news will hope that’s true.

The Facebook Beheading Videos Row

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The university’s View from the North blog.

As the controversy about beheading videos on Facebook restarted this week, I wrote a post about it on the University of Huddersfield’s View from the North blog, on which academics write about assorted current events. I’ve reproduced the post below.

WATCHING VIDEOS of people being beheaded is not a pleasant experience.  I remember once mistakenly seeing unedited footage of a beheading in Iraq, as it came into the newsroom of a TV channel I was working for.  The main lesson I took from it was to do what I could to avoid seeing another one.

But if I really wanted to, I could now satisfy my curiosity by visiting Facebook.  The social network has quietly reversed its previous ban on the posting of beheading videos.  Quietly that is, until today, when the change attracted the full attention of the media.  David Cameron even used Twitter, Facebook’s bitter rival, to condemn the decision as “irresponsible”.

It’s not especially controversial to say that beheading videos are bad in general, and that watching them is probably bad for us too.  But the dilemma facing Facebook is more complicated than that.  It comes down to this: is Facebook a publisher, or a platform?  Or put another way: is it more like ITV, or a simple transmitter?

If ITV broadcast the beheading video currently being shared on Facebook, it would be subject to potential sanctions from its regulator, Ofcom.  But in Facebook’s case, there is no regulator.  Nobody can fine it or take away its licence, even though members of the public have accessed the video using Facebook as surely as a theoretical TV viewer might access it using a particular channel.

The argument made by social networks that they are merely platforms for others to post content is fine up to a point.  But where Facebook in particular gets on to crumbly ground is when it refuses to censor beheading videos on one hand, but steps in to enforce its own ‘Community Standards’ on the other.

It rules all sorts of things out of bounds, from fake accounts to pictures of self-harming. You can understand the reasons why. But Facebook knows the more it intervenes, the more it edges away from the transmitter towards the publisher.  That could mean extra responsibilities for proactively policing material across its one billion users, which would be extremely costly in time and money.  Facebook would much rather leave it to us.