Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 600 - 608)



Mr Keen

  600. I asked the Daily Mail was it very difficult to reconcile the fact that the print newspaper disguised opinion as fact in order to influence its readership and yet broadcasting has always been regulated as being independent. I am not accusing your papers of doing this but do you try to influence the readers by disguising opinion as fact?
  (Mr Cruickshank) Had I known that such questioning was coming today I would have had our editors with us as this is a judgment for them to make, not for me or for Mr Hudson to make. I can assure you that we pay great attention to our governance, as we call it rather grandly, of the newspaper titles that we own. That sort of issue is for the editors to decide.

  601. I have to say that in The Herald I am very familiar with your Political Editor and have great regard for him. Would you agree that a number of the English based newspapers do disguise opinions as fact in order to influence their readership?
  (Mr Cruickshank) Sometimes they report MPs accurately, yes. It is complex. A newspaper is in some ways a misnomer, more and more of us are getting our news from a variety of sources and less from newspapers. Many newspapers, perhaps the ones you have referred to, are more about entertainment than information. I do not doubt that they manage it that way in order to continue to attract readers. We have two very, very serious issue oriented newspapers in The Herald and The Sunday Herald and an evening newspaper which I think manages as well as anyone in Britain to sustain the traditional role of the newspaper printed during the day. I am not going to comment on others.

  602. Obviously you do not have that difficulty, you run your newspapers as you run the broadcasting side of it, on the same principles?
  (Mr Emslie) Central to your question is is there a conflict of interest because we are radio, TV and newspapers in terms of the editorial integrity and how we produce the news? There is absolutely no conflict of interest. Newspapers runs its own editorial programme underneath the direction of the editors and Television, as you rightly pointed out, has to be impartial. The newsrooms in both Grampian and Television are distinct from each other and distinct from the editorial content of the newspapers.
  (Mr Cruickshank) I think an issue which is not addressed in the White Paper, again, is the day at which obligations on impartiality the state will not be able to apply to all news broadcasters. That is an elephant in the corner, as they say in America, it is very soon. These are issues that the White Paper should be addressing, not the structure and regulation and the like.

  603. It is very interesting that as we go into new methods of broadcasting or media, the Internet, most people do get their news from broadcasting, either radio or the TV, so is it not an anomaly then to leave the print newspapers able to act without principle in many cases? Should they not be regulated in the same way as the broadcasters?
  (Mr Cruickshank) For hundreds of years, up until the 1930s, there was a diversity and plurality in newspapers and then along came television and for about 60 years there was seen to be a need to regulate very heavily particularly the news content of television. Now, in the 21st Century along comes Internet as a new medium, which again has the capacity to provide plurality and diversity, and the interesting issue is why should we continue with this particular sub-set of regulation which was necessary in the beginning of the period of television into the 21st Century? I think it is releasing television to have the plurality of ownership and diversity of presentation that newspapers used to have and now with the Internet is being built increasingly, perhaps not today but in a decade or two. This stopped with broadcasting but we recognise the impact that new technologies are having on the capacity of individuals to access information and regulate what we used to call "broadcasting appropriately", which would mean releasing many of the constraints, particularly ownership constraints.

  604. Why should a media organisation buy part of a football club? I am referring to your organisation as well as ntl.
  (Mr Cruickshank) I will ask Donald to answer that but I would ask the question why should we not?
  (Mr Emslie) We do not see it necessarily as a football club but more the content. We spend a significant amount of our own resources in Scotland buying the right to Scottish Premier League and the First Division, and buying a stake in a football club at least gives us a seat at the table to discuss how television rights might be used in the future. If rights are returned to the clubs then we have an ability to work with the club and develop in the content for both the club and the supporters and for the viewers in Scotland. It is more about content rather than buying into a football club and access to rights.

  605. If a football club needs assistance with developing its media contacts, should that not be completely independent from those who are paying money to the football clubs or the Scottish Football Association as well? Should it not be independent? Is it not wrong that a media company is able to buy—I know it is a limited percentage—into a football club in order to help capture some of that money they will be paying over? That must be disrupting market forces.
  (Mr Cruickshank) As long as the activities of outside investors, whether they be media companies or not, are not distorting the competition, ie the football league, hence we cannot invest in two clubs because that raises all sorts of issues about collusion and so on. As long as that constraint is in there, we have every interest in supporting that football club and, therefore, indirectly its supporters in understanding better this mystery of the developing rights issues. Many people have sports rights issues that they are developing, as we see in the World Cup, and it is very confusing and we can help to gain an economic benefit without it being separated in any regulatory sense.

  606. You are probably unique in that you have invested in one club only but ntl have invested in a number of clubs in England.
  (Mr Cruickshank) In minority positions where it is more than one, yes. To be precise, it is less than ten per cent.

  Mr Maxton: They still get their names on the jerseys.

Mr Keen

  607. I can understand clubs accepting £15 million right out of the blue and in the short-term it is of benefit to them but it just seems, again, trying to influence the decisions the clubs make, or the FA makes, in future negotiations with the very people that—
  (Mr Cruickshank) I ask you why should we not try to influence them in the interests of what we believe to be the interests of the audience? We have two audiences, we have those who view and those who pay for advertising and the programmes. Companies like ourselves trying to innovate in partnership with football clubs or whoever is the best way forward for the economy and for viewers. What you are hinting there is another cross-media ownership issue now extending to football. I think it is the wrong way if we are thinking about the economy and the dynamic marketplace or the interests of audiences, I really do.

  Chairman: A swift last question from Mr Wyatt.

Derek Wyatt

  608. This afternoon the Knowledge Economy Paper, I think version 2.0, comes out. Are you saying from your conclusions that actually you will be at a disadvantage because of the special circumstances in Scotland?
  (Mr Cruickshank) No. I am suggesting that these issues of public service obligations, whatever they are, of broadcasting should be dealt with UK wide. If, in addition, the Scottish Executive thought there were particular needs to be met in Scotland then we would be happy to partnership with them in delivering them.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed, a very informative meeting.

previous page contents

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 26 February 2001