APPENDIX 4: MINUTE OF THE VISIT TO
As part of its ongoing inquiry into media ownership
and the news, the select committee on communications undertook
a visit to the United States in September 2007.
This document provides a minute of each meeting.
16-21 September 2007
Meetings with television news broadcasters
Combined minute of the three meetings with Paul Slavin,
Senior Vice President of ABC News Gathering and Marcus Wilford,
London Bureau Chief; Mark Whitaker, Senior Vice President of NBC
News; and Paul Friedman, Senior Vice President of CBS News17
September 2007, New York
1. In the USA television programming is provided
by the traditional three networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) and by the
newer cable channels. The networks provide a whole range of programming
on their channels including morning and evening news programmes.
Cable channels tend to focus on one type of programming, therefore
there are dedicated 24 cable news channels (the main three being
Fox News, CNN and MSNBC). NBC is the only network to also run
a cable channel MSNBC.
2. The networks rely on advertising as their
main revenue stream (for example advertising forms 95% of ABC's
overall revenue). Cable channels receive subscription fees as
well as advertising revenue.
Network News Ratings
3. All the networks are experiencing a decline
in audiences for news programmes. Ten years ago they would all
have expected an average evening news audience of approx ten million,
now CBS attract about six million, NBC attract 7-7.5 million and
ABC attract 7.5-8 million. The viewers that remain tend to be
older. There are marked declines in viewers in the 25-54 age group
which is the main target of advertisers.
4. ABC's evening news programme currently achieves
the highest evening news ratings. Mr Slavin believed that
the main reason for this is the popularity of the anchor, Charlie
Gibson. Also people trust ABC as a brand. To boost news audiences
ABC has used an aggressive strategy of breaking into other programmes
with news updates.
5. However, while the total ABC evening news
audience is growing (it is up by 6% this year), its audience in
the 25-54 demographic is declining (it is down by 8% in the same
period). Mr Slavin stated that if this group continues to
turn away from the evening news, then it is not inconceivable
that evening news will disappear across the networks.
6. All the networks cite the same reasons for
the loss of viewers. In the early nineties the networks moved
their evening news bulletins forward to 6.30pm. At the same time
evening commutes were getting longer and therefore people were
not home to watch the news. In addition many young people are
turning to the internet for news. The internet is attractive because
news stories can be accessed at any time to suit the viewer and
people can choose the stories of most interest to them. There
is also evidence that younger viewers are more inclined to get
their news through satirical shows rather than traditional news
7. Peak viewing time for US television is 8pm
to 11pm, none of the networks thought that the evening news would
ever be moved into this slot. Mr Friedman stated this was
due to news flow. If you schedule news at 9pm then you lose your
audience for the rest of the evening.
Network News Ownership
8. ABC is owned by Walt Disney. Mr Slavin
stated that nobody from Disney has ever tried to exert pressure
on editorial decisions, even when ABC covered Disney related stories.
He doubted that there is even cautious self-censorship. His reporters
bend over backwards to make sure they are fair.
9. Mr Slavin stated that because they are
only a small cog in a successful machine ABC News is not charged
with maximising revenue. Their profit figures are not published
separately. The Chairman of Disney, Michael Esiner, is interested
in news and proud of owning a trusted news source. ABC News may
be less profitable then most of Disney's interests but it compensates
for this in the value it brings to the reputation of the company.
Mr Slavin believed that the only disadvantage to being within
such a large corporation is that they tend to be slow decision
makers and this can be frustrating when ABC want to innovate quickly.
10. NBC is owned by General Electric (GE). Mr Whitaker
stated that nobody from GE has ever tried to exert pressure on
editorial decisions. GE understands that the credibility and success
of the news division depends on its independence. One example
of their independence is that CNBC (their cable business news
channel) regularly covers GE and never shies away from observing
that the new Chairman has not succeeded in raising the stock price
of the company. GE is a global brand. Mr Whitaker stated
that it is so big that it can withstand pressure from any government,
including foreign government like the Chinese. GE has never suggested
that NBC avoid being critical of China.
11. Mr Whitaker agreed with Mr Slavin
that there are advantages to being within a large corporation.
It gives the news division protection from the "vagaries
of television advertising". He also believed that it brings
a level of rationalisation and rigour to business decisions within
NBC that is totally different from many media companies. GE favour
a diversified portfolio and NBC News is an asset that they are
12. CBS was owned by Viacom but in 2005 Viacom
split itself and re-established CBS Corporation with the television
network at its core. CBS Corporation and the new Viacom are controlled
by National Amusements. Mr Friedman has worked for all three
network news divisions and stated that he has never experienced
pressure from any owner. He believed that large corporations are
aware that the independence of their network news divisions must
be protected. He cited examples where the network owners had fought
to protect their news divisions from pressure from advertisers.
Network News on the Web
13. All the networks agreed that television
news is losing audiences to the internet and therefore they are
all working to develop their web presence. However, they are also
all struggling with the fact that online news attracts much smaller
advertising revenues than television. They all doubted whether
advertising revenue from the web would ever match TV advertising
14. All the networks now ask their journalists
to multi-skill. The same journalists feed their broadcast and
online news outputs. They are all using their websites to go into
each news story in more detail than is possible in a time limited
broadcast. They were all upbeat about the high quality of new
entrants to the journalism profession.
15. Abcnews.com is attracting larger and larger
audiences (traffic is increasing by 20 to 40% each year). ABC
expected their internet advertising revenue to double this year.
Mr Slavin believed that the internet is a positive development
for journalism because it allows people to go deeper into stories.
Broadcasts are time limited but the internet allows broadcasters
to refer people to their web page for more information. However,
he stated that it is harder to channel audiences from the internet
to television. Mr Slavin believed that unregulated internet
sites and blogs are not a threat as they make people aware of
the importance of trusted brands such as ABC.
16. Msnbc.com is a joint venture with Microsoft.
It is one of the two largest news content sites in the US (the
other being cnn.com). NBC's full television news broadcasters
are put on the web as soon as they are aired. People can then
downloads them segment by segment, enabling them to choose to
watch only the stories of interest to them and avoid advertising
breaks. This is proving very popular. Mr Whitaker is confident
about the multi-platform future. While the internet may never
match TV revenue dollar for dollar, new technology makes news
production cheaper and more efficient.
17. Mr Friedman from CBS was less upbeat.
He stated that nobody knows whether the internet will ever provide
large audiences and large profits. He was clear that younger people
will not be attracted to TV through the net.
The quality of the network news
18. All the networks stated that the proliferation
of news sources had limited their power to control news agendas.
When most people sourced their news from the networks it was easier
to ensure that they viewed public service content such as international
news. Consumers now have more choice and there is more incentive
to chase ratings. Now people can choose news sources that fit
their world view and so their views are rarely challenged.
19. Mr Slavin, from ABC, believed that the
networks have a responsibility to provide information on stories
of public importance even if they do not attract the audiences.
They have to balance hard and soft news. However, he stated that
the audience for international news is smaller than it was twenty
years ago. An advantage of having the ABC web site is that it
allows ABC to be a niche broadcaster as well as appealing to mass
20. ABC were about to announce seven new international
bureaux. Mr Slavin stated that it was no longer efficient
to run large brick and mortar foreign bureaux but new technology
makes it possible to have fewer staff doing more. The new bureaux
will be small and journalists will be expected to multi-skill.
They will mainly feed the ABC web site but will supply television
if big stories break in their areas. Mr Slavin said that
it was possible that such multi-skilling might be detrimental
to the quality of output but it was too early to assess this.
He felt that ABC had a fundamental question of trust to answer
as it had previously closed so many bureaux.
21. Mr Whitaker explained that NBC had recently
faced large job cuts which hit news gathering. Their correspondents
are now busier and have to feed all their platforms. The war in
Iraq is having a detrimental affect on the spread of foreign coverage
(it takes $9 million a year, a tenth of their entire news budget).
Mr Whitaker stated that the international leader in foreign
coverage is the BBC "the leader and the best".
22. Mr Friedman of CBS suggested that the
OJ Simpson trial (in the mid nineties) was a pivotal moment for
news coverage in the US. For the first time all media outlets
covered one tabloid story in great detail. They were all rewarded
by high ratings. This was the beginning of the belief that tabloid
reporting results in good ratings. Mr Friedman stated that
no public policy changes could help news in the US. All interventions
in the area of free speech are deeply unpopular.
23. Cable channels receive subscription revenue
irrespective of how many people tune in. However the networks
do not have this reliable income stream. Instead they must rely
on advertising revenue.
Minute of the meeting with Roger Ailes, Chairman
and CEO, Fox News17 September, New York
24. The Committee met with Mr Ailes
accompanied by his colleagues David Rhodes, Vice President of
Fox News, John Moody, Executive Vice President of News and John
Stack, Vice President of Newsgathering.
25. The Committee were told that Fox News
was launched because Roger Ailes and Rupert Murdoch believed that
there was space in the market for "fair and balanced"
news. They believed that most news reporting has a left of centre
bias. The Committee heard from other witnesses that Fox News provides
a right of centre product. However, Mr Ailes vigorously denied
this. He stated that the channel has no particular political agenda
and an effort is made to balance the stories they produce, although
he also said that on some days the channel acts as a balance to
the rest of the media.
26. Mr Ailes suggested that the liberal
bias of other news providers could be seen through the coverage
of issues such as the events at Abu Ghrab prison in Iraq in 2005.
He believed that papers such as the New York Times covered the
US's troubles at the prison even when it was not news, nothing
new had happened. Fox News only mentioned the prison when new
27. Fox News never endorses any political party
or candidate. Mr Ailes stated that they do not shy away from
stories damaging to the Republican Party. Just before the 2000
presidential election they ran a story that they knew would damage
George W Bush's campaign. The Bush campaign even asked them to
hold the story. They were the only news organisation to get hold
of the story (which related to Bush having been caught driving
under the influence of alcohol 16 years previously). Therefore
they decided it was news worthy and ran it. Following their coverage
Bush dropped by five points and Ailes believed that Fox News was
probably responsible for the run off in Florida.
28. Mr Ailes believed that Fox News' "balanced"
approach is critical to the channel's success and that if any
other news channel were to move away from the left then Fox would
have stiff competition.
29. When it was launched Fox News' target
was to match CNN's ratings figures within five years. In fact
they caught up with CNN in four years. It took five years of losses
and spending of over $900 million to establish the channel. It
has therefore been crucial to have the backing of a large company
like News Corp.
30. Mr Ailes stated that the success of
Fox News was down to a number of factors: it is a cable channel
so draws income from both advertising and subscription; it provides
news when it is required and is not forced into an inflexible
model of providing evening news at 6.30 and it provides "more
of what the consumer wants".
Soft vs hard news
31. Mr Ailes explained that Fox News
balance what the audience is looking for with what it is important
for them to know "the appeal of the story plays some role
in its prominence". The emphasis is on domestic news and
not on foreign coverage. Fox News is not interested in "the
failure of the Russian wheat harvest". They have experimented
with limiting their coverage of soft news stories. A case in point
was the death of Anna Nicole Smith (Smith was a page three model
who married a very elderly oil baron). Fox News experimented by
not running this story hour-after-hour like the other channels.
However, each time they took it off air CNN beat them in the ratings.
Mr Ailes explained that sometimes they would like to walk
away from a story, but it is difficult to do so. He was clear
that he has to respond to market pressures and that the channel
exists "in a ratings society".
32. The Fox News executives all agreed that
a cable news channel had to invest in a corresponding internet
site. It is hard to work out the relationship between the web
site and the channelshould one platform push viewers to
the other? It is also hard to balance the needs of young and old
news audiences. Different age groups have different performance
measures that they use to judge which news provider is best. Older
audiences believe in the importance of thorough research and accurate
reporting, younger audiences want stories available as they break,
before there has been time for thorough research. If a story that
is breaking is not immediately on the web site young visitors
will never return. The preference for immediacy over accuracy
is illustrated by the popularity of sites such as wikipedia. Mr Ailes
believed that it is crucial to educate young people to critically
evaluate news sources.
Minute of the meeting with Darius Walker, New York
Bureau Chief, CNN18 September 2007, New York
33. The Committee met with Mr Walker
and his colleague Kim Joust.
34. Mr Walker claimed that CNN is the largest
commercial news broadcaster in the world with 4,000 journalists,
36 bureaux around the world and 1,000 affiliate agreements. Cnn.com
is the most popular news content web site in the US. The company
is very upbeat about its future and keen to refute that it is
threatened by Fox News.
35. Mr Walker rejected Fox's claim to be
the number one cable news broadcaster. While Fox might have more
unique viewers for their prime time shows, CNN's cumulative viewing
figures are better and they attract the audience that matters
economicallythe young, affluent and better educated viewers.
This makes them attractive to advertisers and they say that they
can charge a lot more for 30 seconds of advertising space. However
they conceded that Fox does make more revenue than CNN from subscriptions.
36. Mr Walker stated that "good journalism
is good business". Most people see CNN as objective (according
to the Pew Research Centre). Fox is seen as "point of view"
journalism, aligned with the Bush administration. CNN believe
that there is still an appetite for serious television news but
audiences have shorter attention spans which means there is a
need for better use of graphics, video etc. This does not have
to be detrimental to journalism, it promotes "better story
37. When designing their news agenda, CNN executives
keep an eye on commercial pressures but they also aim to protect
the brand in order to retain the young and affluent viewers. CNN
is relied upon for international reportingviewing figures
rocket after international events. Mr Walker viewed the BBC
as an excellent model for serious news reporting.
38. CNN is owned by Time Warner. Mr Walker
stated that CNN has never sensed any direct or indirect pressure
from Time Warner to cover stories in a particular way. They are
never soft on their reporting of Time Warner interests and always
declare that they are a division of Time Warner in their broadcasts.
39. CNN pay a lot of attention to their successful
website. Their site has more news video than any of their rivals.
They were the only television company that the Committee met who
stated that they had already been successful at using the site
to bring young people to the TV channel.
Meetings with newspapers and proprietors
Minute of the meeting with Mr Rupert Murdoch,
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, News Corporation17
September 2007, New York
40. Mr Murdoch summed-up the state of
news media as "fairly chaotic". Modern life is affecting
how people access the news: more women are in work, fewer people
use public transport, people arrive home later in the evenings.
As a result the biggest newspapers are losing circulation and
the evening news programmes are losing audiences. The internet
is the platform of the younger generations and is taking both
audience and revenue (classified advertising revenue is all moving
to the internet). Even when news providers establish successful
web sites they cannot match the revenue lost from their newspapers/television
41. Rising to the challenge of the internet and
attracting young readers are the biggest challenges for traditional
newspapers. Young people are not turning to physical papers for
their news. This is particularly true in the US but applies in
the UK too. Mr Murdoch has tried various ways to reverse
this trend but with little success. His job therefore is to get
the young to visit the web sites of his papers. He wants his news
providers to be platform neutral. Newspaper editors also need
to recognise what stories are popular on the internet. To illustrate
this he explained that Yahoo is the most read news site and if
you analyse what news stories are read most on Yahoo it is always
"soft" news stories.
42. The US television networks are also facing
great challenges. They are losing approx 1% of their audience
each year. This is having a dramatic affect on their advertising
revenues. Part of the reason that networks are losing audiences
is that there is now a huge choice of channels with many niche
and special interest channels. Mr Murdoch stated that this
"huge fragmentation adds up to a great service for the public".
He also stated that the popularity of blogs, with differing levels
of accuracy, added to the "sheer chaotic mass of material
out there". He went on to state that "You have to throw
it all out there and trust the public. Who are we to say what
they can choose?"
43. Mr Murdoch did not want to over-exaggerate
how people were turning their backs on news. Some television and
newspaper formats are still popular. Morning magazine style television
programmes get good ratings, as do some scheduled local news programmes
and 24 hours news channels. The population was always interested
in local news. This was illustrated by the success of local evening
papers in the UK.
44. Mr Murdoch stated that sometimes it
was necessary for a large company like News Corp to invest in
a service in order for it to fulfil its true potential. Fox News
took five years of losses before it became so successful that
cable providers would not dare to drop it. He bought MySpace because
it was growing and enthusiastic. It was constantly developing
and after two years it was already making 20 times more money
than when he bought it. Because of his investment they were now
able to give advertisers access to very cheap, targeted opportunities.
By the end of this year advertisers would have access to thousands
of differentiated groups on MySpace.
45. When asked about Britain Mr Murdoch
stated that the UK was "anti-success"this had
prevented him from expanding further (for example through the
purchase of local evening papers). He was particularly concerned
about the stance of the UK regulatory authorities. They kept investigating
his purchases on the grounds of plurality but he had invested
in plurality by keeping The Times alive and putting 200 extra
channels on the air through Sky. The Government passed the Communications
Act 2003 stating that anyone could buy a 20% stake in ITV, then
he purchased a 17.9% stake and the regulatory authorities launched
a huge investigation. Concern about his purchase was "paranoia".
Another company could buy a larger portion and he would have no
way of stopping them. He cannot understand why the UK Government
is exercised about ownership levels. He believed that this concern
is "ten years out of date" now that there are so many
news outlets for people to choose from.
46. Mr Murdoch stated that the BBC had set
the mould for TV in the UK. The BBC was responsible for the training
of most people in the UK television industry. This meant that
many people working in commercial television in the UK were not
trained to make commercial decisions. He stated that "the
BBC has a unique place in British life". People were very
hostile to any challenge to the BBC. News Corp was the first organisation
to bring proper football coverage to the UK. Their investment
led to better football grounds and other benefits. However it
had been a real struggle.
47. He believed that Sky News would be more popular
if it were more like the Fox News Channel. Then it would be "a
proper alternative to the BBC". One of the reasons that it
is not a proper alternative to the BBC is that no broadcaster
or journalist in the UK knows any different. Mr Murdoch stated
that Sky News could become more like Fox without a change to the
impartiality rules in the UK. For example Sky had not yet made
the presentational progress that Fox News had. He stated that
the only reason that Sky News was not more like Fox news was that
"nobody at Sky listens to me".
48. Mr Murdoch believed that the role of
the media is "to inform". Reporters are there to find
out what is going on and editors are there to invest in those
investigations if they uncover something.
49. Mr Murdoch did not disguise the fact
that he is hands on both economically and editorially. He says
that "the law" prevents him from instructing the editors
of The Times and The Sunday Times. The independent board is there
to make sure he cannot interfere and he never says "do this
or that" although he often asks "what are you doing".
He explained that he "nominates" the Editors of these
two papers but that the nominations are subject to approval of
the independent board. His first appointment of an Editor of The
Times split the Board but was not rejected.
50. He distinguishes between The Times and The
Sunday Times and The Sun and the News of the World (and makes
the same distinction between the New York Post and the Wall Street
Journal). For The Sun and News of the World he explained that
he is a "traditional proprietor". He exercises editorial
control on major issueslike which Party to back in a general
election or policy on Europe.
51. Mr Murdoch insisted that there was no
cross promotion between his different businesses. He stated that
The Times was slow to publish listings for Sky programmes. He
also stated that his own papers often give poor reviews of his
52. Mr Murdoch recognised that as a US citizen
he was able to own significant media holdings in the UK but that
US foreign ownership rules would prevent the situation being reversed.
It is his belief that US foreign ownership limits will be abolished
very soon as US companies want to buy into foreign markets and
will need to be reciprocal.
Minute of the meeting with Mort Zuckerman, Publisher,
New York Daily News and US News and World Report18 September
2007, New York
53. The New York Daily News is a tabloid
style newspaper with the sixth largest circulation of any US newspaper.
Currently its circulation stands at 718, 174. It also runs a websitewww.nydailynews.com.
54. Mr Zuckerman told the committee that
like US television news, news print is also suffering from a drop
in circulation. The New York Daily News' circulation figures have
declined over the last two decades. Its readership is also ageing.
55. Mr Zuckerman believed the main reason
for the drop in readers is new technology. At the same time classified
advertising etc is moving to the internet, and not to the websites
of newspapers but to new dedicated providers. The New York Daily
News has always made a profit but this year it may not due to
the large decline in advertising revenue (for example his Detroit
paper used to attract 500 pages of advertising, now it is 20 pages
and he has had to shut the Detroit advertising office). He is
trying to develop new business models for the web but Mr Zuckerman
explained that this is "substituting pennies for dollars".
56. As a result of these challenges costs have
to be cut. His magazine US News and World Report used to have
12 foreign bureaux. Now it has none. Newspapers and magazine have
to find an edge. Young people want "news you can use".
The US News and World Report has found a niche in providing issues
which rank colleges, hospitals etc. Their fundamental foundations
used to be serious reporting, now they rely on the "franchise
issues". A great story on Iraq, or politics makes no difference
to their circulation figures but their rankings are of key importance
to readers and advertisers. All new providers must find added
value: analysis, opinion, parody, something not available elsewhere.
57. The main rival of the New York Daily News
is the New York Post which is owned by News Corporation. Mr Zuckerman
stated that the Post is a "non-economic competitor"
and therefore it is very hard to compete. The Post is sold cheaply,
buys in less advertising and charges less for the advertising
space that it does sell.
58. The reason Mr Zuckerman stays in the
news business is that he is a "junkie for journalism".
He believed in the press and likes the challenge of finding a
sustainable business model. He describes it as a "glorious
way to lose money".
59. Mr Zuckerman explained that US newspapers
have a tradition of separating their editorial "views"
pages from their news pages. This is central to the American news
tradition. There is also less of a tradition of tabloid news reporting
in the US.
60. As proprietor he does not know what's in
the paper until next day. He never gets involved in the news pages.
However he does get involved in editorials on areas of special
interest to him. The day before he met the Committee, he had cut
an editorial on teachers' pay as he felt it was too sensitive
a time for the paper to make comment. He also takes all decisions
about political endorsements. He believed the New York Daily News
carried an endorsement influence of 2.5%. He is happy to have
contributed to the election of last two mayors of New York (Bloomberg
and Giuliani), both of whom won by less than 1%.
61. Mr Zuckerman stated that some owners
get involved in news pages to further their own business interests.
Although he sees this as contrary to tradition of American news
values he does not think there is any way to prevent it happening.
Minute of the meeting with Arthur Sulzberger Jr,
Publisher and Chairman of the New York Times18 September
2007, New York
62. The Committee met with Mr Sulzberger
and his colleagues Scott Heekin-Canedy, President and General
Manager, New York Times; Craig Whitney, Standards Editor and Michael
Golden, Publisher of the Herald Tribune.
63. The New York Times is a daily newspaper published
in New York City. It is the largest metropolitan newspaper in
the United States. Its circulation, like that of almost all newspapers,
has been slipping, although it has one of the highest market-penetration
rates of any metropolitan news daily. It has 1.1 million readers
daily and 70% of these are subscription customers (for which there
is an annual charge of $600). The Sunday paper shares the same
editor and reporters as the daily edition, it has a readership
of approximately 1.7 million. The median age of the New York Times
readership is in the early forties and for the Sunday edition
it is in the late forties. This has not changed in a decade. Subscriptions
are very important as studies show that after subscribing for
two years people tend to stay until they move or die.
64. Mr Sulzberger stated that they can no
longer define themselves by the word "paper" and instead
are defined by "news". They have the largest newspaper
website in the world. They have just announced that the subscription
area of their news site "Times Select" will no longer
be a subscription only area and will therefore be available for
anyone to view for free. When they launched Times Select is was
popular but subscriptions have stabilised. They believed they
could make more money from a free site as advertising revenue
65. The New York Times web site includes blogs
with a reader comment area. Under US law the company cannot be
held responsible for blogs imported onto the site. In the UK the
publisher is liable so there is less freedom to innovate in this
area. They put much more content on their websiteall the
parts of a story that do not make it into the paper. They keep
their site up to date minute-by-minute. They now look for multi-skilled
66. Not only is the paper's circulation in long-term
decline but over the last four to five years advertising has also
declined. This is the first time advertising revenue has declined
while the economy has been growing. The biggest drop has been
in classified advertising which used to be the most profitable
area. They have had to cut staff. They have spared reporters but
cut integrated print and digital journalists. They are also working
on cutting the costs of production and distribution. It is painful
but they are seeing a year-on-year reduction in expenses.
67. In order to keep readers they have added
sections to their newspaper such as travel and science. In the
face of competition other papers have retreated into soft local
news, this allows The Times to expand their national and international
68. Mr Sulzberger was confident about the
future because they have a world class brand. He believed newspapers
will survive because their form is valued. Advertising revenue
on the web may be less than on paper but the cost of producing
news on the web is also cheaper (there are no print or delivery
costs). Mr Heekin-Cenedy stated that during a recent month
online revenue offset print revenue, but that the expectation
for online growth to offset print declines is farther off. He
attributed the success that they have had with online advertising
to brand value and their early entry into the web news business.
69. Like other US papers they maintain a clear
division between news and editorial. The editorial line of the
paper is decided by the editorial editor and the proprietor. They
employ a public editor to respond to any issues raised by readers.
They also have a standards editor to ensure that ethical standards
of journalism are understood and followed. All their staff are
given a book outlining their principles and guidelines, provided
it is kept to then the Public Editor has no work. These systems
were created following a scandal where one of their journalists,
Jayson Blair, was found to have falsified stories.
70. Their editor is appointed by their proprietor,
he makes news and content decisions without discussion with the
proprietor. The proprietor only gets involved in the news agenda
when it has national repercussions. Political decisions are down
to the editorial editor. Sulzberger only sees about 10% of editorials
before they are published, for example when they are changing
a long held position or making a new political endorsement. He
stated he has never had a serious disagreement with an editor.
He appoints them and they already have "the same world view".
Minute of the meeting with Leonard Downie Jr, the
Executive Editor of the Washington Post21 September 2007,
71. The Committee met with Mr Downie,
and his colleagues; Caroline Little, Publisher and CEO of washingtonpost.newsweek
interactive and Jim Brady, the Executive Editor of the washingtonpost.com.
72. The Washington Post is part of a diversified
company, it is best known on the stock market as an educational
company because it also owns Kaplan. Mr Downie explained
that having other profitable arms to the business is a benefit
as it takes the pressure off the news division to make large profits.
73. The Washington Post website is highly acclaimed.
The paper entered the new media area early, launching its interactive
division in 1995. Although the paper is local (to the DC area)
the internet gives it a national market82% of online readers
are from outside of the DC area. The web site is doing very well.
Its audience is growing faster than the paper audience is shrinking.
Profits from the web site were growing steeply but now they are
starting to slow down. This is attributed to aggressive competition
for advertisers from new web entrants such as Facebook. The web
site still only accounts for 15% of revenue for the paper. Mr Downie
stated that this was not enough, although it was better than his
74. Mr Downie believed that there are great
journalistic opportunities from having a newspaper on the internet.
It allows stories to spread quickly and internationally, increasing
the paper's influence and impact. Most of their journalists work
for both the paper and the website although a few work in areas
with no overlap (e.g. online blogs). Their surveys show that readers
hate it when you have to switch between paper and the web to get
a full story, but do not mind overlap on both platforms.
75. The circulation of the paper itself is down
3-4% a year over the last five years. 75% of its sales are subscription,
its losses are mainly from high street sales. They are responding
to this by trying to encourage web users to try the paper by familiarising
them with content and style. They are using the web to build brand
76. The paper keeps its news and editorial pages
totally separate. Mr Downie is responsible for the news side
and on principle he never reads the editorial pages or gets involved
in politics. The editorial pages are edited by one person who
reports to Don Graham, the publisher. They have a corrections
column and public editor to deal with complaints etc.
77. Mr Downie has written a book about how
journalism is in peril because of changes in ownership patterns.
He stated that large conglomerates are often not diversified so
are very vulnerable to technological changes and changes on Wall
Street. They insist on maintaining a 20% profit margin and to
do this they cut news room staff. This is the beginning of a vicious
circle as they then lose readers. As an illustration of this he
stated that local city papers are now almost devoid of national
or international news. The main example he used was that of the
San Jose Mercury News in California. In the 1990s its journalistic
staff grew from 200 to 500. It produced a high quality product
and dominated coverage of Silicon Valley. Then the dot com bubble
burst and the paper lost large swathes of advertising. Instead
of holding tight they "decimated" their journalists
with the effect that the authority of the paper was undermined.
The large conglomerates have also tried to impose centralisation
on their websites. This has been to the detriment of localism
and has lead to a loss of audiences. There has been a big shift
to the BBC/Guardian/Post/New York Times websites for serious news.
78. Mr Downie is gloomy about the future
for the newspaper industry as a whole. He believed that the Post
and New York Times will survive because of the quality of their
product and awareness of their brand. Other papers will continue
to loose classified advertising and revenue and will cut costs
as a result. This will lead to a further decline in quality and
further loss of circulation and advertising.
Meetings with public policy makers
Minute of the meeting with the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC)20 September 2007, Washington DC
79. The Committee were met by Monya Bhagdady,
the deputy chief of the division responsible for reviewing the
media ownership regulations and her colleagues Daniel Shiman,
Mark Berlin and Tracey Weisler.
80. The FCC is an independent agency directly
responsible to Congress. It is not an executive arm of the White
House. It is charged with regulating interstate and international
communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable
It is a much more political body than Ofcom. The President appoints
the Chairman and the two political parties each appoint two commissioners.
The FCC both makes and polices the rules governing communications
in the US.
81. The FCC is required to review media ownership
rules every four years in recognition that the market is changing
rapidly. It must make sure none of the regulations have any unintended
consequences. The FCC's ownership regulations are designed to
promote three goals: localism, diversity (in terms of viewpoints
and formats) and competition. The First Amendment guarantees free
speech, which is interpreted to mean that the FCC cannot require
certain types of programming, therefore the Commission has to
rely on ownership rules to promote diversity.
82. In 2002 the Commission's review of the ownership
regulations sought to relax ownership limits at the local level
(there are no limits at the national level). This was very controversial.
Two of the FCC commissioners published dissenting views. Several
parties sought court reviews of various aspects of the decision.
In 2003 the changes were blocked by the courts.
83. The current review of ownership rules is
examining the decisions of the courts in 2003 and the objections
of those who opposed the 2002 proposals. This review is ongoing.
It includes public meetings and research projects. Ten research
projects have been commissioned, although both the research designs
and the conclusions of these studies have been subjected to detailed
criticism by the Consumers Union (see below).
84. A long-held legal premise of the FCC is that
a broadcaster does not have to be based in, or owned by, the local
community to be responsive to it. Studies commissioned by the
FCC have shown that as companies expand, so does diversity within
85. Mr Shiman discussed a recent study he
had conducted which collected data on the size and scope of the
news operations. It analysed the relationship between the nature
of the news operations and market characteristics, including ownership
structure and robustness. He found more news is provided by consolidated
markets. He also found that local ownership slightly depressed
news output. The stations owned by the big networks broadcast
more news. However, he did not look at the quality of news, the
number of journalists employed, or the volume of original vs.
recycled stories. Nor did the study distinguish between sport,
entertainment and other forms of "soft" news. In fact
if the TV Guide classed a programme as news then so did the study.
The FCC try not to get involved in judgements about the quality
of news because it "is fraught with constitutional issues".
86. Mr Berlin gave the Committee an overview
of the Fairness Doctrinethe historical attempt to ensure
impartiality in broadcast news in the US. The doctrine obliged
networks to air public issues or controversial views and offer
balanced time to all sides. In the 1980s, the courts questioned
whether this was constitutional. In 1987 the FCC decided not to
enforce it. Other balance requirements were also subsequently
removed. Now the only remaining rule is that presidential candidates
must be given equal time on air. Mr Berlin said the removal
of these requirements had giving rise to one-sided (mostly conservative)
radio talk stations.
87. The FCC is a light touch regulator. Although
it still requires that local stations meet the needs of local
communities the stations themselves can pick what issues meet
this requirement. There have been no cases of any station losing
a license for failing to adequately cover local issues.
Minute of the meeting with James Assey Jnr, Democratic
Senior Counsel, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation21
September 2007, Washington DC
88. The Senate Committee handles communications
and media issues. Its oversight is focused on licensed purveyorstelevision
and radio. The Committee has no direct oversight of newspapers.
Congress has the ultimate power of sanction over the FCC by withholding
money required to implement changes recommended by the FCC. The
FCC is thus less independent of the Senate than Ofcom is of Parliament.
However, the balance of power rests with the Chairman of the FCC
as the political reality is that it is very hard to get enough
votes to override a decision of an administrative agency.
89. The promotion of competition, diversity and
localism has been key to recent communications policy. The FCC's
2003 proposals to relax the media ownership rules were supported
by the Republicans and the business community. However, it was
generally felt that there was a lack of evidence to support the
FCC's proposals. This influenced the decision of the courts to
stay the changes.
90. In the US it is difficult to know what legislators
can do about content and the diversity of news programming. There
are concerns about the quality of journalism, but there is also
a need to be sure that any policies designed to promote quality
will have the desired impact. There is also concern about economic
and journalistic pressures producing softer, less serious and
less accurate news in the drive for immediacy. However, the First
Amendment makes it very hard for public policy to directly address
content. Also it would be very difficult to put requirements on
the television networks without putting them at a major economic
disadvantage in relation to cable television operators.
Meetings with not-for-profit organisations
Minute of the meeting with Bill Buzenburg, Executive
Director of the Centre for Public Integrity19 September
2007, Washington DC
91. The Committee met with Mr Buzenburg
and his colleague Mr Drew Clark designer of the Media Tracker
92. The Centre for Public Integrity was launched
18 years ago to provide investigative reports. Their mission is
to dig in areas where the commercial media are not looking.
93. Mr Buzenburg expressed concern about
the future of journalism in the US. 3500 journalists have lost
their jobs over the last five years (out of c 50,000). He attributes
this to the fact that newspapers are in "freefall" and
the TV networks no longer focus on investigations but instead
concentrate on "soft" stories. Mr Buzenburg believed
that there is still an appetite for serious reporting and that
is why the National Public Radio (NPR) audience has risen. It
is only the not-for-profit organisations like NPR that are still
engaging in serious reporting.
94. The traditional family newspaper proprietors
believed in informing democracies, this ethos was lost when large
businesses took over. Ownership sets the culture and can therefore
effect the quality of news without direct proprietorial interference.
In his opinion the market will never produce the environment needed
for high quality journalism.
95. Although he is hopeful that some news web
sites will develop serious reporting this has not happened yet.
He stated that nobody has yet figured out how to make money from
96. In the US the Government has turned away
from regulation: the FCC is serving financial interests but not
the interests of consumers and citizens. Up until 2003 the public
had not really minded but at that point they did start to react
against deregulation. That has slowed the FCC's plans.
97. Mr Buzenburg believed that you need
a licence fee system to support public media. He believed that
the BBC infuses other media with public service content. However,
this would never be viable in the US. Education is also very important,
teaching young people media literacy skills will allow them to
seek out quality information.
98. Mr Clark demonstrated the centre's new
web based "Media Tracker" which aims to provide citizens
with easy access to information about who owns the media in their
local area. By entering their zip code any visitors to the site
can get full listings of all the news providers in their area
(TV, newspaper, radio etc) with details of who owns them and how
those owners have donated to political campaign and lobbying etc.
Minute of the meeting with Professor Tom Rosenstiel,
the Director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism19
September 2007, Washington DC
99. The Project for Excellence in Journalism
(PEJ) is a research organization that specializes in using empirical
methods to evaluate and study the performance of the press. The
team at the PEJ started by studying "what is journalism"
because there was a fear that journalism was disappearing into
"media". They wanted to address what elements of journalism
were worth saving and whether it was acceptable to let the market
rule. This study led to the publication of Elements of Journalism
which sets out the enduring principles of the discipline. The
new edition this year adds a new principlethe responsibility
of the citizen in the digital age, which addresses the fact that
with news aggregator sites (such as Google News) you are the editor
of your own news digest.
100. This work was followed by the launch of
a content analysis of what was happening within the news media.
There is no criticism but it acts as a mirror for the profession.
Each week they issue a report on what the media is covering and
what it is ignoring. Their analysis shows that network news covers
a lot more hard news than cable news which tends to focus on minute
by minute developments of crimes and celebrity stories. In the
evenings cable news becomes more political and is akin to US talk
radio. Prof Rosenstiel attributes some of these differences
to the taped vs. live natures of network vs. cable news.
101. Analysis of online news sources in the US
shows that they tend to be more international and have a more
diverse and open agenda. They are more likely to lead with stories
that traditional papers would avoid in case people were not interested.
Professor Rosenstiel explained that research suggests that
it is not necessarily the case that the internet kills "accidental
news acquisition" (where you have to watch stories you would
not actively choose to access). In fact people do tend to look
at the top stories on news aggregator sites.
102. Given the opportunity for links to further
information, web sites have less pressure to limit their front
pages to the top six stories. The PEJ's research shows that all
the new digital news sources (internet, fox news etc) are about
repackaging other people's information rather than finding new
information. There is also evidence that the most people who use
the web to access news have no brand loyalty so will not pay for
trusted sources. This is why the New York Times have had to abandon
Times Select as a subscription service. People will only pay for
unique and specialised coverage they can get nowhere else.
103. The fundamental problem for US journalism
is that the internet is not proving to be as profitable a revenue
generator as the mediums it is replacing. However Prof Rosenstiel
is confident that there is a future for news journalism. It is
still making a decent profit compared to other businesses. Media
companies are used to huge profit margins but new companies will
emerge who are content with 4-5% profits. You will always need
a few major institutions who can spend money on covering stories
such as Iraq. In his opinion only the big players such as the
New York Times and the BBC will continue to be able to do that.
104. In 2001 the PEJ published a study that found
media outlets tend to cover their parent companies products much
more than others, but only declare the link 15% of the time. For
example, CBS is owned by Viacom, whose holdings range from MTV,
Simon & Schuster book publishers to Paramount studios and
beyond. The PEJ found that the networks' morning magazine news
shows did more stories about their own parent company's wares
than they did about any other single companyespecially
their media competitors. For example, CBS was nearly twice as
likely to carry Viacom products than ABC and NBC combined. These
ranged from interviews with contestants on other CBS shows to
interviews with the stars of Paramount movies.
Minute of the meeting with Chris Murray, Senior Counsel,
the Consumers Union19 September 2007, Washington DC
105. The Consumers Union (CU) believed that
diversity of ownership is the best driver for diversity of content.
Their evidence suggested that the number of journalists employed
by a company declines after mergers and that this reduces the
diversity of voices available.
106. Given that most people still rely on newspapers
and TV for news the CU refuted the argument that proliferation
of sources makes concentration of ownership irrelevant. Multiple
news sources may exist but they are not accessed by most of the
population. The CU is particularly concerned about the concentration
of ownership controlling local news.
107. There is no conclusive evidence on the effect
that concentration of ownership has on the quality and diversity
of news. But there is evidence that ownership influences content
and "it is very difficult to prove what didn't get reported".
For example, local media owners are often also local property
owners. This may lead to conflicts of interest and they may not
report controversies about planning. Proving this omission is
very difficult. The CU did not believe you need evidence of foul
play to press for protections in law. If the economic incentive
for foul play exists then the law should respond. With fewer and
fewer competing newspapers there is less likely to be antagonistic
108. The CU stated that the traditional economic
model of news provision is breaking down. Media companies have
very high profit expectations of approximately 30-40%. The expectations
are increasingly hard to realise without rigorous cuts. News can
still be profitable within the normal definition of a good profit.
109. The FCC has been moving to relax the media
ownership rules and in 2003 the CU challenged their proposals
because they were "inconsistent and illogical". The
courts backed the CU and the rules were sent back to the FCC.
The FCC are now conducting studies on the impact of ownership
on news but the political direction is to relax the rules. The
CU believed that the FCC are fixing the design of the studies
on the effect of ownership. They found FCC e-mails stating "if
you want to relax ownership rules here are the five academics
110. The CU suggested that given the US aversion
to content regulation, the quality of news provision might best
be addressed if the Government subsidised reporting rather than
subsidising the media outlets. If a story gets into print it will
eventually be reported on TV and radio.
Minute of the meeting with Mike Mosettig, Senior
Producer, the McNeill Lehrer News Hour, PBS21 September
2007, Arlington, Virginia
111. The Public Service Broadcasting Service
(PBS) operates as a collection of principalities without a single
head. No local PBS station can be ordered to carry a particular
PBS programme. The decision rests with each local station. All
300 PBS television stations choose to buy the MacNeill Lehrer
News Hour. It is the only programme carried by them all. The local
PBS stations do not do local news programming, all local news
programming in the US is commercial.
112. The MacNeill Lehrer News Hour is the only
one hour non-commercial over the air news programme. It emphasises
foreign and international news coverage. It has an audience of
around 1.5-2m and is considered to be quite influential. It runs
6-10 minutes of news but focuses mainly on analysis. It does not
editorialise but sticks to objective reporting and analysis. It
has a reputation for reaching the opinion leaders and has a high
credibility rating. It is also broadcast on four major public
radio stations (which works as it is a talk programme). It has
an affiliated web site and is trying to respond to the demands
of multi-platform media within a small budget.
113. Its budget is around $20m (compared to CBS's
budget of $400m). Half the funding comes from the fee paid by
PBS stations and half from corporate support and foundations.
Corporate money is getting harder to attract but foundation support
is growing due to a concern that there is so little international
114. The independent production company that
produces the News Hour has no foreign bureaux and only four correspondents.
They do have deals with APTN, ABC and ITN. They used to have an
arrangement with the BBC but Channel 4 material suits them better.
115. Mr Mosetigg believed that the standards
of professionalism in journalism are as high as ever in the US
television networks. The problem is the enormous pressure on ratings,
which results in a decline in hard news. Newspapers do the investigative
journalism: they have large staffs and are able to set the agenda
by concentrating on serious journalism. But they too are in trouble
because of declining revenue. In his view there are only five
US news organisations with a serious commitment to international
news: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times, the
Wall St Journal and CNN. They set the agenda for serious news
but even they are reducing staff.
Minute of the meeting with representatives of Comcast
Cable Operator20 September 2007, Washington DC
116. The Committee were met by John S. Morabito,
Vice-President of Government Affairs; and Brian Kell, Senior Director
of Government Affairs.
117. Comcast Corporation is the largest cable
company and the largest broadband internet service provider in
the United States. It serves a total of 24.1 million cable customers,
14.1 million digital cable customers, 12.4 million high-speed
internet customers, and 3.5 million voice customers. The company
employs over 90,000 people.
118. Mr Morabito explained that around 95%
of US homes have access to cable. Out of approx 100m homes, 65m
choose to receive cable, 20m choose to receive satellite and 15m
receive only analogue channels.
119. Cable operators are required to carry the
main television networks, government programming and PBS. This
forms their basic package. Only 2m customers take this basic package.
Most customers pay $110 per month for a range of channels. There
is some bitterness that satellite providers are under no obligation
to carry any particular channels.
120. All non-compulsory channels are carried
at the discretion of the cable companies. Usually the cable operators
pay in order to carry channels. They buy the most popular channels
that will boost their business. However, Fox News were the first
channel ever to pay the cable operators in order to launch their
business. It worked for Fox because the exposure made them popular
and now they can charge cable operators. This required a large
121. Mr Morabito questioned the truth behind
the television networks' claim that cable news operators are at
an advantage because they get subscription payments and are not
solely reliant on advertising. He suggested that the networks
get indirect subsidies from subscriptions. Most networks also
own popular cable channels and use these as a bargaining tool.
For example ABC own the popular sports channel ESPN and say to
Comcast that because ABC is free they must pay double for ESPN.
122. Two cable operators (Comcast and Time Warner)
dominate the scene. They have agreed not to compete. Only 2% of
US households have a competitive choice of cable provider.
123. Some campaigners have suggested that cable
companies use their positions to control what viewers can access.
For example, in February 2003 the Washington Post published an
article in which it stated that Comcast was refusing to air anti-war
commercials produced by MoveOn.org. The article stated that this
illustrated the need for federal rules to restrict the size of
media companies. It quoted Jeff Chester, the executive director
of the Centre for Digital Democracy, who said that "Comcast's
rejection of an anti-war ad underscores the problem we have in
the United States because of media consolidation
number of conglomerates control access to TV". In response
to this, Mr Morabito told the Committee that Comcast never
make decisions because of the politics involved. They did refuse
to air the MoveOn.org advert, but this was because it made unproven
Minutes of informal meetings
Lunch with radio executives18 September 2007,
124. The Committee had a working lunch with
representatives of the radio industry including Bill Sobel, President,
Sobel Media; Denise Oliver, President, Oliver Media; and Susan
Austin, President of SGN Radio, a division of Sheridan Broadcasting
125. Nearly all Americans still listen to AM/FM
radio at least once a week. According to 2005 data (found in the
"Radio Today" annual report (2006)) 93.7% of people
age 12 years and older still listen to traditional radio each
week. Since 1998 there has been a 1.6% drop in audiences, a relatively
126. In the 1990s the US government significantly
relaxed the radio ownership rules. As a result large multi-national
companies started buying up many local radio stations. For a decade
Clearchannel was the industry giant, owning nearly triple the
number of stations of its nearest rival.
127. To many in the industry, the influence of
multi-national companies was a worrying development. Critics claimed
that unique programming was being jeopardised by greater homogenisation
of opinion, news and music. Clearchannel was at the forefront
of public criticism that national programming was subsuming local
interests. For example, in Minot, North Dakota in 2002, the New
York Times claimed that the local Clearchannel station did not
report a train derailment of toxic chemicals when the local emergency
alert system failed. This was attributed to centralisation of
128. The large corporations are under pressure
from their shareholders to make money. As a result they are cutting
investment in journalism. Like other mediums radio is losing advertising
revenue to the internet.
129. Consolidation of ownership has reduced the
number of voices heard in each locality. The number of stations
has not declined but the diversity of their content has. Ms Oliver's
company has the only African American correspondent in the White
House. Ms Oliver stated that if she were only in the business
for money she would cut her own news production and take ABC news,
but she has not because she believes in multiple voices. The loss
of diversity and character may be a contributing factor to the
loss of listeners but there is no clear evidence to prove this.
130. Before the large companies started buying
out local radio stations the FCC relaxed the public service obligations
to which radio stations are subject. Now most stations only have
news and opinion at breakfast.
131. Ms Oliver argued that free to air radio
stations are at a disadvantage to cable and satellite radio. In
return for their spectrum they must fulfil certain public service
obligations (e.g. community announcements and indecency restrictions).
These make it hard to compete.
Dinner with various academics18 September
2007, New York
132. The Committee hosted a dinner. Guests
included Professor Ed Baker from the University of Pennsylvania
Law School; Professor Tomas Lehman, the Dean of the Columbia
University School of Journalism, Professor Thomas Edsall
also from the Columbia University School of Journalism and Martin
Dunn, the Editor-in Chief of the New York Daily News.
133. Professor Baker argued that a diverse
and high quality media cannot necessarily be delivered by market
principals as it is not a product or commodity. In some ways investigative
journalists can put themselves out of work by doing a good job
as they deter corruption and lose their stories. Merger regulations
are only concerned with power over price but media mergers alter
who has power over price and over opinion.
134. Concentration of media ownership is problematic
because all groups should be represented in the media, concentration
raises the chance of conflicts of interest and makes it easier
for a corrupt politician to take control of the public debate.
Proprietors have always influenced the agendas of their newspapers.
Historically this was not a threat to democracy as no single proprietor
controlled too much of the media. This is no longer the case.
135. Large corporations are more vulnerable to
pressure than smaller businesses. To illustrate this, Professor Baker
cited a story when the New York Times had run stories damaging
to the pharmaceutical industry. The pharmaceutical companies threatened
to withdraw advertising from some medical journals that the NYT
Group owned. Such a move would have destroyed the journals. The
NYT Group responded by selling the journals because they found
that the concentration left them vulnerable to pressure.
136. Professor Lehman contested the commonly
heard suggestion that there is an inverse relationship between
concentration of ownership and the amount of local information
provided by a news provider. He stated there is no evidence of
a causal link. In fact being part of a large company can be beneficial
to investigative reporting as business synergies allow savings
on the production side. The savings can be re-invested into journalism.
Martin Dunn said that in his experience consolidation aided the
quality of journalism. The ability to reduce process costs (printing,
distribution etc) allows owners to reinvest money into actual
137. Professor Baker disagreed. He cited
a study that found (even when holding the size of the paper constant)
that small companies hire more journalists than large companies.
He suggested that the reason for this is that publicly traded
companies are under huge pressures to maximise profits but family
companies often get into the business because of a passion for
news. When mergers occur the buyer always thinks they can make
money from the acquisition so they are more focused on the bottom
line than the seller. He argued that governments can respond by
banning media mergers above a certain size or by ensuring that
there is proven public good before a merger is permitted.
138. Martin Dunn also stated that the degree
of influence a proprietor has over the agenda of his papers is
down to the individual. Some owners actively encourage a diversity
of voices, others do not. Some value reporting more than others
(he cited Mort Zuckerman's support in investigating the health
problems of 9/11 responders, as Editor Mr Dunn was allowed
to dedicate a core team of seven journalists to the story for
nine months, not one article on that story resulted in more sales,
but it gave the paper greater credibility and reinforced the brand).
139. Professor Lehman is a member of the
judging panel of the Pulitzer Board. He stated that small papers
cannot compete for Pulitzer journalism prizes. The same dozen
large papers win year after year. It is only the large companies
which have the resources for top quality journalism. He believes
the Pulitzer prizes help drive the passion for serious journalism.
The US would never accept public intervention in journalism as
experienced by the BBC. It works in the UK but would be a laughable
proposition in the US.
140. Professor Edsall also writes for an
internet news site the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post aims
to eventually supplant traditional papers. It is constructed with
a traditional front page and distinct news section, but it is
updated constantly. Until May 2007 it had no reporting staff but
now advertising revenue has increased and allowed them to employ
full time staff. News web sites usually have comments sections
where readers can discuss stories. They often use these comments
to get inspiration for news and angles.
141. The Huffington Post links to reports on
newspaper sites. Professor Edsall insisted they are not stealing
from papers when they link to them. However Mr Dunn disagreed.
He stated that internet based news sites make money from mainstream
news organisations without actually doing any of the investigating
and reporting. Linking is not enough as readers may click on the
link but will not delve deeper into the newspaper's site.
142. Professor Lehman stated that there
is an important distinction between reporting and journalism.
He compared blogs to one person opinion sheets that reflect the
original roots of journalism. So far there is no evidence that
they will turn to investigative journalism. He sees blogs as part
of the discourse space rather than the information space. It is
pamphlet culture not journalism culture.
Dinner with various media experts20 September
2007, Washington DC
143. The Committee hosted a dinner for Drew
Clark, Project Manager of the "Well Connected" Project
at the Centre for Public Integrity; Henry Farrell contributor
to the "Crooked Timber" blog; Dominic Martin, Counsellor
for Political, Press and Public Affairs at the British Embassy
Washington; and Lonna Thompson, the Senior Vice President and
General Counsel for the Association of Public Television Stations.
144. The discussion focused on the influence
of blogs. Mr Farrell suggested that the influence of blogs
is mainly secondary. They do not have enough of an audience to
make a political impact on their own, but mainstream journalists
use them to find stories. There are very few bloggers from a centrist
political position, most have quite strong political views. There
is some suggestion that blogs are dragging political candidates
away from the political central ground because they give party
activists more of a voice before the presidential primaries.
145. Mr Farrell suggested that one of the
reasons that blogs have not taken off in the UK is that British
newspapers provide political opinion and so there is not the same
gap in the market as there is in the US.