Select Committee on Communications First Report


APPENDIX 4: MINUTE OF THE VISIT TO THE USA

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 News—17 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 bulletins.

    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 proud of.

    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 revenue.

    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 audiences.

    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 News—17 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.

Political balance

    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 developments occurred.

    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.

Ratings

    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".

The internet

    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 channel—should 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, CNN—18 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 economically—the 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 telling".

    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 reporting—viewing 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 Corporation—17 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 channels.

    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 issues—like 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 programmes.

    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 Report—18 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 website—www.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 Times—18 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 will increase.

    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 website—all 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 journalists.

    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 sections.

    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 Post—21 September 2007, Arlington, Virginia

    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 market—82% 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 rivals.

    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 awareness.

    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 each market.

    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 Doctrine—the 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 Transportation—21 September 2007, Washington DC

    88.  The Senate Committee handles communications and media issues. Its oversight is focused on licensed purveyors—television 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 Integrity—19 September 2007, Washington DC

    91.  The Committee met with Mr Buzenburg and his colleague Mr Drew Clark designer of the Media Tracker Project.

    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 online news.

    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 Journalism—19 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 principle—the 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 company—especially 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 Union—19 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 coverage.

    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 to employ".

    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, PBS—21 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 reporting elsewhere.

    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.

Other meetings

Minute of the meeting with representatives of Comcast Cable Operator—20 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 initial investment.

    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 … An ever-decreasing 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 assertions.

Minutes of informal meetings

Lunch with radio executives—18 September 2007, New York

    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 Corp.

    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 small decline.

    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 news production

    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 academics—18 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 journalism.

    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 experts—20 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.




 
previous page contents next page

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

© Parliamentary copyright 2008