January 18, 2013 by newsgetting
If 2012 was an annus horribilis for the British press, with the hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World and the subsequent court cases and inquiry into ethical lapses by Lord Justice Leveson, 2013 is the year the resulting arrangements will have to work in practice. In the Murdoch empire, the implications will hit home of Rupert Murdoch’s decision to hive off News International, the vehicle for his newspaper-publishing interests in Britain, from the highly profitable United States-based News Corporation. That will mean cuts in staffing and editorial budgets, with the Times, which incurs the heaviest losses, feeling the brunt of the economy drive. But Tom Mockridge, the chief executive, says that this untethered News International, with a capitalisation of around £3 billion ($4.8 billion), will “still be a very big player indeed”, with a third of the British newspaper market and interests in American and Australian publishing. That will be enough for Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, to continue his effort to diminish Mr Murdoch’s British newspaper holdings. He will fail. The one-time Australian dubbed the “dirty digger” for his muck- and money-raking, digs in deeper when ideological foes pile on the pressure. In 2013 fewer Britons will be consuming newspapers in the fish-and-chip wrapping known as print. The Guardian is said to be discussing an end to its print form—though not in the near future. Tablets will migrate from the briefcases of executives to a wider ownership. There will be well over 1m extra iPads in Britain in 2013 to add to the 7.5m of 2012, as well as another million or so other tablets. Alas for newspaper groups, the prospects for digital revenues are hardly bullish. Advertisers aren’t convinced that the eyeballs linger long enough. In other words, as long as advertisers want to pay for slots in paper pages more than they do on smaller screens, newspapers will survive, but on smaller budgets, and with interns doing a lot of the leg-work. The publicly-funded BBC has other headaches. After its Olympics success of 2012, its senior managers have had to contend with the mess and multiple inquiries arising from allegations that the late Jimmy Savile, a ubiquitous TV presenter, sexually abused teenage girls. Accusations that a laggardly BBC failed to investigate will pile more pressure on them. A punitive mood may also make negotiating the licence-fee settlement difficult. A Conservative-led coalition distrusts the leftish tilt of the corporation and wants to see more programmes farmed out. Two commercial sectors, meanwhile, will have much to cheer in 2013. Television advertising, long predicted to evaporate in a multichannel, digital environment, looks strong. BSkyB will compete with the BBC to export television across the globe. Commercial broadcasters are searching for another “Downton Abbey”, a thoroughly British costume drama actually made as an American co-production. Even as Downton’s last swish of silk disappears, advertisers will pursue its audience of prosperous female viewers. The new golden age of radio will continue with a revived commercial side likely to make still more money in 2013. Capital Radio, headed by Stephen Miron, is creating young bands and hosting big concerts, as well as playing noisy tracks to cabbies and teenagers. Mr Miron has shown that a well-targeted station with attractive add-ons can win listeners. The proliferation of whizzy digital devices is good for radio. Fresh ideas and some commercial innovation are even better.
Anne McElvoy (The Economist)