Category Archives: Broadcasting

Young people’s media use and creative participation

Yesterday I went to the Young people’s media use and creative participation event hosted by my university Westminster. The event was introduced by David Gauntlett with a short presentation that outlined his soon to be published book, Making is Connecting in which he cleverly links to the symposium.

First up is Fatimah Awan with a presentation which forms part of the culmination of an AHRC funded project on Young People’s Mediaworlds she worked on with David. Much of the research was conducted using creative methods which in this case involved young people building 3 dimensional ‘identity boxes’. Fatimah’s presentation concerned her work at a school on Cumbria. The project diary and videos can be viewed here.

There were presentations from OFCOM, University of Oxford along with University of Tampere in Finland. However Ranjana Das from LSE, and someone I had met at the Summer School recently, delivered a very relevant presentation for my research entitled ‘Digital natives’? Divergence and consensus, similarities and differences. Ranjana discussed in her paper  how the, so called, digital native are seen as technological literate but lack critical understanding of the internet and technology. This is becoming an increasingly relevant issue which questions much of what has been assumed and analysed by media commentators like Don Tapscott.

Writing to my MP about proposed BBC licence cuts

Since May 2009 38 degrees has been using the web as an online campaigning tool to defend fairness, protect rights, promote peace, preserve the planet and deepen democracy. Issues that champion people power in our society. 38 degrees was formed by a “group of activists and funders concerned about the state of our democracy and determined to try something different.” One of their first, and successful, campaigns was the overturning of a proposed closure of BBC’s 6 music radio station.

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One of their recent campaigns has been to lobby local MPs and raise concerns with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, that prevents cuts in the BBC licence fee.

A friend of mine sent a message to our MP, Mike Freer, on this subject. He received a standard reply.

The reply went like this:

Dear Mr Taylor
Thank you for your email regarding the BBC. The BBC does need to be more effective and efficient with its use of public money. There is no evidence that the drive for the BBC to be more careful with the significant amount of public money it receives is remotely related to other media operators.
sincerely, Mike Freer MP Conservative Member of Parliament for Finchley & Golders Green

Now, I’ve never written to my MP in my life but I was rather irritated by this crass and misinformed response to my friends request. It should be noted that Mr Freer was leader of Barnet Council when problems occurred over its investments in Icelandic banks after the bank’s collapse. With this in mind I thought I should take him to task and so I wrote him this response.

Dear Mr Freer,
Mr Taylor sent me your response to his email about cuts at the BBC (below) and I felt compelled to contact to you as your statement raises a number of issues.
Firstly, your reply lacks the inclusion of any facts to back up your statement and misunderstands the issue.

The original request from Mr Taylor was for you, as your constituent, to raise his concerns about cutting the BBC’s budget with Jeremy Hunt. It was not about whether the BBC is “careful with public money”. This is where you have significantly misunderstood the point regarding this issue. Being “careful with public money” is not the same as having budget cuts imposed.

Secondly, your first sentence contains a meaningless statement. What does “more effective and efficient with its use of public money” mean?
One could apply this to anything; Barnet Councilors’ pay rises, Barnet Council’s Icelandic banks investment, MPs expenses, Royalty, Banks (as we now part-own many of them). The list could go on and on.
The same applies to your second sentence:

“be more careful with the significant amount of public money”.
This again is a meaningless and rather offensive statement. Especially when set against the aforementioned issues of Barnet Council’s investment in Icelandic banks and MPs expenses. Both of these examples haven’t been “careful with the significant amount of public money” at all.

Thirdly, you say:
“There is no evidence that the drive for the BBC to be more careful with the significant amount of public money it receives is remotely related to other media operators”.
On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence to show that “be(ing) more careful”, or as the issue is actually about: cutting the BBC’s budget, would help other media operators. Cutting the BBC’s budget would limit the amount of services that it can provide and therefore enable media operations like BskyB and News International to charge for their equivalent, and in my view poorer, services. As James Murdoch’s Edinburgh Television Festival MacTaggart speech revealed, the Murdoch Empire dislikes the BBC because its services prevents them from making more profit and from their proprietor imposing even greater influence on the UK.

The BBC licence fee is extremely good value for the amount of services it provides; numerous radio stations, 9 TV channels, and cutting edge internet services. At £145.50 a year the licence fee works out at £2.79 a week or £12.12 a month, far less that than the £20++ plus per month that other media organizations charge, and offer a much lesser services for this price.

Sadly your reply implies that you have a poor understanding of media issues in this country and hope this can be rectified during the course of your tenure as an MP.

I too am a Finchley and Golders Green constituent and would like you to raise the points I have mention with the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt.
Yours faithfully, Tim Riley

I received a rather minimal and curt response.

Mr Riley
I will raise your concerns at the earliest opportunity.
Mike Freer

British Library & Question Time

The snow has nearly gone and yesterday was was a eventful day. I had my monthly meeting with my supervisors in the  morning. This time at the British Library which is always an inspiring place to visit. We spoke for about two hours and mainly discussed my impending deadline for the Application to Register and Plan of Work which outline my research. This has to be reviewed and accepted by a panel of academics who judge whether it will contribute to knowledge and is sufficiently original to warrant pursuing.

There were just minor changes to the document and for the rest of the meeting we discussed the practical implications of the research, the books I needed to read. I feel I’m a little deficient in my knowledge of the sociological background surrounding subject so I was recommended some books to read.

Before Christmas, while  watching Question Time on BBC One, I applied to be a member of the audience on the programme as it was visiting my local area. On Monday I was called by a producer and last night was in the audience. We were asked to submit two questions and they pick a sample and the author get s to ask the question to the panel. My first Question was about Alastair Campbell and the Iraq Enquiry. My second is about the breaking news story concerning Google adopting to remove censorship from it’s Chinese website after a cyber attack on its gmail accounts. “Was Google ethically wrong to set-up in China and right to stop playing by the censorship rules now?” This was probably a bit obscure for the likes of a mainstream political programme but in internet circles this is big news. Needless to say I didn’t get to ask either of my questions.

Went down the pub afterwards just in time to watch the end of the Rovers v Villa game on TV. We lost again!

Earlier in the day I visited my Twitter account and found that David Gauntlett has uploaded another of his videos. This covers ideas from his forthcoming book Making is Connecting. He’s very prolific and a bit of a rising star in his field and he’s also building quite a reputation. I feel privileged that he’s my supervisor.

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Greg Dyke at the London Television Society

Greg Dyke’s view of broadcasting and the media has always been of interest to me. I have been one of his humble employees twice now, at TVam and Pearson Television. In both these jobs I have held him in high regard. So it was with curiosity that I went to this talk. Although most of my attention has moved from broadcasting to digital media I still take an interest in the effect the web is having on this traditional media.

Dyke is a very engaging and knowledgeable speaker with views from every corner of the broadcasting world. He spoke poignantly about the bad management decisions at ITV, which has led to it becoming a ‘poison chalice’ but believes Archie Norman, the in-coming Chairman, is a good appointment. On this point I’m not sure I agree. He later considers himself too old and set-in-his-ways to take on the challenges that TV channels face today with the use and greater reliance on cross-platform technology, convergence and the increased competition for advertising from the web. Surely these are exactly the problems that Norman, from a traditional business background, will face in the future.

We must not forget Dyke’s legacy too. He put in place a strategy for the development of the iPlayer, while Director General at the BBC, and introduced the world of free-to-air digital broadcasting to the UK through the launch of Freeview. In his talk he gave some great anecdotal stories surrounding these subjects proving he will be remembered for his contribution to some of the most important historical moments in UK media history. But probably not Roland Rat!