Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website
The recent dramatic fall in newspaper circulation and advertising revenue – especially among regional daily and local weekly newspapers -- could have a profound effect on the public relations industry. Such has been the loss of jobs among reporters and sub-editors, that in one respect the pr industry might gain.  Journalists are already over dependent on the constant supply of news and information being issued by the public relations and public affairs industries and that over-reliance is bound to get worse, making it ever more likely that news releases will be published without the kind of journalistic challenges and checks that should have been made.

A review which has just been announced by the Office of Fair Trading into the rules affecting the ownership of regional and local media might well end up as a nothing more than a smokescreen for a far more significant re-alignment which is already taking place nationally without any sign of government interference. 


National newspapers which have invested heavily in their websites – like the Sun, News of the World, Guardian and Daily Telegraph – are carving out their share of the expanding online television market without having to pay any heed to the old rules on cross ownership or monopolies.  The likes of Sun tv and News of the World tv are outside the reach of Ofcom. It says they are not television-like services; the regulators and the government are happy to look the other way.



Retaliation by means of television attack advertisements is at the front-line of political campaigning in the USA. In the Presidential election between John McCain and Barak Obama, a rapid response on the networks is critical. In the UK by contrast, it is the highly-politicised British press which more often than not provides an immediate platform. A tip off from a political spin doctor, a leaked document or a signed article play a similar role in influencing the news agenda and reinforcing the campaign message. In a lecture to visiting students from Boston University(29.9.2008), Nicholas Jones described the two techniques and he predicted that the lack of controls on political advertising on the internet, meant that the British advertising industry would soon be competing with the ad industry in America to produce the most hard-hitting attack advertisements.


Two of John Birt's former corporate strategists --who both became political advisers to Tony Blair -- are now working on plans to top-slice the BBC's licence fee as a way of financing other public service broadcasters. Ofcom is reviewing the future of broadcasting following the digital switchover and convergence of tv and the internet. Its chief executive officer Ed Richards has called for the "contestability" on the licence fee. His former colleague, James Purnell, now Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, who has his doubts as to whether it is sustainable for the licence fee to continue going to a single provider, has promised to be "bold". Nicholas Jones is to chair a session on the future of the BBC at a conference, New Threats to Media Freedom, organised by the National Union of Journalists (26.1.2008). Jones says defending the licence fee would be an essential part of any fight back:

If ever there was a harbinger of an imminent demolition job it has to be Rupert Murdoch’s demand for an easing of the rules which require radio and television services to be politically impartial in their news and current affairs output.

Murdoch knows he is pushing at an open door: newspaper websites are already free to be as partisan as they like in what they report and now that the broadcasting regulator Ofcom has thrown in the towel, the same goes for the burgeoning audio-visual output of press proprietors.

Internet television will soon be available at the flick of a remote control and my fear is that political parties struggling for support will rue the day that the Blair government failed to ensure action was taken to protect balanced reporting on television and radio during general election campaigns.