Geldof, and the need for a debate on opening up current affairs to the challenge of the ‘Net’…

It’s not just Murdoch who’s worried about the future of news. Conall points to a fascinating piece by Bob Geldof in today’s Belfast Telegraph in which Sir Bob rather blows the whistle on what he calls a stitch up by Sir Patrick McCormack’s Northern Ireland Affairs committee… Adds As the BBC report notes, “the Belfast Telegraph, [] along with production company Below the Radar, is one of the partners in [Geldof’s] consortium.” Hmmm and adds… this correction to the Beeb report: Below The Radar and the Belfast Telegraph announced in September that they are in discussions on forming an Independently Funded News Consortium (IFNC) in Northern Ireland.

Earlier this year, the Digital Britain report simply erased Northern Ireland from the map. Few of the major issues in the local television production sector, identified by among others Screen Northern Ireland, were recognised, never mind addressed. Pilots for the new news and current affairs services are being set up for England, Scotland and Wales – but Northern Ireland is likely to end up with no pilot at all. Which would leave UTV free to continue as it is.

Yet yesterday, Sion Simon, a Minister at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport told the Committee that the Ten Alps/Belfast Telegraph plan for multi-media news provision in Northern Ireland was “bang on” in terms of what the government wants for the future. He said that it was a shame that Northern Ireland wasn’t going to have a pilot because if it did, it would have “a very good one.”

Leaving aside my own partisan interest, why did neither Screen Northern Ireland nor the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure feature on the committee’s list of interviewees? Both backed the idea of a news pilot for Northern Ireland. And both were strangely ignored. What’s going on, and why?

Despite the name we know they intended to deal with the whole of the UK, because yours truly was there when they convened a round table discussion at the Culloden Hotel earlier this year… And I took the opportunity to point of making several voluble points about the fact that the mainstream can no longer ignore the fact of the internet, and that increasingly as mainstream news production become reduced and homogenised, that’s where people are going to get the news they can’t get elsewhere…

It’s early days for NVTV’s NI blogtalk programme but it’s a perfect example of how the irregulars of the net can produce the kind of quality debate that’s simply missing from the mainstream… Geldolf declares his own interest in the Below the Radar production company, and in particular Fermanagh TV, it’s pilot hyperlocal video news site… which cannot draw down the kind of innovative production funding streams (and, incidentally, neither could Slugger, if we wanted to exploit such a fund to help us move into some of the value-add areas we’re currently exploring on a pilot basis…)

In the next few weeks, I’ll be speaking about this and other related matters in Paris and Barcelona. In the first case at a rather pessimistically titled conference – “The Media Revolution; liberation or bankruptcy?” – next Friday with an audience will be drawn from the top table of British and French journalism to consider the challenges (and, I hope, the opportunities) being thrown up the free economy of the Internet… And in the second, at the Personal Democracy Forum which will focus more on the shifting platforms that enable citizens to ‘speak truth unto power’…

All of this stuff is being talked about locally (primarily in the DCAL committee which unfortunately can only advise on what remains a reserved matter), but it’s not, perhaps, getting out into more public spaces… Tomorrow we’ll have a guest essay from Slugger’s Journalist of the Year David Gordon, followed by another from the former PA Political Editor, Dan McGinn. Over the next week or so I hope we can pull other guest essayists from various sides of the debate both inside and outside the industry (and inside and out of NI), as well as specific contributions from Slugger’s own home team of bloggers…

So if you have names of people you think we have let us have them… And don’t forget to nominate your favourite journalist for this year’s ‘Slugger’ (but please no more for David!! He’s good, but he and Suzanne are not the only good ones)…

  • Quote from the report p163:

    the specific obligations in relation to the minority Channel 3 Licensees: SMG plc, UTV plc and Channel Television Ltd. These are matters for the independent competition authorities. In relation to the minority Channel 3 Licensees, the Government sees no public policy case in isolation to argue for a change to the status quo; to the extent that the parties mutually require it, greater flexibility can be built in via changes by Ofcom to the networking arrangements, which statutorily Ofcom must approve.

    So UTV isn’t the only company getting favoured status.

  • Fabianus

    Hmm, I forget who it was who famously called Geldof a “mouthy sloven” but I can never disassociate the man from the epithet. Why should his witterings be of any importance to me? Who is this person and what exactly has been his contribution to the world?