Better BBC business coverage requires more accountability from business

A plea for more and better business news from BBC Northern Ireland has come from the local arm of the Institute of Directors, via Twitter and their freshened up website NI Biz Talk. Judging from the BBC News website, this is long overdue. While the lobby is urging a write-in to the latest BBC public consultation about Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle, I suspect the case can be made for all local BBC platforms.

What is “business news ” anyway? Judging from their own website and others, the IoD and others are looking for greater exposure for their own network, lobbying government and good news about companies – all naturally enough. But analysis is skin deep and  “whatever you say, say nothing” prevails, usually with a smile. A general media overdependence on PR handouts is notorious.

More and better coverage requires the quid pro quo of more open access and accountability from business, which tends use the cry of ” commercial confidentiality” far too easily. Inside  knowledge of how business operates is essential.  For the BBC and all media, business reporting requires a more critical approach, taking in economic and financial strategy and more company background. The economic crisis and the cuts reminds us how interdependent we are.

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  • Jason Walsh

    Totally agree, Brian. So-called business news is, on the whole, hagiography. When it becomes worth reading it tends to bleed into the general news pages. Just as an example, businesses have cozy relationships with trade rags: the businesses get whatever they want printed and the rags get advertising. It’s blackmail by both parties.

  • jtwo

    This is classic ‘cake and eat’ it stuff from the IoD, in essence what they want is cheerleading for their campaigns like the doomed corporation tax cut.

    But where are the so-called business leaders when it comes to engaging with the hard issues?

    Where have the local bank bosses been for the past two years? Hiding behind bland PR flannel, apart from the two occasions when they had to appear before the DFP committee.

    Perhaps the PR handlers decided it was best to keep them quiet in case they produced more gems like this:

    22 September 2008 – Mike Bamber, the boss of Ulster Bank’s retail business is asked in a Bel Tel interview if the govt could help him to do business better. “Generally, I’m not a fan of central intervention,” he confides.

    13 October 2008 – A massive ‘central intervention’ prevents the collapse of Ulster’s parent RBS, keeping Mr Bamber in a job.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/opinion/big-interview/ulster-bank-lsquowe-have-both-the-vision-and-ambition-to-be-number-onersquo-13980306.html

  • Glencoppagagh

    “more and better business news from BBC Northern Ireland”

    First they’ll have to find a few journalists who actually care about business and understand it. Eddie O’Gorman who does the business slot on Good Morning Ulster is the only one they’ve got. Most of them would rather be talking about schools and hospitals which is all their dependency-addled viewers and listeners seem to care about.

  • wild turkey

    “More and better coverage requires the quid pro quo of more open access and accountability from business, which tends use the cry of ” commercial confidentiality” far too easily. Inside knowledge of how business operates is essential. ”

    reading between the lines there brian, is this about free masonry? oh yeah, to be gender neutral lets include the free maisonettes.

    jtwo. nice one on Mikey Bamber. Welfare for the monied and free markets for the proles. t’was ever thus.

    on a serious note, can anyone point to major acts of corporate philanthropy carrried out by indigenous NI businesses over the last 10 years. and no, i don’t mean ulster tatler stuff about a fund raising fashion evening at the Culloden for the north down tennis elbow foundation.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Better business at the BBC……..perhaps a first step would be to cut its own taxi bill…..revealed by SDLPs Tommy Burns during the week.
    If the BBC cut back on its hospitality and expenses budget it might be able to afford some correspondents.

  • slug

    As far as I can see BBC have 1 journalist covering business/economy and about 6 covering politics. Not a good ratio. Coverage of economic and business issues is poor.

    I agree totally with the IoD.

  • jtwo

    There’s your man Magee in addition to Eddie O’Gorman.

  • slug

    These bills are however largely unavoidable.

  • Alias

    “on a serious note, can anyone point to major acts of corporate philanthropy carrried out by indigenous NI businesses over the last 10 years.”

    That’s easy. Business creates all of the wealth that the state taxes and duly squanders. Without folks to actually create the wealth, the state would be taxing you circa one pig per herd…

  • slug

    Ulster Bank sponsorship of Belfast Festival. Gallaher Ltd sponsorship of Ulster Orchestra in 1980s-1990s.