Media News and Media Moves – December 16th 2019
Welcome to Lexington’s weekly round-up of media news and the latest moves in journalism.
Huw’s first election coverage does not disappoint
The BBC’s overnight election coverage has maintained its place at the top of the TV ratings, despite being the first election without David Dimbleby in nearly 40 years.
BBC News at Ten anchor Huw Edwards drew in a reported 4.26m viewers for the 11-hour marathon between 9.55pm and 2am. It peaked at 6.1m between 10.05pm and 10.10pm as the results of the exit poll, which predicted a sizeable Conservative majority, were analysed.
By comparison, ITV announced its highest viewing figures for a general election night since 2005, with an average of 1.4m viewers between 10pm and 2am. But Channel 4 fared the worst, whose Alternative Election Night more than halved its average viewership to 244,000, from 582,000 with Jeremy Paxman in 2017.
Newspapers still trump Facebook and Google
We’ve known for years that newspaper readership is declining, but it’s not all bad news. Recent PAMCo audience figures show that UK journalism is reaching greater audiences across the monthly, weekly and daily measures, when compared against US-based tech platforms.
UK national newsbrands now reach a combined monthly audience of 47.9m, 45m a week and 31m people a day, putting them “comfortably ahead” of Facebook (including Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram) on 42.6m and Google on 41.5m per month. Daily readership of online national news grew by 3.5 million year-on-year.
The i paper and the Daily Express have have seen the fastest readership growth among UK national newsbrands across print and online in the past year. The Express grew its figures to 21.7m and the i to 7.3m, giving both titles more than a 50% boost in total monthly brand reach.
The PAMCo 4 2019 survey also revealed that The Sun and the Mirror have remained the two most-read UK national newsbrands for a second quarter in a row.
Johnson vs. the BBC
Sources have this week said that Downing Street intends to “withdraw engagement” from BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, after having pulled ministers from Saturday’s edition of the show over the broadcaster’s supposed anti-Tory bias.
The row follows criticism of the BBC’s election coverage from both Parties during the campaign. No 10 listed evidence of anti-Tory, pro-Remain bias at the corporation, including Andrew Neil’s tirade against Johnson for his refusal to be interviewed, and the “extensive coverage” of a four-year-old boy with suspected pneumonia forced to sleep on a hospital floor.
The BBC has firmly rejected such criticism. In an email on Friday, the Director General, Tony Hall, wrote: “In a frenetic campaign where we’ve produced hundreds of hours of output, of course we’ve made the odd mistake and we’ve held up our hands to them. Editors are making tough calls every minute of the day. But I don’t accept the view of those critics who jump on a handful of examples to suggest we’re somehow biased one way or the other.”
This comes after last week several newspapers splashed on The Prime Minister’s comments over the BBC’s licence fee, where he called it “a general tax”, raising the suggestion that it could be abolished under a Conservative government. He questioned how it could be justified to fund ‘a particular set of TV and radio channels’ when other media organisations have found other ways of funding themselves.
Asked whether he would abolish TV licence fees altogether, Johnson responded: “At this stage we are not planning to get rid of all licence fees, though I am certainly looking at it. I’m under pressure not to extemporise policy on the hoof.”
The licence fee is guaranteed until 2027 but the BBC could be forced to rely on adverts or subscriptions if it is not renewed. In their manifesto, the Conservatives said they “recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC”.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
Twitter has announced the launch of ‘Topics’ on its platform. Topics will allow users to follow conversations about a topic similar to how you follow an account. Topic suggestions will appear in the timeline and in search based on what users tend to look for and already follow on Twitter.
Paul Johnson has announced that he will retire in January 2020. He is currently the Deputy Editor of the Guardian.
Nancy Durrant has been appointed as Arts Editor for The Evening Standard, she will be starting her new role in February 2020. Nancy is currently Art Commissioning Editor, Writer and Art Critic for The Times.
Susannah Butter has been appointed as Comment Editor and Senior Features Writer at The Evening Standard. She was previously Deputy Editor of Femail Magazine.
Anna Hirtenstein has joined the Wall Street Journal as a Markets Reporter, based in London. She will be covering equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, cryptocurrencies and related topics.
Akshat Rathi is joining Bloomberg in January to cover the environment and climate change. He is currently a Reporter for Quartz focusing on science and health.
Jonathan Chadwick has joined the MailOnline as a Science and Technology Reporter. He was previously Deputy Editor of Laboratory News.
Katrina Lloyd has been appointed as Editor-in-Chief of Investment Week, Professional Adviser and COVER. She was previously Editor of Investment Week.
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