Thursday, April 16, 2009

Silver Lining

The proposed Broadcast 'Mini Bill' has become a necessity if the UK is to end up with any media companies left at all apart from the BBC.

It's now too late to bring back the BBC and BBC Worldwide to a proportionate level and practically every UK media company is leveraged up to the hilt - and those who aren't are wondering how they can shore up their balance sheets in the short term.

The reality is that the UK media landscape is going to end up with huge holes that need to be filled, from local newspapers produced and funded in new and original ways to local tv services delivered over the internet.

The future of media, just like its past, is based on finding a commercial formula and then replicating it.

For the old media companies they just see pounds into pence and aren't willing to cannibalise themselves before they're eaten alive.

So, the traditional broadcasters and local newspaper operators (ITV, Five, Trinity, DMGT, Johnston Press, and the radio groups to name a few..) are far too late no matter what they do now. These companies are in decline or leveraged to a point where they have no access to working capital to re-invent themselves. A year ago they had the chance of raising capital and being bold, or even being acquired by overseas media companies.

ITV's best hope remains in rolling up Freeview and Virgin Media, but Sky's shameful shenanigans have probably put paid to this, and with a CEO who's intent in turning the company into an American style 'studio' - i.e. a super production company - Plan B looks doomed.

The only light in this gloom are the UK production companies building international formats, brands and properties that can be exploited globally. The UK has been spectacularly bad at infrastructure, but particularly good at developing and globally marketing service products across a raft of industries, the media being central amongst these.

As with everything else, from railways to finance, this is because of the UK's unique laissez-faire politics. But now is the time to shore up our infrastructure, to sort out the dreadful anomalies which are private broadband provision and the BBC, and to create a new, level playing field, where the next generation of world class TV companies can develop before we drown under a flood of American cop show channels.




2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Iolo,

Just on the last point about broadband provision/infrastructure I read this before reading your post and wondered what you make of this. Espescially considering that BT's arguement in this seems to be limited bandwidth to the home is all that is needed.

Link - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/04/17/digital_britain_bt/

Personally I'm with the "build it and they will come" view. Limitations will just limit the options available.

Iolo Jones said...

The problem isn't how much, but how reliable.

2Mbps is fine - 10 Mbps is enough, but do you get these rates ?

The UK is a country that refuses to invest in infrastructure - a legacy from Thatcher, who sold everything and anything that she could.

As a country run by Mr PFI - i.e. take what it costs to build something, add 30% profit and then indebt the country to the hilt for the next 25 years to pay for it, I suspect that we are fucked.

We're too late investing in nuclear, so we're owned by corrupt Arabs and Russians; we're too late investing in railways so we pay top dollar and stand in the bogs; we sold our electricity, water and gas to companies controlled by the French and German governments.

So, all we had left, I understand, was that shinning beacon, financial services.

So, fibre to the home ? Yes, as long as you're not British.

The irony is that we might be better off as WiMax, 4G and similar technologies make the enormous investment irrelevant.