2013 - the year in review: Don’t hold the front page yet, as the PCC survives and the BBC wobbles on
Even Tony Hall admitted that his colleagues at the BBC had ‘lost the plot’. One MP called it ‘corporate fraud and cronyism’
Ian Burrell is Assistant Editor and Media Editor at The Independent, i paper and Independent on Sunday. He covers news from the whole media sector from television, press, radio and advertising to technology. His weekly column on the media appears every Monday in The Independent and i paper. He also writes on media, music and culture, including long-form pieces for The Independent’s Saturday magazine and the Independent on Sunday’s magazine, New Review. He is a regular presenter of BBC Radio 4’s What The Papers Say and a specialist commentator to Monocle 24 radio. He has contributed to most major broadcast outlets including BBC television and radio, CNN, Sky News, Al Jazeera and LBC. He has also written on media for GQ magazine. Ian has been reporting on the media industry for The Independent for more than a decade. Previously he was the newspaper’s Home Affairs Editor. He worked at The Sunday Times for five years, including as a member of the investigative Insight team, covering stories on political funding, industrial espionage and the arms industry. Previously he worked in ITV for London Weekend Television, on a weekly current affairs programme presented by Danny Baker. Ian trained at the Birmingham Post & Mail and was Regional Reporter of the Year in Press Gazette’s national awards.
Saturday 28 December 2013
This year was the fresh start that wasn’t. The BBC hoped to begin a new chapter after a traumatic end to 2012 that saw its Director General forced to resign over the Savile and McAlpine scandals. New D-G Tony Hall arrived from the Royal Opera House in April with a great reputation and a can-do attitude, but must have been frustrated by his progress in re-energising the organisation.
The Savile story has not gone away. The Operation Yewtree investigation into alleged child abuse has led to charges against other high-profile BBC figures including Rolf Harris. In June, veteran BBC presenter Stuart Hall was jailed for indecently assaulting young girls. In August, former Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis was charged with sex offences not relating to children.
Lord Hall scrapped a failing computer project that wasted £100m. Then BBC bosses were castigated by the National Audit Office and Public Accounts Committee for a culture that saw executives departing with vast fortunes. One MP called it “corporate fraud and cronyism”. Even Hall said colleagues had “lost the plot”.
None of this helps an organisation about to go into delicate licence fee negotiations over its future funding.
This was also to be the year of change in the regulation of the newspaper industry. And yet, to the consternation of Hugh Grant and his chums at Hacked Off, the first anniversary of the Leveson report has come and gone and the old Press Complaints Commission continues to operate.
MPs have tried to force the issue by using the medieval mechanism of the Privy Council to create a Royal Charter for press reform. But the document is being resisted by publishers who spent a busy 2013 drawing up their Independent Press Standards Organisation, which should be operational early in the New Year, though not subject to the charter.
Rupert Murdoch’s British newspaper stable is struggling to move on. The Sun got a new editor in David Dinsmore, and introduced an online paywall. But with ongoing events at the Old Bailey and in other parts of the criminal justice system, News UK looks to the move to the “Baby Shard” at London Bridge to signal a new era.
Youthful global media brands such as BuzzFeed and Vice achieved new prominence. In November, Twitter enjoyed a spectacularly successful IPO while all the tech giants suffered trust issues over revelations of snooping.
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