Legislation going through the House will provide for the abolition of the Funding Formula. ITV will be pressing very hard for the review of their bids downward. I think there are going to be lots of great British films because of Channel 4 investment. The BBC's ratings will continue to rise, ITV's will fall. Ours will be steady. There'll be a million stories in the papers about people posing as workmen from Channel 5.
TONY RENNELL, executive editor, Sunday Times
There will be a middle-market scrap as the Mail group tries to see off the Express. At the top end, you will see the Times fighting the Telegraph to consolidate the position it has won in the price war. In the Sunday market, expect the Mail on Sunday to be very aggressive. At the broadsheet end of the competition, the Sunday Times has no intention of being complacent. The most significant competition could come from upgrading of Saturday papers. There are rumours that the Guardian will give up the Observer and use its Saturday edition as a weekend buy. It is rare for a newspaper to close. But there must be a question-mark over the Daily Star and the Independent.
JOCELYN HAY, chair, Voice of the Listener and Viewer pressure group
What I'd like to see is a quiet year. In 1995, BBC controllers seemed to go out of their way to affront listeners. I have some sympathy ... they've been in a tricky situation ever since the last Heritage Secretary, Stephen Dorrell, told them they must keep up audiences to justify the universal licence fee. But when they make changes, they do tend to make them in one fell swoop. For instance, Radio 3 bringing in a Radio 1 DJ with a strong American accent [Paul Gambaccini]. The truth is, listeners tend to be very conservative. I'd like to see controllers learning from newspaper editors, who introduce change gradually. 1996 should also see the BBC reaching out for new listeners without patronising them. Radio 2 has now got it right. Finally, one of the saddest recent developments has been the BBC abandoning speech radio for children. I'd like nothing better than to see it return.
JEREMY FOX, chief executive, Virgin Television
Everyone in the world will come up with an idea for a TV channel. We've seen that beginning with Granada's proposed new channels, but you are going to see a hundred more. Just what they're going to put on them is another thing. And just who is going to watch them is something else again. In 1996, there is going to be much more opportunity to distribute programming - on digital, satellite, cable, it doesn't matter. None of the channels will be sure-fire winners. People will be more selective. Whether Virgin has a channel in 1996 depends on the judge [Virgin is appealing against the Channel 5 award]. Also in 1996, products for the Internet will proliferate. If it moves, then you'll see it on the Net. This will be the year when the independent production sector consolidates. Even with the new channels, there will less opportunity for small companies.
TONY STOLLER, chief executive, Radio Authority
In 1996, we willsee a huge growth in commercial radio, increasing the range of services available: two new local small-area licences a month, plus five large regional licences, one of which will be a new FM frequency in London. My guess is that in audience share commercial radio will draw further ahead of the BBC - in 1995, commercial stations took more than 50 per cent of listeners for the first time ever. And yes, there'll be more competition among them. As the cost of TV and newspaper ads has risen radio has become a hot medium for advertisers, and the radio market will grow in terms of advertising revenue. One more thing we'll hear about in 1996 is DAB [Digital Audio Broadcasting]. The Broadcasting Bill will lay the groundwork for what is likely to be the dominant form of radio broadcasting as we approachthe millennium.
ANDY ALLEN, director of programmes, Carlton UK TV
We need proper recognition of TV production. Much care is lavished on what remains of the British film industry, but if it wasn't for series like Inspector Morse there would no British film industry. We need to bring new concepts to daytime viewing. I cannot believe that the country wants to spend its afternoons in psychoanalysis. In drama, it is less the commissioning that matters so much as the quality of the offers. There should be more from younger producers. ITV needs more programming to appeal to the under-forties. We will face increased competition. But as with sport, where we could have rolled over for Rupert, we have to be prepared to fight back. If TV is merely going to be a battle for who can pay most for movies and sport, then it will be Murdoch's game.
TREVOR BEATTIE, creative director, TBWA
Princess Diana will make her advertising debut, replacing Eva Herzigova as the new Wonderbra girl. Levi's will make a really dull TV commercial with a hopelessly untrendy soundtrack, which won't even make the Top 100. A bloke will punch the air in a Gillette commercial. The "and" from Saatchi and Saatchi will resign, forming a breakaway agency with the "&" from M&C Saatchi [the Saatchi brothers' new agency]. All three Saatchis will sue over usage of the name, "And 'n' &".
WILL WYATT, managing director, BBC Television
There must be new ways to bring down the cost of production. The arrival of Channel 5 will provide the stimulus for lower-priced programmes. Not lower quality, but more efficient production. Producers will go back to first principles and remember what it was like in the old days with 35mm cameras that you couldn't move. You had to have a charismatic presenter with something to say and an interesting way of saying it. Costs are driving us back to factual programmes made by a crew of two and shot in the office rather than a studio or on location. Drama and entertainment costs will also fall. I doubt we will see a virtual set in 1996, but there will certainly be some pilots shot with virtual technology. This is going to be the biggest year for sport on BBC. The European Cup and our exclusive coverage of the Olympics will make up for flesh wounds we suffered in recent rights battles. My predictions? That although more homes will switch to satellite and cable, the terrestrial channels will continue to enjoy a 60 per cent share in those homes. For the second year, BBC 2 will be the only terrestial channel to increase its audience share, and the mud-wrestling between ITV and Channel 4 will continue. That is one spectator sport that the BBC will enjoy watching - but will not be bidding for.
JOHN MOLONEY, comedian
1) Cosy-yet-lucrative sitcom vehicles to entice channel-hopping will be abolished under a European directive.
2) British comedy talent will be nurtured. Detritus from Aussie soaps deported.
3) A terrestrial channel will be brave enough to put out a live comedy/ sketch show again.
4) John Cleese will sue Angus Deayton for stealing his persona. Allegedly.
5) Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher will appear in Birds of a Feather, in an episode entitled "Rock'n'roll is the new comedy".
6) Michael Barrymore will be left in peace and celebrated solely for the brilliant entertainer that he is.
7) Lunchtime - by law - will be restricted to one hour for people in television. Extension applications to be considered by a local magistrate. 8) The Mrs Merton Show will sweep the board at the Comedy Awards.
9) John Moloney will win Best Live Performer.
MANDI NORWOOD, editor of Cosmopolitan
There's been a lot of talk about female versions of Loaded in 1996, but there's been one for years now in More! magazine, which serves to reinforce stereotypes with no aspirational aspect whatsoever. There's also been a lot of talk about sex, which will continue to be crucial to any media mix - the people complaining are those who aren't having any and wish they were. Women's magazines will be more commercially aggressive than ever: editors are judged, quite rightly, on the all-round success of their title, and as a result they're clearly focused.
KIM EVANS, head of BBC TV Music and Arts
We are getting away from the soundbite culture of the Eighties. We are returning to real experiences. Cost is an issue, but there is always backing for good programming. 1996 will see a return to the big series. We have six programmes with Andrew Graham-Dixon on The History of British Art in March and another eight in the autumn on the American Vision with Robert Hughes. Please don't call them another Civilisation. But just as there has been a return to classic drama, so there is a drift towards the classic in art and music. We are also working on a series of Great Reputations, looking at Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and the other composers. I predict a return to talk. The success of Face to Face demonstrates that the audience is willing to sit and listen to a talking head in close- up.
JAMES WALKER, media research director, J Walter Thompson
We predict that advertising expenditure will grow: total display advertising will be up 8.3 per cent by the end of the year, compared with an increase of 7 per cent in 1995. Radio advertising will grow fastest - up 20 per cent from pounds 275m in 1995 to pounds 330m this year. Spending on national newspapers will increase at a slower rate: up 5.9 per cent from pounds 1,126m to pounds 1,192m. It's not about consumer spending or any "feel-good factor", it's about the health of the corporate sector: real interest rates, exchange rates, maintaining profitability.
ANDY PARFITT, managing editor, BBC Radio 1
In 1995, our fortunes changed markedly after 12 months of decline. After a fierce onslaught from competitors, our audience increased quarter on quarter in the first three-quarters. What's ahead, then, for 1996? In London, once the battle between Heart, Virgin and Capital settles down, we are going to see them coming more deliberately after our audience. Virgin has already started playing more Britpop, something we pioneered. I think we have to keep concentrating on the 15- to 24-year-old age group, which is relatively under-served by pop radio because it doesn't have the spending power that advertisers desire. So we are going to have to look even more carefully at our specialist music coverage to make sure we are genuinely reflecting what's going on at street level. One of our biggest challenges will be to drag back disaffected listeners to a radically changed Radio 1.
MANDY POOLER, managing director, Ogilvy & Mather Media
Granada won't get Forte, but will get every TV station it ever wanted. Its recent deal with BSkyB to launch a package of Granada satellite channels is a sign of things to come. However, the Forte bid went contrary to the signals we were getting from Granada - that it was, primarily, a media and entertainment group. But like Pearson, with its TV plus leisure interests, the question has to be, can it afford to do both? So, how about Granada expanding internationally, making an overseas acquisition or striking a joint partnership? What we want, more than anything, is large international media companies that are UK-based.
LYNN DOUGHTY, director of publisher services at Comag, the magazine distributor
The teenage sector will continue to do well. It boomed this year with Sugar, but so did all the pop one-shots and football magazines aimed at teenage boys. There will also be activity in the health and beauty sector. Home PCs are another growth area, but the computer games-related titles attached to older computers like Amigas are in decline. There's still a greater rate of births than deaths in magazine publishing, but it is getting difficult to get shops to take them, particularly the big chains. The small, specialist publishers are going to have problems getting shelf display, and there are also increased costs of paper and publishing. For the major publishers, free gifts still work and they'll continue to be used.
GAVIN HILLS, editor-in-chief of the official England and Manchester United football magazines
Sport will be a growth area, with the European football championships and the Olympics. People once said sport couldn't sell magazines, but sports stars now sell papers. The Manchester United magazine sells 137,000 copies, and Liverpool and Newcastle have followed suit. Most clubs are getting their acts together because the more money they can make, the better players they can buy. One-shot business will take off because there's not as much loyalty from readers as there was. They're digesting the media differently, making more demands. The lowest common denominator idea will backfire: quality wins in the end.
JIM SEATON, editor of the Scotsman
The price war will go on. I can't see that battle being resolved: the companies are all posting big profit reductions. The Telegraph and Associated are all down. The Times is being subsidised by Murdoch's TV interests. The Independent is losing money. I don't think it is doing any of us any good. It would be far better if there was a level playing-field. The circulation war up here will be tough, particularly as the Scottish Daily Mail continues to sell at 20p. That's a problem when you are selling at 42p or 45p. So we have to produce better and better papers. That means a lot of people being prepared to invest in titles. I'm sure that that there will be changes of editor on a regular basis. That's to be expected. Scottish titles serve Scottish readers better than the English ones, which tend to have a token Scottish correspondent. We have a team of reporters covering the whole country. Scotland on Sunday is a good- quality paper, but is facing tough cut-price competition from the English Sundays, which have lots of voucher offers.Newsagents are sick of them. As for takeovers, there is not that much left to buy here. Associated's regional arm has already got the Press and Journal and we've been bought by the Barclay brothers. But there are rumours that Caledonian, which owns the Herald, might be bought. There may be some job losses. But we are not planning any. In fact, we are looking to take on more staff.
PETER VAN GELDER, chief executive, Teletext
It is a victory for us to get guaranteed capacity for digital terrestrial television in the Broadcasting Bill. But that's just the appetizer: we are now waiting for the main course. We have been given our rightful place as a public service broadcaster [with guaranteed access to digital channels] but we have only been promised capacity equivalent to what we have now [on conventional analogue]. That is incompatible with the Government's intention to attract viewers. We should be able to provide added value, enhanced graphical quality and more services in the digital age.
JONATHAN KING, Talk Radio show host
By the end of 1996, the number one station on medium wave will be Talk Radio. On FM it will be Radio 2. The reason? Talk Radio is now clearly geared towards intelligent listeners. The reason for the second is that Radio 1's ratings will continue to shrink as it becomes a specialist minority station. 1996 will also see the collapse of independent local radio and none too soon, because they have a cowardly musical policy and brain-dead presenters. Rather than giving people in big cities different sorts of music, the Radio Authority appears to want to give people in smaller and smaller places a local station, with the result that the local stations are emulating the big stations and playing the same records. What you've got is standard hit music played by people who can't say anything other than "Mrs Jones has lost her cat up a tree. If you find it, please rescue it".
JEREMY DEEDES, editorial director, Daily Telegraph
We have seen six new editors appointed recently and the Independent will shortly be filling its chair. So there will be terrific movement. These editors will have the same wish-list of key players they would like to have. It could lead to a huge escalation in the transfer fees. We've already seen the beginnings, with Sarah Sands coming here as deputy editor and Matthew D'Ancona going to the Sunday Telegraph. If we had another advertising recession, combined with lower cover prices, there could be problems. But a government going into an election is hardly going to squeeze the economy into the floor. There may be a stabilisation in newsprint prices. In 1995 there was a huge increase, the biggest in 30 years. We could have passed that on to the readers but the price war prevented it. Newspapers have carried out huge surgery on their costs base. By and large, there are no more cost savings that can be done at a stroke by introducing new technology. Journalists are central - they are now effectively the publishers, printers as well as the writers. So the number you decide to have will determine the paper you want to produce. If we are to retain high standards in journalism, we have arrived at the limits of what we can cut.
I think the Express may revive under new editor Richard Addis, which would be no bad thing. As the Mail gets increasingly nasty in its approach to life, it would be helpful to have a less nasty mid-market paper. I think the Sunday Express is beyond redemption.
DAVID MONTGOMERY, chief executive, Mirror Group
Newsprint prices will moderate in 1996, but publishers are trying to add value and have shown themselves willing to add sections, so newsprint costs will continue to be high as a share of overall costs. I believe there will be further pressure to increase cover prices. In the TV sector, there might be some real competition for Rupert Murdoch's monopoly on pay-TV. The Government might see that there is an absence of fairness in the Broadcasting Bill, and there is a special pleading to be done by Mirror Group [which is held back by rules limiting large newspaper groups from expanding]. Whatever happens, 1996 will be a year of dramatic change.
WARD THOMAS, chairman, Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television
1996 will be one of consolidation in the ITV sector. As and when the [Broadcasting Bill] becomes law, then people will be ready to put the pieces in place. I think we will be left with two or three big groupings, not necessarily Granada, MAI and Carlton. In the past, foreign investors didn't understand why they should invest in something regional called Yorkshire Television. But if you tell them, after the legislation, that they are investing in a company that covers, say, 40 per cent of the UK, they will be interested. I would like to see a level playing field, and hope there is a change in the licence fees ITV companies pay and a rethinking of the Channel 4 funding formula. On digital, it will all take much longer than people think. We're all going digital in our production facilities, but there is no incentive for the viewer to switch.
Interviews by Dominic Cavendish, Sheryl Garratt, Mathew Horsman, Martin Jackson, Marianne Macdonald, Jack O'Sullivan, Adrian TurpinReuse content