Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Broadcasting

Nice one, Paxo, but you can't avoid the e-mails and podcasts for ever
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The Independent Online

Who knows? TV will probably be unrecognisable in a few years," was always the answer I gave to the "What do you want to do when you grow up?" question.

And so it came to pass. When I started at Channel 4 News in 1998, there were five programmes a week and that was that. These days, my working day will often begin with a morning mobile-phone bulletin, before the News at Noon on television, an e-mail to viewers in the afternoon, a text message, another mobile bulletin and a television trail before the main evening programme at 7pm. I might contribute to a blog, or write and record a podcast. Being asked to write for a newspaper frankly feels pretty quaint.

The multimedia revolution happened but I don't remember quite when. Those who thought 24-hour news channels heralded the future have already re-written or torn up their articles. The audiences have not flocked to them in their millions. Viewers have largely stayed with the built, established programmes and turned to the internet for the added-value services of those established brands. And radio is stronger than ever.

There is no doubt that those who subscribe to all these new services are enthusiastic about them. We know that, because they constantly e-mail to tell us. They tenaciously hold dialogues about our mistakes. But which of these new niche services will be the ones people turn to in their millions? Which will become the cash cows of the future for the public-service-minded commercial sector? Probably none. Something else will come along soon. The demise of the red button is clear proof that not everything will take off.

But, while I secretly admire Jeremy Paxman's disdain for doing anything but presenting his television programme, and his refusal to write the Newsnight e-mail to viewers, my generation cannot afford to be so choosy.

The big programmes have proved they can survive and beat the new challenges. But meeting the niche and changing demands of different portions of your audience might well be the only way to really enhance the viewers' experience over the long term.

* WHEN JACK STRAW says that BBC presenters are overpaid for prancing around a studio, he might sound like a slightly embittered man who just got demoted and can't stand earning less than the journalists who reported it. But let's face it - he's also probably right. There is no doubt that the media pay better. The average news presenter earns more than the average politician. And top news presenters certainly earn more than top politicians. Tony Blair is rarely interviewed by anyone paid less than he is.

I never had much sympathy in the past. When they leave office, politicians can make a packet from directorships and memoirs. Then I think of Anna Ford's new directorship at Sainsbury's and Jon Snow's £600,000 book deal. When I worked at the BBC, a few at the top were always pretty rich but the rank and file on the news channels never made that much. And the corporation was generally a place where you accepted lower remuneration for the privilege of working for Auntie. The reminder was often thrown around that public money should not be used to make people who could easily be replaced unnecessarily wealthy.

Things appear to have changed. Everyone has an agent now, everyone wants more, and it seems they get it - even if they are interviewing the wrong Guy.

* THAT SORRY TALE reminds me of a similar moment I had soon after the launch of News 24. A man was pushed on to the set next to me by a hassled floor-manager. The director shouted: "Go to the guest, go to the guest," but I had no idea who he was or why he was there. The running order on the computer was bare. I had no choice but to turn to him, reach out a hand and say: "Hello, I'm Krishnan. Who are you and what are you here to talk about?"

Oh brother, it's back. Now get used to it

Week one and it is already clear who the winner of Big Brother 7 is. The few remnant whimpers of outrage from those who can't think of anything else to attack over the summer when politics is dull sound more and more like the ghosts of outrage past. The contestants troop into the house, a huge proportion of the nation watches, Channel 4 lets out a sigh of relief that another year's revenues are safe to help fund the likes of Dispatches, and the top-secret little Buddha-like creature I have long maintained is the true brains behind Endemol enjoys a silent, satisfied smile. De Mol, Bazalgette and Hincks? They're just the frontmen. In truth it is Big Brother who won. Game, Set and Match. "Reality", far from a passing fad, has become a firm and embedded part of television's vocabulary, used in every genre from game-shows and drama to news and current affairs. When Channel 4 decided to make a series about what happens when heroin addicts go "cold turkey", a Big Brother-style clinic was the only way to make it. And when BBC 1 or ITV needs a new entertainment hit they watch ordinary people doing extraordinary things. These days reality is just television without a script. So, please: no more old gits complaining about voyeurism or freak shows. In 2006 Big Brother is no more controversial than Blue Peter.

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