Stephen Glover: I fear that this BBC benevolence is a cynical act of self-promotion

There have always been critics of the BBC on the Right, but in recent months the Corporation has come under a sustained fusillade from many quarters. I admit that the odd bazooka has been fired from my bunker. Some complaints are about taste and alleged political bias. There is also a general grumble that the BBC is simply too big.

Its bosses are understandably alarmed by these attacks, and they realise a Tory government may be less sympathetic. This explains why they agreed last week to share online video news content with newspaper websites. The Corporation knows its very successful free website is seen by papers as unfair competition – the most egregious example of the recession-proof BBC sticking its greedy fingers into other people's crumbling pies.

So it has cunningly come up with a plan that suggests it cares about hard-pressed publishing groups. Four of them – Daily Mail and General Trust, Guardian News and Media, Telegraph Media Group and Independent News and Media – will carry BBC news videos. And why not, you may say? None of these publishers provide much, if any, homegrown visual content, and the Corporation's clips will enhance their websites.

But let's not pretend the BBC is motivated by altruism. There is no better way of legitimising its much criticised website – and protecting it from brickbats elsewhere in the media – than to share parts of it with its critics. Newspapers will find it more difficult to attack the BBC for having a free website if they regularly draw on it themselves.

Nor is the BBC giving anything way. Far from being an exercise in altruism, the agreement could be interpreted as a cynical act of self-promotion. If I am browsing, say, The Guardian's website, and open a BBC video clip, it will be branded as the BBC's. And, if I follow the links, lo and behold I will be swept along to the Corporation's own website. The BBC will probably end up attracting more traffic to its website as a result of what is presented as a generous act of sharing.

In a way I take my hat off to Mark Thompson, the director general, and his overpaid sidekicks. At one and the same time they are undermining the case of their critics and promoting the BBC's interests, while hoping to come up smelling of roses. It is particularly difficult to understand why Telegraph Media Group and Guardian News and Media, both of which have a limited capacity (and greater ambition) to produce their own video content, should be so eager to use the BBC's.

There is a further worrying aspect to this affair. News International, which owns The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun and News of the World, has rebuffed the BBC's overtures. So too has Trinity Mirror, publisher of the Daily Mirror, and Express Newspapers. The press is split over an issue – its future on the internet – where it needs to be united.

Newspapers will only be able to charge for access to their websites if they act together. It makes no sense for The Times to charge while The Daily Telegraph remains free. Needless to say, I am not in favour of newspapers asking readers to pay because I want them to fill their coffers with gold. Unless they succeed in monetising the internet, some titles face decline or even closure – which is not in the public interest.

I realise the issue of BBC video clips is a separate one, but I regret that the Corporation should have succeeded in dividing, and apparently ruling, our national newspapers.

Guardian has taken Mirror's trolley in intensive care

There is a general rule in life that one often spends time fretting about the wrong people. I had long assumed that before the end of the year we would be sending food parcels to Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror. Last October the company's shares stood at just over 5p, valuing it at about £13m.

Now it seems that investors may have panicked. Last week, Trinity unveiled an operating profit of £49m, admittedly a decline of 31.4 per cent, but hardly catastrophic in the circumstances. There are even signs, according to Bailey, that the worst of the advertising downturn is over.

Of course, the company faces enormous editorial challenges with its national titles, all of which are haemorrhaging sales, but it isn't finished yet. As I write, the shares stand at 81.5p.

But just as I am mentally wheeling Trinity Mirror out of intensive care, a patient on another trolley hoves into view. It is Guardian Media Group (GMG), which last Friday announced a pre-tax loss of £89.8m in the year to 29 March. These appalling figures include a loss of £36.8m on The Guardian and The Observer, which we already knew about. The rest is accounted for by losses on the group's other newspaper as well as its radio operations.

It is one thing to poke a stick at The Guardian when it seems in rude good health. When it lies on the floor heaving for breath, one's natural instinct is to empty one's pockets.

On the brighter side, GMG's separately accounted for venture with Apax Partners in Trader Media Group produced profits of £40.2m, though it lost £23.9m in its joint venture in Emap. I doubt whether £20m of identified savings across GMG will now be sufficient, and I fear the company's plans for world domination will have to be put on hold.



Newsnight took a dim view of the Great War

One of my recurring thoughts is that even the trashiest newspapers provide a far more serious forum for debate and discussion than supposedly upmarket television programmes.

The final item on last Friday's Newsnight on BBC2 used the funeral of Henry Allingham, the veteran of the Battle of Jutland who died recently, as a launchpad for a discussion about some of the effects of the Great War. My spirits perked up a little bit when I saw that my friend Andrew Roberts, the distinguished historian, had been matched with Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate.

Alas, all hopes were dashed. On a not particularly busy evening for news, only five minutes or so were given over to issues that have preoccupied hundreds of historians. Martha Kearney asked Mr Roberts and Mr Motion four rather predictable questions each. All that was established was what every GCSE student knows – that the Great War led to a breakdown of deference and a transformation of society. What was the point of it all? Such a process would make Shakespeare or Plato appear dim.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Account Manager, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum, Benefits: Excellent Uncapped Commission Structure: ...

Sales Executive, London

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting entertainment comp...

Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager

£28 - 45k: Guru Careers: A Digital Producer / Digital Project Manager is neede...

Account Manager, Spanish, London Bridge

£30,000 + 20K Commssion: Charter Selection: This rapidly expanding organisatio...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz