Review of the year: Media
The mobile-phone rise of the 'citizen journalist'
Friday 30 December 2005
The year saw the best and worst of the British media; rising to the challenge of extraordinary events at home and abroad, while dragging the industry's reputation to new depths with bitter feuding and bad behaviour.
The suicide attacks on London in July brought the most shocking carnage of British peacetime history and a supreme test for journalists in all media. The rolling television news channels came into their own, with BBC News 24 recovering well from a shaky start, and Sky News correspondent Martin Brunt consistently ahead of the opposition as the investigation unfolded.
The two channels bickered as to which was the leading player, but ITV News nipped in to land the biggest scoop, obtaining unforgettable amateur pictures of the arrest of two bare-chested terrorist suspects on the balcony of a London housing block. That footage, along with shots of the bombings taken by Tube passengers on mobile phones, helped to forge closer ties between the media and the "citizen journalists" of the public.
The danger faced by correspondents in Iraq was underlined by the kidnapping of The Guardian's Rory Carroll and warnings from The Independent's Robert Fisk that the risks to Western reporters in that country were making their jobs all but impossible. When floods engulfed New Orleans, some beleaguered residents encountered adventurous British journalists well before the arrival of the American emergency services.
But, just as there were reasons for pride, there was cause for embarrassment. At the British Press Awards in March, Sir Bob Geldof launched an extraordinary attack on newspaper editors - except Rebekah Wade of The Sun - for their coverage of Africa. The event descended into alcohol-fuelled arguments more furious even than those of previous years and prompted 10 editors to threaten a boycott of future ceremonies because of the "decline in conduct and prestige".
Wade launched an attack of her own in November, being hauled in for questioning by the police after assaulting her husband, the EastEnders actor Ross Kemp. The press made rather less of the story than you might expect after a frantic round of calls among the power players in the media village.
Press Gazette, which stages the British Press Awards, was bought by PR man Matthew Freud and the former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan. They promised to clean up the awards ceremony, despite Morgan's own excesses at previous events.
The revolution in the quality press continued with The Guardian's £100m switch to the larger-than-tabloid, smaller-than-broadsheet Berliner format in September. The change renewed interest in the sector and brought circulation increases all round, except for The Daily Telegraph, which had a miserable 2005. Editor Martin Newland departed in November, just as The Sunday Telegraph editor Dominic Lawson did in June. Sarah Sands was promoted to Lawson's position, while John Bryant, the veteran former Times and Daily Mail executive, is in temporary charge at the daily. The FT's Andrew Gowers also walked in 2005, departing after four years (an unusually short tenure for an FT editor), to be replaced by Lionel Barber.
There were musical chairs, too, at BBC 1, where controller Lorraine Heggessey departed in May to head up Talkback Thames, leaving former Talkback chief Peter Fincham to take her seat in White City. Andrew Marr took over from Sir David Frost in his Sunday morning political chatshow slot, prompting the BBC to take back ITV's Nick Robinson as political editor and Frostie to join a bunch of other British journalists in signing up for the new Al-Jazeera International.
Channel 4 managed to lower the tone, (Big Brother showed housemates having sex in a hot tub) and raise it by launching the digital channel More4, aimed at "intelligent adults".
ITV chief Charles Allen defied his critics by retaining his position, taking the knife to some senior executives and successfully pursuing a multichannel strategy. Commercial radio consolidated further with the merger of GWR and Capital, while Radio 4's John Humphrys was criticised over remarks about politicians he made in an after-dinner speech.
In advertising, Trevor Beattie ended his association with TBWA and set up a new agency, Beattie McGuinness Bungay. John Hegarty and BBH secured the account coup of the year by prising away the British Airways portfolio from Maurice and Charles Saatchi. Meanwhile, the Interactive Advertising Bureau announced that the UK's online advertising spend had overtaken those for outdoor and radio. The magazine launch of the year was Emap's slick, sassy weekly Grazia, not Condé Nast's lacklustre Easy Living.
Reality TV and pop impresarios Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller fell out, then made up. What chance the rest of the media burying their differences in 2006? None at all.
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
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