Influential US-based, British-born, media academic Emily Bell, hits the nail right on the head in pointing out: 'Even connoisseurs of the BBC's dangerous moments could tell you we are currently in a vintage dangerous moment… the confusion of Brexit ought to have been a golden moment for the BBC – an opportunity to practise dazzling explanatory journalism on a nightly basis. Quite the opposite has happened. Caught in the crosshairs of a polarised debate about Brexit, the corporation's news division did not seem to have either adequate authority or a robust enough strategy to make a case against the deluge of incoming influence campaigns. Its journalism, unusually, also struggled to be serious and consistent enough to meet the complex gravity of the moment'.
'Instead,' says Bell, formerly the Guardian News & Media's director of digital content, and, since 2010, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in New York: 'at the BBC, a percolating leadership crisis has shown the corporation to be unusually captured and inarticulate about its role – a feebleness that has infected its coverage and seems endemic in its management'.
And the Scottish Daily Mail
(SDM), a frequent and trenchant critic of the BBC, leaped to put the boot into BBC Scotland with a massive front-page heading, 'BBC Chiefs Rocked by Scottish Switch-Off', on a story in which watchdog Ofcom said in its annual report that some satisfaction ratings with the corporation north of the border are the lowest in the UK, and the number of hours devoted to news has slumped.
In its 'Comment' section, the SDM points out: 'More than anywhere else in the UK, on a series of yardsticks, Scots have delivered a damning judgement. Ofcom does not offer any conclusions on the new BBC Scotland digital channel. But its ratings are extremely low and there is little evidence that the project will live up to the early hype. BBC chiefs must heed Ofcom's warnings – before any more of us reach for the remote control'. Ofcom will possibly include comments on the new BBC Scotland channel in its 2020 annual report.
Dundee-based media company D C Thomson is continuing to broaden its portfolio by investing in a new Pure Radio station for Scotland – launched on DAB and online later this year. Robin Galloway will broadcast the breakfast show from the company's new base in Glasgow, as well as being head of presentations. Earlier this year, it brought Kingdom FM and Original 106 to add to the acquisition of Wave FM in 2017.
Mike Watson, chief executive of D C Thomson Media, said: 'At a time when other stations are scaling back on Scottish content, we're doing the opposite. There's a clear appetite for Scottish radio to be made and broadcast in Scotland, and we're committed to doing it right'.
The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report says that Britain is on track to avoid a recession – helped by an unexpectedly strong jump in economic growth over the summer. And films, TV and music, provided the largest contribution to GPD growth over the period which comes after several successes for film and TV production including the BBC hit series Peaky Blinders
and Paddington 2
. The UK TV industry trade association PACT show revenues in the sector have risen by 40% since 2008 to £3bn last year, with help from drama commissions as well as Netflix and Amazon series.
The BBC is the most visible website on the first page of results for Google searches related to Brexit, according to new research – taking up a 29% market share of Brexit-related news. The Guardia
n has a 12% share, followed by The Independent
at 9% and the Daily Telegraph
Youth has been given its head big-time at Newsquest Scotland with the appointment of the young editor of The National
, Callum Baird, as managing editor of The National
and the Evening Times
– assuming full responsibility for both titles, and reporting to editor-in-chief Donald Martin. Callum, 33, was born in Mlton Keynes but grew up in Motherwell.
Managing director Graham Morrison said: 'The promotion is well-deserved and a recognition of the excellent performances of The National
and Sunday National
across print and digital, which has delivered year-on-year growth in sales, subscriptions and online traffic, which is nothing short of remarkable and unequalled across the industry'.
Unfortunately, we haven't been supplied with these 'remarkable' statistics. Wikipedia quotes the circulation of The National
as 9,101 – print 6,663 and digital 2,438. Morrison adds: 'Callum brings creativity, innovation and energy to the Evening Times
team and I am confident that under his editorial leadership this title will prosper across all platforms'. Donald Martin added: 'Callum is an outstanding editor and I look forward to seeing his editorial and commercial creativity given a wider remit'.
Baird himself comments: 'It really is an incredible privilege to be able to take charge of a title with such a rich history. The Evening Times
has a brilliant team of journalists and I cannot wait to work with them'. Baird has been editor of The National
since 2015 after spells as assistant and deputy editor. Before joining the pro-independence centre-left newspaper, he had spent 21 months on The Herald
as a sports writer and sub-editor.
Much ado about ITV's News at Ten
anchorman Tom Bradby's documentary on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle – purporting to be chronicling the couple's recent tour of Southern Africa, but instead, delving into their private lives and current states of mind. What intrigues me, from a journalistic viewpoint, is a US interview with Bradby who revealed he had planned to do a 'more conventional journalistic job' but then changed his approach.
The couple's on-screen remarks gave a glimpse into the struggles they claimed they face as newlyweds and new parents living in the public eye. PA Mediapoint reports that Bradby, a long-time friend of Harry, said that before filming: 'I knew that everything was not entirely rosy behind the scenes'. Speaking on US breakfast show, Good Morning America
, Bradby reveals: 'We had a couple of private heart-to-hearts before we did the interview and I said: "Let's just go out and tell the truth as you see it"'. Meghan described the past year as a member of the royal family as 'hard' and said her British friends had warned her not to marry Harry, telling her the UK tabloids 'will destroy your life'. She said she tried to cope with the pressure of her new life by putting on a 'stiff upper lip', but she was not prepared for the intensity of the tabloid interest.
Bradby pointed out: 'I had intended to turn up doing a more conventional, journalistic job – maybe beforehand I told them I was going to have to put some pretty pointed questions. The reality I found was just a couple that seemed a bit bruised and vulnerable – with mental health and all the rest of it you have to be careful what words you use. That was the story I found and it seemed the right journalistic thing to do: to try and tell that story as empathetically as I could.'.
Markle has filed a privacy lawsuit against the Mail on Sunday
over its publication of a private letter she had sent to her estranged father. Harry issued a passionate statement defending his wife, describing her as 'one of the latest victims' of the British tabloid press and accusing them of 'bullying' behaviour.
However, Katie Hind, show business editor of the Mail on Sunday
, has revealed this week that back in 2014, when she was showbusiness editor and columnist of the Sunday People
, she spent an evening with Meghan drinking prosecco until 11pm at the Sanctum Soho five-star hotel in London – a meeting set up by her UK publicist, Neil Ransome, to get coverage in the red-tops... 'having similarly pestered every other Fleet Street showbiz reporter'.
Declares Hind: 'It isn't easy to reconcile the Meghan who appeared so at ease talking candidly with a tabloid journalist she had never previously met with the Duchess on our screens last weekend who spoke of her hatred for the British tabloids. Had contempt hidden behind the hugs on that rooftop bar six years ago? Or is it that, as the Duchess of Sussex, she no longer needs the gossip column coverage that plain Meghan Markle once craved?'.
Co-incidentally, Bradby has spoken openly about his own recent struggles with mental health issues. He was off work for five months, battling insomnia, and felt like a 'zombie' at work, recalling: 'I was trying to do the News at Ten
– when you don't really know what's happening and you've never had a mental health crisis before; you have no idea what one really is; and you never imagine that it would happen to you. And here I am in my corner office of the ITV newsroom on the floor, with my feet in the air, having what I think is a heart attack'. It is believed the death of his parents provoked a 'deep crisis' in his life and triggered off the insomnia. He has recovered by being treated with sleeping tablets and anti-depressants.
I am reading Kenneth Roy's final book, In Case of Any News: A Diary of Living and Dying
, all 49,000 words of it over 190 pages, written as he lay dying of a viciously virulent stomach cancer in the University Hospital, Ayr. As a note on the fly-leaf explains: '...Kenneth did what came naturally to him – he started writing from his hospital bed and soon found that the diary he was keeping was turning into a book. In it, he charts not just the relentless course of his illness, but his reflections on life and death, the coming and goings of the intimate circle of visitors around him, and his deep and warm appreciation of the NHS team looking after him'. The book is dedicated to this NHS team.
It is a riveting if ever so poignant read, written in just over four weeks. The fly-leaf observes: 'It is profoundly moving, at times funny, always insightful and astonishingly honest'. Between now and Hogmanay, I will carry a tailpiece to this column illustrating the life and times of Kenneth who founded Scottish Review
as a print magazine in 1995, and later took it online on a free subscription basis.
This week, my excerpt is from Magnus Linklater's introduction to the book: 'It is clear that the team of nurses who care for him see him as more than just an ordinary patient. They confide in him, and he in them. A nurse, supervising one of his intimate moments, remarks: "Kenneth, you are peeing for Scotland". He responds: "Then it is my only representative honour, even if it has come comparatively late in life"'.
It has been a tearful past few days in the Mackay household – what with the arrival of Kenneth's book; in Aberdeen, a tale of unseen searing tragedy in the lives and deaths of a family of very good friends of mine; another female friend battling virulent lung cancer in Raigmore Hospital, Inverness; and, then last Friday evening's episode of Coronation Street
in which Sinead (actress Katie McGlynn) dies of cervical cancer; the reaction of her partner Daniel (actor Rob Mallard); and her friends at her deathbed, especially Daniel's father in the soap, that old stager, Ken Barlow (William Roache), was deeply moving.
This was brilliant television and acting of almost immeasurable depth and quality. TV critic Jaci Stephen, who writes the 'Soapwatch' column in the Daily Mail's
'Weekend' magazine, praising scriptwriter, Jonathan Harvey, rightly opines: 'Sinead's monologue last week was as great a piece of writing as you'll ever see'.