Monday, March 16, 2009

Le Monde’s Best Chance is a Model for Failure

Unlike the local and regional papers, the national French newspapers are spiraling into a freefall much as many others are worldwide, only worse because the general-interest national papers are so few in number.

French papers should, some pundits say, be more serious, achieve worldwide recognition, and above all have more content (the weekend edition of Libération, one of the three main French newspapers, is only 40 pages, a far cry from the two-kilo Sunday edition of the LA Times). But since these papers are facing crisis too, French papers and their critics in dire need of a new model. Alain Minc, a former Le Monde director and now a close adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy, long maintained that if French newspapers were failing it was because of their lack of resemblance to the New York Times.
You read that right. More like that smoldering heap, the NYT.
Le Monde, Libération and Le Figaro have between them made 200 people redundant in the past three years. Libération, which has been operating at a loss for several years, is being put in an awkward situation by an employee who is refusing to accept redundancy. L'Humanité, the communist daily paper, is closer to collapse than it has ever been.

Sarkozy recently organised a general meeting for the press to share his vision of what the papers should do and issue a pronouncement. This much-vaunted reform essentially consists of giving the established daily newspapers more subsidies in the years to come – which could only have the effect of postponing their collapse. He has, for instance, announced an increase in presidential advertising in the press and has granted papers certain tax exemptions. The rather more dramatic move to give every 18-year-old in the country a one-year subscription to a daily paper (to encourage them to appreciate the press) is perhaps the only measure that might have a longer term effect.
It must be hard for the natives to appreciate the extremism in these decisions: an employee who insists that they cannot be let go, shaking the plausibility of the press by putting it on the government payroll, and giving it away to 18 year olds like the advertisers handed out in public transit that have a scant few items and a weather map. This “once grand” industry – a cultural institution or sorts is at the end of its’ rope and can’t move forward along the lines of even the French language press in Canada. The problem starts with a paucity of content, and an expensive cover price, but the racketeering quality of the state of distribution means that newspapers can’t be sold in vending boxes, in grocery stores, or anyone other than the Tabac newsstands and some bookstores just to avoid strikes and service shut-downs by those that have always distributed and sold them. If anything, they are being killed by socialism.

Meanwhile, back in the department of your fungible freedoms...
If the BBC learns generosity, it can become untouchable

To survive the recession, the corporation must place itself at the centre of an unselfish cultural network
Meanwhile in the UK, even the news branches of the electronic media are being subtly consolidated in all but name only. BBC and ITV already share from the same talent pool and predispositions, now they’re to share regional facilities. Owing to the obvious fact that subsidy-drawing people and the unsubsidized will be sharing space in the same newsrooms, the obvious next move will be a merging of budgets and expenses. Using inferences too secondary and unrelated to be real, lefty parasite Jackie Ashley (whose headline is quoted above) thinks that this move is otay for all manner of emotional reasons but blithe to any notion of what effect this could have on the freedom of the press.
Yet this BBC-ITV link is big news. I trained at the BBC, but I spent many years working for ITN and Channel 4 news. I wouldn't quite say we hated the BBC, but we were vigorous and aggressive rivals who thought we were better in almost every way - sharper, faster and much less stuffy. Even at local level the new partnership will feel uneasy for a lot of journalists, and it is unclear how well it will work.
and now you can kiss that goodbye. A job down memory lane reminds me just how frequently it was that the communists of the Soviet era invoked the “efficiency” argument when faced with any discussion of the excessive concentration of powers in any area or the benefits of plurality of opinion, and it was as awkward and clumsy in tone as Ashley’s argument.

No comments: