May in media

Above the Fold

1st June 2018

Leveson II: A sequel lost

Hollywood may be all about sequels these days, but it appears Parliament has no time for repetition. At the start of the month, the government narrowly defeated a Labour party bid for a second inquiry into press misconduct, colloquially termed: ‘Leveson II’.

The second part of the inquiry had originally been committed to by David Cameron’s government, back in 2012. However, Matt Hancock, current culture secretary and subject of an excruciating interview with journalist Emma Barnett last month, dropped plans after fears were expressed they could undermine press freedom—mainly from the press itself.

Ed Miliband, the former Labour leader who has since made the successful move into the podcasting world [Ed: Get him into the Behind the Headlines studio!], picked up the mantle. In an impassioned speech before the vote took place, he argued that the government was running scared of the British media and that “fear of the powerful is not a good reason to allow them to trample on the powerless”.

Whether the freedom of press was ever really under threat remains in question. But, for now, publications will breathe cautious sighs of relief that their wallets – and their reputations – have been saved from another battering.

“Interview terminated”

Stop the search. Jeremy Paxman’s heir has been found. And it’s the most unlikely candidate imaginable.

Richard Madeley – yes, that Richard Madeley – is usually known for his unintentional Partridgisms, but temporarily morphed into the legendary interviewer when questioning Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, on Good Morning Britain.

Repeatedly asking Williamson whether he regretted telling Russia to “go away and shut up”, Madeley was met with a string of evasions.

Growing ever more frustrated, Madeley eventually declared “interview terminated”, and cut the politician off. Madeley’s performance has been met with near-universal acclaim online, from viewers tired of politicians simply not answering questions—Madeley himself admits it’s the most popular thing he’s ever done on TV.

For Williamson, on the other hand, we’d recommend a dose of media training. As soon as possible.

Sorrell turns comeback kid

In April there was one story dominating the advertising and communications industries. Sir Martin Sorrell, the seemingly untouchable head honcho of communications giant WPP, was dramatically forced out of the company he had built.

Rumours and conspiracy theories still abound as to the exact reasons for his exit, but what we do know for sure is that the veteran ad man – once the highest paid CEO in Britain – is not going to retire. Already, Sorrell has earmarked how his comeback will begin. Announcing plans to take a 75 per cent in S4 Capital, Sorrell told the Guardian he wants to create a WPP for the digital age.

We’re sure his old colleagues will be watching with interest and, possibly, a few nerves…

Reddit rises, Facebook Flags

2018 has been a year to forget for Facebook, racked with scandal, user backlashes and awkward congressional hearings. To make matters worse, Amazon’s Alexa – not the smart-speaker, but the confusingly identically titled web analytics service – revealed this month that Facebook slid to fourth in the US table of most-visited websites.

Leapfrogging it into third is Reddit—the back-to-basics internet forum-style social platform that has had more than its own fair share of controversy. Reddit may be self-styled as “the front page of the internet” but it’s unlikely we’ll see it reach the top spot any time soon. That remains in Google’s firm grip.

Besides the perpetual negative headlines, there is another reason Mark Zuckerberg’s star is falling: the wrath of the teenager. Pew’s survey of US teens this month found that only 51 per cent of teenagers use the platform, compared to the 72 per cent that use Instagram and the 85 per cent that choose YouTube. With an audience that is steadily ageing, Facebook will have to dig deep to re-inject some youthful vigour.

Give a channel a home

For most, moving home is a pretty stressful experience. First, there’s the months of house hunting, finding that house with the right character and perfect location. Then there’s the nerves of making an offer with no idea whether it will be accepted.

So it must be nice to be Channel 4, which has seven vibrant cities all actively bidding to give it a new home. The shortlist in the channel’s long-running search now reads: Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester. The winner will be announced on 1 October, and the prizes at stake are hundreds of jobs, millions of pounds in TV programming spend, and the chance to turn their city into the next great creative hub.

A royal success

It appears no one quite celebrated Harry and Meghan’s wedding like the Sunday newspapers, whose sales saw an enormous uplift week-on-week thanks to punters hungry for news and gossip on the big day.

Early estimates put the figure at around an extra 650,000 Sunday newspapers sold—with the Mail on Sunday alone increasing sales by 200,000. Even the i, usually a bastion of straight, factual news coverage, got in on the act, releasing a Sunday edition for the very first time. The Sunday Express went typically all out, releasing a 128-page souvenir edition.

Make sure to look out for the ‘Month in Numbers’ in next month’s Above the Fold, when we’ll see whether this wedding success has helped the Sundays permanently win back readers.