Tag Archives: Westminster University

Government 'doesn't understand economics' over relaxing ownership rules – media economist

On Wednesday I spoke at the thoroughly enjoyable Journalism’s Next Top Model conference at Westminster University. Highlight of the day was keynote speaker Robert Picard, a media economist able to separate publishers’ sense of entitlement from the hard realities of economics and business (mis)management.

Journalism will survive, he said, because there will always be a demand for it. But most print publishers will die because over the past few decades they quite simply haven’t managed their accounts responsibly. While a typical business should have a debt-to-equity ratio of around 1:1, some publishers have racked up ratios ranging from 6:1 to 66:1.

“If you haven’t managed your balance sheet you get in trouble in a recession. Do I feel bad for them? No. They made stupid mistakes.”

One particular mistake highlighted by Picard was the switch in the 1990s from making acquisitions with stock to making acquisitions with debt.

“All the newspapers were making profits when they went bankrupt,” he pointed out. It was their handling of debt that killed them.

I asked Robert about the government’s plans to relax (and consider removing) local media ownership rules – and whether that would indeed create the environment for entrepreneurialism they want to encourage. His response was simple: “You don’t encourage competition by relaxing ownership rules.

“They don’t understand economics,” if they thought that would happen, he continued. “We need people to start more media organisations, not merge into fewer organisations.”

Picard seemed to feel that the Dutch government’s moves to provide funds to help news organisations restructure, or to re-skill journalists, were more intelligent responses.

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An investigative journalism conference worth paying for

Taking place this Friday, the ‘Investigative Journalism Goes Global’ conference at the University of Westminster has one of the most impressive casts of panelists you could ask for (and I’m not just saying that because I’m on one of the panels). An event like this deserves a good turnout – I’m hoping it can spark off some ideas about how we can maintain investigative journalism in a new media world, so if you want to meet up and chat about that let me know. Here’s the full running order: Continue reading

Two places I’ll be in May and June

On the evening of Thursday May 29th I’ll be at ‘Power Your Business with Web 2.0’, on a discussion panel. That’s at the Technology Innovation Centre in Birmingham B4 7XG from 6pm till 10pm. Email creative.networks@tic.ac.uk or register online at www.creativenetworksonline.com

On Friday June 13th I’ll be in London at the Investigative Journalism Goes Global conference at Westminster University. The day will include the official launch of the second edition of the book Investigative Journalism, for which I’ve written a chapter on ‘Investigative Journalism and Blogs‘. I’ll be on a panel discussing “What is the point of investigative journalism in the online media world?”