Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Criticising Auntie

Criticising the BBC is rather like criticising the Queen or the National Health Service. The British don't like doing it.

Sadly there is a problem - and at last the unthinkable is being said. In the case of the NHS the British chose to marginalise privately run health services and have the state run the service.

You can also argue they made similar choices over radio and television when the BBC was established. Undoubtedly few people have attempted to think through the implications of the BBC using the licence fee - that is levied with the force of law on almost every British household - to create a web presence.

Small operators like Englemed have known about this for a long time. When the BBC started putting news on-line, the market for news collapsed. Now the mainstream British media is waking up as local newspaper after local newspaper folds. And national newspapers are struggling - and there's one simple reason. There is a new generation that will not pay for news and expects everyone to provide it for free.

Although the opposition is inevitably led by the Murdoch family, who have always had a strong anti-BBC viewpoint, others, who might be expected to be sympathetic are joining in. This blog from Peter Preston of the Guardian group says it all.

Where has this left Englemed? Our revenue-earning business now is predominantly providing specialist services for medical and nursing websites. When the business was originally established we thought our own web-site would become like a health magazine. Then other websites came to us and asked for our services - so we parked that idea. The reality is that now we do not provide services to any consumer-oriented website.

So, as discussed previously on this blog, we decided to develop this site again.

For there is one aspect of the BBC news services - and other British media - that is little appreciated. That is that many of their reports come from the main press agencies. This affects the choice of news and the content. It also means that much of the BBC on-line content is not really originated by its own journalists but is bought in from a handful of agencies.

We've always thought there was room for alternatives. Mostly we make our own choice of news from primary sources. We also think an increasingly well-educated readership will want to see news on different levels. Yes, they want headlines and straightforward language to tell them what a story's about. But they may also want to read deeper - study the facts and statistics and check original sources. Even down-page stories don't have to be constrained by the quantity of newsprint or time allotted for broadcasting.

We'd like to do more and over the years have explored different kinds of newsgathering. Unlike other small journalistic ventures we've not veered off into PR or inhouse magazines. We've stayed in the news business. But like most organisations must operate within the funds available. We've developed partnerships with retailers based on an ethical advertising policy. Now we must encourage our visitors to support this and visit our partners!

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