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BBC Money Down The Drain

A round-up of the hottest takes from the best UK Indy Media

Exploited Media Workers, Poor Content: Story of BBC Money Down The Drain

Gaming the System

A recent Buzzfeed report referenced by Press Gazette shows how the work environment of aspiring young journalists can be very harsh.

In January we covered how the BBC spent £8m attempting to improve “local democracy” reporting. These efforts are likely to do little to improve actual local journalism but will manage to enrich large and un-localized corporations, such as Johnstone Press, Newsquest, and Trinity Mirror.

Buzzfeed now highlights further examples of how BBC systems have been gamed, most notably by That’s TV. Workers have been left exhausted on zero-hour minimum wage contracts.

That’s TV is a conglomerate of local TV broadcasters often found on Freeview. With a huge decline in local print journalism, there’s a genuine need for the kind of content that the BBC claims to encourage and to which That’s TV aspire.

However, in return for £3m and 14 broadcast licenses, all the BBC have managed to secure is channels with viewerships that often barely scrape into the dozens. Fresh content is minimal. Most of the schedules are padded out with incredibly old films.

That’s Manchester

One of the prime That’s TV channels is That’s Manchester, a channel who basically replaced the function of the local station, Channel M. Channel M was far from perfect but it was more independent, better known and produced more original content. That’s Manchester also produced more fresh content in early days but has seen severe cutbacks.

Meanwhile, the employment conditions of presenters, producers, and engineers are woeful at best and completely unsustainable, as they lead to high levels of churn and consequent inconsistency, The Buzzfeed report notes:

“The company uses tiny teams of one or two young, under-trained staff working on zero-hours, minimum-wage contracts at each station to produce 85 stories a month to hit the BBC quota and keep the subsidies coming in. One station brought in media studies students to help achieve the numbers.” One former employee is upfront in declaring the operation ‘a scam.'”

A Wasted Opportunity to Revitalise Local Journalism

Are the license payers being ripped off while the BBC boasts of supporting grassroots journalism?

How much better could this money be better spent if this money were not going to cynical corporate vultures? The BBC millions could be used to pay hundreds of journalists properly, including those currently working for That’s TV. They could do much more of the reporting on local councils, community and culture that is so lacking in the “news deserts” that have spread while local papers have closed at an alarming rate.

Instead of local independent journalism, the BBC have seen our money siphoned into poor content, capitalist profiteering and appalling treatment of young workers in a profession that’s already extremely tough to break into, especially for working-class people and people of colour.

The BBC needs to be held accountable for this shocking waste of opportunity and money, but whether they will be.. well perhaps we should hold our breath…

Picks of the Week

Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around

Tory Islamophobia – Vox Political

While Labour have perpetually been hauled over the coals regarding anti-semitism, it seems that Tory Islamophobia is far more palatable in the eyes of establishment media. After all, much of the right-wing media have been pushing the same hate-memes for a very long time. Perhaps challenging bigotry and defending victims aren’t their real priority.

New Facebook Ad Policy for New Items – Press Gazette

Social media giants are forever shifting the goalposts for content providers. Does the latest move to categorise news articles as “political” place unreasonable restrictions that undermine the role of journalism in a democratic society?

How Bloody Dare They? – Dorset Eye

Finally, a brief heartfelt rant against the sense being whipped up in some quarters that fire-fighters were to blame for the Grenfell tragedy. It’s likely that highly paid strategists were working from day one on how to protect corporation and politicians from blame. So far they seem to have been successful. 1 year on, no arrests have been made or offices raided despite the common knowledge that the cladding was unlawful.

Find The Dorset Eye on Twitter @dorset_eye


Media Alert is a weekly bulletin discussing issues impacting on the UK independent media and highlighting some of the best recent work from the sector.
It’s brought to you by The Media Fund, a co-operative of over 30 partners seeking to raise funds and advocate for quality independent journalism.

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