The changing face of media

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With the Fleet Street pack dedicating their tired pages to track each and every job loss it’s somewhat ironic that attention this week has been brought back to the media itself.

Munching through my Bran Flakes yesterday morning, my ears pricked up as John Humphrys announced that our biggest commercial broadcaster – ITV – is to cull over 600 staff.  The broadcaster’s move is a significant signpost that the recession is about to see the media landscape undergo a dramatic change. But will this be a make-over or a ‘make-under’ for our commercial media entities?

The media has always claimed to fulfil the objective of being ‘a mirror reflecting on society’ – highlighting every imperfection and flaw. But as advertising revenues are slashed it too is being thrust into the limelight. The so-called ‘mirror on society’ has been spun around to reflect back on the media itself and, it ain’t a pretty face staring back.

ITV chairman Michael Grade’s announcement of the £2.8 million debt troubling ITV, came as glossy men’s mag Arena became the latest victim of the recession.

Add to that the distinct possibility that Channel 4’s independent, innovative PSB output – currently in place to rival the BBC – may be under threat too. Instead, we could be watching CSI on the same channel as Corrie and news reports by John Snow – as ITV, Channel 4 and Five find themselves in discussions about joining forces.

It’s the regional newspapers, however, which appear to have been hardest hit as they embark on a mass operation to merge with other papers in an attempt to run more efficient news churning machines.

The media is clearly feeling the pinch and it’s going to be interesting to watch just how well the big news organisations fare over the next 12 months.

There could be a glimmer of light at the end of this gloomy tunnel though. As newspapers shrink and resources are sliced for broadcasters, could we actually see a stronger, media monster rise from the ashes? Looking back at the UK’s media pre recession, did it perhaps enjoy the freedom of too much advertising revenue, extravagant resources, endless pages to fill and too much air time to play around with? A self-indulgent media that lost sight of its purpose and which eventually led to even our broadsheets being polluted with trivial celeb gossip.

Perhaps, now that purse strings are tightening, space and air time will become more valued by our news editors. A new, more acute media monster may emerge, filled with only the highest quality news and entertainment and a sharper bite.

OK, maybe we can only dream – but watch this space as the recession attacks the media, sieving out the weakest links and, as Darwin depicted, leaving only the strongest standing.