Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Local newspapers aren't worth saving

"For many years the local press has been one of Britain's most potent threats to democracy, championing the overdog, misrepresenting democratic choices, defending business, the police and local elites from those who seek to challenge them. Media commentators lament the death of what might have been. It bears no relationship to what is…

"It's true that the vacuity and cowardice of the local papers has been exacerbated by consolidation, profit-seeking, the collapse of advertising revenues and a decline in readership. But even if they weren't subject to these pressures, they would still do more harm than good. Local papers defend the powerful because the powerful own and fund them." —George Monbiot

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Politicians are intoxicated by cowardice

"Drugs policy is desperately important. It has the power to wreck lives, families and communities. It underpins a third of crime and 80% of acquisitive crime. Four decades of illegality have done nothing to curb consumption, merely breeding the most lucrative, untaxed product market in Britain. No country has achieved the remotest success with prohibition, but Britain's archaic laws have been the least successful. Go to any deprived area, any difficult school, any failing social service, and the root cause of trouble is drugs." —Simon Jenkins

"Speakeasies, moonshine and gangsterism live on in folkloric infamy, even though the disastrous American experiment in prohibition only lasted for 13 short years. It has been three times as long since the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act instigated its own unwinnable war. In the late 1960s there were 2,000 registered drug addicts, together with a perhaps similar number who lived their life below the radar. Four decades on there are 360,000 problem drug users. Addicts scramble to spike their veins with dangerously adulterated substances that sell at inflated prices, while modern-day Al Capones clear up. As well as accompanying an explosion in damaging narcotic use, strict prohibition has gone hand in hand with an equally remarkable increase in recreational dabbling, making criminals of a huge minority of young people along the way. Half the government, as well as the Conservative leader and three US presidents in a row, have used drugs in their own youth, and yet punitive laws continue to threaten others who do the same with prison. The three-year sentence that a teenager can receive for providing friends with a few ecstasy tablets snuffs out his future far more surely than any drug, and does so at great expense to the taxpayer." —The Guardian

My FT lead feature: Can creative industries survive digital onslaught?

Always a pleasure to be commissioned by the Financial Times, especially to write a lead feature for today's Digital Business supplement:
Can creative industries survive digital onslaught?

Ian Brown examines the competing rights of content producers and file-sharers and argues that new business models are the future, not blocking users

If you are interested in following up any of the points made, here are some references:
  1. Jack Valenti told Congress that cable TV was “a huge parasite in the marketplace”: Richard Corliss (2007) What Jack Valenti Did for Hollywood, Time, 27 Apr

  2. …and that “the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone.” Hearings before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, Ninety-Seventh Congress, Second Session, 12 April 1982

  3. The recording industry claims… online copyright infringement will cost the UK music sector £200m this year: British Phonographic Industry (2009) Reducing online copyright infringement

  4. The US Supreme Court decided in 1984 that video recorders should not be considered as directly contributing to copyright infringement: Sony Corporation of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc., 464 U.S. 417 (1984)

  5. Google stumbled upon the sponsored search model that now earns billions of dollars each quarter: Google Inc. (2009) Google announces third quarter 2009 results, October 15

  6. James Murdoch asks, can online journalism compete with the “dumping [of] free, state-sponsored news on the market”? James Murdoch (2009) The Absence of Trust, Edinburgh International Television Festival MacTaggart Lecture, 28 August

  7. The Guardian’s Emily Bell worries that “the ecology of some parts of the UK media is now so uncertain and fragile that it can be depleted by a single blow from the end of the BBC's tail as it rolls over in its sleep": Emily Bell (2008) We need to start a new conversation about the BBC, The Guardian, 28 April

  8. Established musical acts recently had their most successful year ever on tour, grossing over $4bn worldwide in 2008. Tours by Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna and the Police all grossed over $150m: Ray Waddell (2008) Bon Jovi Scores 2008's Top-Grossing Tour, Billboard, 11 December

  9. Two-thirds of the Guardian’s 30 million monthly online visitors come from outside the UK: Patrick Smith (2009) Guardian Hiring Bloggers For Local News Network, paidContent:UK, 12 October