Localism and the Media – team up the geeks and journos

Setting out the ground

I heard the Jeremy Hunt MP, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport deliver his first keynote on Media and Technology on 8 June 2010.

Jeremy Hunt spoke with the confidence and assurance of someone new in a job he’s wanted to do for ages and an awareness, I felt, that this bit is the easy bit. He also mentioned his happiness at having a new baby recently. If he has a 100 day plan (which I suspect he has – look at the 15th July date mentioned in his speech), then the first 30 are going well. He set out with clarity the areas he will focus on; three main strategic objectives:

  • Rapid roll-out of superfast broadband
  • Access to infrastructure
  • A new vision for local media

The real strategic goal is, of course, the new vision for local media. It plays strongly into the New Localism agenda and potentially opens up a way of unlocking the over dominance of Big Media. By relaxing (perhaps abolishing) the cross-media ownership rules he may stimulate local developments that will rescue some of the sub-scale regional media groups. Forcing the Telcos to share infrastructure through access to ducts and poles also opens up interesting possibilities for new entrants.

In all probability, we won’t be able to realise the new vision for local media without the rapid roll-out of (carefully undefined) ‘superfast broadband’ and that will require shared infrastructure. Hence why we have the 3 areas he will stand and fight on.

I say ‘stand and fight’ because the existing mainstream media and telco players with Significant Market Power will, while smiling, fight him every step of the way. The broadcast media industry hasn’t spent the last 20 years consolidating just to give it all up to a ‘New Vision for Local Media’. And there will be lots of reasons why access to infrastructure will be ‘problematic’ – some valid; many specious (remember all the shenanigans at the beginning of the unbundling of exchanges!).

Zero-basing the media

The existing models can’t deliver local TV/radio news, the IFNC idea was never going to work and the public service regional news broadcast model has over-centralised – look at the BBC and ITV. I live in Kent and my ‘local’ news often features things happening in Oxfordshire; well over 100 miles away.

We need a radical rethink of how local news is generated, managed and delivered. And that means teaming up communities, bloggers, journalists and coders. It means finding ways for local advertisers to support local news stations (I think you can make local advertising ‘cool’ on the web) and it needs to be done over broadband.

I think if you start from a zero-base and team up geeks and journos – you just might get somewhere.

I also made an Audioboo with other thoughts:

Jeremy Hunt MP – Media and Technology

I was invited to hear his first keynote on Media and Technology – and here is the liveblog of the event.

At the bottom of this post you can see the liveblog I made at the time; while Jeremy Hunt was speaking. Using Scribblelive, I also added in content from those making comments on Twitter. I streamed live from the event using Ustream Broadcaster on the iPhone but just some of the questions. There’s no point trying to stream the speech – Ministers rarely depart from their prepared texts and in any event the transcript is usually available immediately. Questions are different however.

I’m embedding the stream archive here. The person in shot on the immediate left is Mark Thompson DG of the BBC – check out the body language.