The media is not like other markets: lack of competition has often been the guarantee of media quality. Radio 4, Radio 3, BBC4, CBBC and CBeebies, programmes like Newsnight and the Today programme, flourish in competition-free zones. American newspapers often follow the same pattern where one-newspaper cities sustain the quality of a Washington Post or a San Francisco Chronicle. In the UK, since the Beaverbrook-Northcliffe battles, too many newspapers have fought each other downhill, shouting ever louder to be heard on overcrowded newstands. The BBC needs competition, say the Tories, but that is dogma, not an honest evaluation of what competition has historically done to BBC quality.
My flabber is ghasted I\’m afraid.
There\’s a simple way to actually test this thesis, that media is a market where competition doesn\’t in fact increase quality.
Look at the US newspapers, still, as Polly says, largely one city monopolies, and the UK newspaper market, one which has been a national (and highly competitive one) for going on for a century (apologies, I don\’t actually know whether national distribution via the train system was pre-WWI or interwar: anyone know?).
Which market produces the better read? Which produces more diversity of output, of views? Which, in fact, produces the better newspapers?
Which, in fact, informs readers more on the matter at hand, the news?
Anyone who has ever actually lived in those deserts which are the one paper towns in the US will tell you: it\’s the highly competetive UK market.
Thus the contention is refuted: competition might indeed produce The Star and The Sun: it also produces the FT, The Guardian, The Times and the Torygraph. None are perfect but compared with the US press they are beacons of hope, bright shining lights of journalistic excellence.
the BBC: there is strong support for paying the licence fee, with a majority willing to pay more than the present £2.60 a week.
Excellent: allow those who wish to do so to do so: allow those who do not not to.