Archive for the 'Media' Category


The Sun re-does its classic front page on the day of the 1992 general election

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

This was from election day in April 1992

Tomorrow’s front page


In the week the Article 50 case is heard before the Supreme Court, the public has more than three times the trust in judges than journalists

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Ipsos Mori have published their annual veracity index, with the Article 50 case being heard in the UK’s highest appellate court, it was amusing to contrast the trust in the enemies of the people judges compared to journalists.

Only Government ministers, and politicians in general are less trusted than journalists, whilst Estate Agents and Bankers have better trust ratings than journalists. This might explain why Nigel Farage’s planned 100,000 march on the Supreme Court turned out to be, as we say in Yorkshire, all fart and no follow through.

The fieldwork ended just before the High Court ruled against the Government in the Article 50 case, but a substantial part of the fieldwork was carried out whilst the High Court was hearing the case, but before headlines that described the judiciary as the enemies of the people.




Memo to Seamus Milne: Your boss, Mr. Corbyn, needs to have a ready answer in situations like this

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

The LAB media operation MUST become better


Corbyn found his voice on Thursday. Unfortunately, it was echoed by his supporters

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

One of the most remarkable aspects of Corbyn’s Labour is its attitude to the media

Alistair Campbell would be turning in his grave were it not for the fact that he’s not dead. Not only did the Labour supporters booing the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg at Jeremy Corbyn’s speech on Thursday drive the wedge between party and media that bit further but it distracted from the main purpose of the event, which was for the Labour leader to add his weight to the Remain camp.

However, both the speech and the booing were very telling – and very related. In them, they gave us an extremely clear sign about how both leadership and party organisation view the practitioners, observers and reporters of politics.

That Corbyn added his voice to the Remain campaign is far less relevant than how he did it. All the evidence suggests that he’s generally agnostic on the issue and that his position on Europe is more about party management than anything else. With most Labour MPs and unions strongly supportive, why pick a fight you’re not bothered about?

In fact, his speech was only nominally about Europe at all. Rather than make a speech about Europe cloaked in left-wing language, he really made a speech about left-wing ideals and policy cloaked in the language of the EU referendum.

That re-emphasises his reasons for being unwilling to share a platform with Cameron, Osborne and co: not only would their presence taint him by association but it would mean that he couldn’t fight his chosen battle on his chosen ground.

The contrast with Sadiq Khan is marked. True, Khan doesn’t have Corbyn’s ambivalence towards the EU. He also has a very different electorate from which he draws his mandate. But neither of those factors forced him to share a stage with the prime minister (though there is something of an irony that Labour’s current leaders, who were happy to be in the company of IRA apologists, now criticise Khan for appearing alongside the very people who only a few weeks ago were denouncing the mayor for the people he once associated with). Presumably, both men thought that they and their cause had more to gain from co-operation than independent action.

And therein lies a crucial distinction between the likes of Cameron and Khan on one side, and Corbyn on the other. Centrists are by definition compromisers and pragmatists; people willing to trade quid pro quos to get the best deal they can. Their politics is about winning and good management first, and then, within the boundaries those priorities make possible, tilting systems towards the person’s favoured ideology.

By contrast, the outer wings of either party are happy to define themselves by their refusal to compromise. Indeed, centrists on their own side are often even more reviled than those on the opposing one, with accusations of fraternisation, selling out and treachery. When Corbyn barely acknowledged Cameron as they walked through Westminster on their way to hear the Queen’s Speech, it encapsulated his visceral reaction against working or even socialising with those outside his ideological confort zone.

That same refusal to compromise also reinforces their and their ideology’s righteousness (though it can also easily tend to produce splits over arcane, meaningless points that the rest of the world would regard as of no great importance). It is but a small step from there to the belief that those who question that ideology must be either enemies or deluded; hence the treatment of Kuenssberg, and Corbyn’s reaction to it. We didn’t need the fly-on-the-wall documentary to know that the attitude is driven from the top. He might have shushed those booing but not straight away and not with any comment that implied the workers’ reaction was wrong rather than too extended.

All of which is a good pointer to 2020: there will only be True Believers and The Rest, in the media as much as in parliament or the wider Labour movement (hence the repeated denunciation of opponents as ‘Red Tories’ or whatever colour of Tory fits the local bill). Kuenssberg is herself presumably now a ‘Tory Journo’. It’s a complete contrast with Blair and Campbell and their strategy of assert and engage. While Campbell might have bullied, he didn’t do it in public and it was from a position of strength – meaning it worked and wasn’t seen; the perfect combination for public consumption.

By contrast, we have to conclude that Labour’s current media strategy – to the extent that one exists at all – is to treat the media like the weather: as an external factor that is frequently unpleasant but which is beyond influence; as such, the likeminded can only console themselves by complaining about it to each other. It’s not likely to be a winning strategy but then winning isn’t the point, not if it comes at the price of impurity.

David Herdson


Leave’s major advantage in the last three weeks of the campaign. The Tory press is on their side

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

The Sun Front Page

The Sun front page from last Friday, after another poor set of net immigration figures for Cameron

This referendum could boil down to Cameron v The Tory Press. If Cameron prevails, it could be good news for Corbyn.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this referendum campaign is a Tory PM and most of the Tory Press being on opposite sides. As Neil Kinnock and Ed Miliband can attest the press can very brutal. Whilst I don’t subscribe to the belief that it was solely The Sun wot won it at the 1992 general election, as a politician it is much more advantageous to have media on your side.

It seems we have been transported to DC comics’ Bizarro world, where everything is the opposite to what it should be, with the likes of The Mirror and The Guardian backing a Tory Prime Minister, whilst the likes of The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, and The Sun vehemently opposing the Prime Minister. Today sees the first debate/Q&A of the referendum, it isn’t difficult to see those newspapers taking a very anti-Cameron line tomorrow morning, as we can see with The Sun front page above, they can be very damaging to the Prime Minister.

There’s been a long term decline in the influence of the print media, in the last few weeks we’ve seen the closure of the print edition of The Independent, there’s been rumours, subsequently denied, that The Guardian would follow The Independent’s lead and turn into a purely online outfit, and this past week The Daily Mail’s parent company issued a profits warning,  “after reporting a 29% fall in profits, driven by a double-digit decline in print advertising, at its newspaper operation in the six months to the end of March.”

So if Remain do win despite the onslaught of the Tory press, this might be good news for Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. It isn’t the difficult to envisage the political waterboarding the Tory press will give Jeremy Corbyn at the 2020 general election, with the impact of the press diminished, Labour might have less to fear about 2020 and the chances of Corbyn becoming Prime Minister might be higher than some currently think.



David Herdson on tonight’s big European election

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

Who is on for douze points?

Hello and welcome once again to this European extravaganza; this celebration of all that is best and brightest about this continent; this joyous coming together of nations near and far. Oh all right, who am I kidding?

The big question of course is will Britain triumph for the first time since Terry Wogan was in short trousers – and I don’t mean the lederhosen he sported that time in … apparently I’m not allowed to tell that story. Poor Terry, sadly missed.

It is true that despite a lot of promise in recent years, Britain’s not had much success on the continent recently. Will this be the year to change all that or are we simply part of something which doesn’t suit our way of doing things, to which we’ll forever be outsiders?

Who can forget that after so many hopes were stored up last time, coming back home with a very measly return. I thought it was quite good actually but then what do I know? The problem is of course that you can’t vote for yourself and you have to put yourself in the hands of a lot of foreigners – and who’d want to do that? Having said that, there are one or two that I wouldn’t mind putting myself in the hands of but we won’t go there right now.

Returning to today’s offering, do we stand a chance of getting our way? Will we not be alone, for once or will we once again be dancing to a different beat? Going on past form, I can’t honestly be too optimistic but if there’s one thing that’s for sure, the boys flying the flag won’t be short of energy. And you never know. Some unkind people have described the offering put forward as ‘vapid bilge’. I think that’s unfair. Don’t you think that’s unfair? I think it’s unfair. Still, maybe it’s not quite a second Waterloo, if you know what I mean.

If I can be serious for a moment – don’t worry, it won’t last – I do wonder if we’ve missed how the whole thing’s changed over the last twenty years. It’s not just about the performance but it’s about the wider vision, and that’s not something we’ve done terribly well at. Maybe if we want to be more successful at this lark, we should look at what’s worked for other countries and adapt our own version of that. Just a thought.

Anyway, too late to change things for this year so just sit back and enjoy the show. And remember, if it feels like it’s been going on a long time already, just wait to see how you feel once the voting’s finished.

David Herdson, of sorts.

Eurovision takes place this evening. The EU referendum is on June 23.


If Zac loses London and the Brexiters fail it will say a lot about the declining influence of the press

Monday, May 2nd, 2016


If the London mayoral race and the BREXIT referendum go according to the betting then it will be very much against what most of the press has been promoting.

The Sadiq Khan campaign for the Mayoralty has to overcome a strong media bias in favour of Zac Goldsmith. The above from yesterday’s Mail on Sunday is typical.

The capital’s main newspaper, the Standard, has been very anti-Khan and has been more than willing to echo the Goldsmith campaign efforts to try to smear the LAB man.

It’s coverage of the election’s polls has been abominable even those which it has commissioned itself. Sometimes trying to find the key figures has been hard and there’s barely been a mention of other surveys such as the one on Friday that had Khan 20% ahead.

In the BREXIT race the line up of national papers has been very much for OUT. The Times, Telegraph, Mail and the Sun have been highly partisan and in terms of circulations totally dwarf those in favour of IN.

So if London and the referendum go according to the betting (Sadiq and REMAIN are strong odds-on favourites) it will suggest that the printed press has nothing like the influence it used to have.

It’s known that REMAIN is following the successful Tory general election campaign and making big use of social media to reach selected audiences with bespoke messages.

Mike Smithson


Read all about it. The news sources that matter nowadays

Friday, March 25th, 2016


Alastair Meeks on the media influence on the EU referendum

The EU referendum has turned into a battle between the Prime Minister and the right-leaning newspapers.  In 1992 the Sun hubristically claimed to have be the one wot won it.  Will it be the Mail wot wins the EU referendum for Leave in 2016?

The world has changed in a generation.  In 1992, five daily newspapers sold more than a million copies and the top twelve biggest selling daily newspapers issued more than 14 million copies.  By 2016, only two daily newspapers sold more than a million copies – a third, Metro, gave away more than that number.  The circulation for the twelve daily newspapers with the biggest circulation was under 9 million. (The decline in Sunday newspaper circulations is still worse, with two thirds of combined circulation being lost in the last 30 years.)  As business models go, this doesn’t look alluring.

Clearly the print market is declining.  But how are the public consuming their news nowadays?  Are they shifting to online versions of newspapers?  Are newspapers as influential as ever, but through a new medium?

This is something that Ofcom has looked at in detail recently through opinion polling.  Their slides are worth looking through in detail here:

They paint a picture of a nation whose patterns of news consumption are changing fast.  89% of the public follow the news one way or another.  Two thirds watch news on TV, over 40% get it through the internet and just under a third read newspapers for news or catch it on the radio.  Unsurprisingly, the young are much more likely to get it from the internet while the old are more likely to get news from the TV or newspapers.  But even the old are rapidly giving up on newspapers – a fifth fewer named it as a source of news this year from last.

So where specifically do the public get their news? TV and radio channels dominate the sources of news that the public names.  Facebook is shooting up the ranks (its penetration nearly doubled from 2014 to 2015).  The highest ranked newspaper, the Sun, ranks tenth with just 6% reach.  By way of comparison, the top ranked news source, BBC1, reaches 48% of adults.

But how does online content change the picture?  After all, the Daily Mail, for example, has a massive online presence so just looking at newspaper sales misses that impact.  Well, it turns out that the newspaper groups still languish.  Looking at news providers by the brand through which it is provided, DMGT comes in a fourth by audience reach at 16%, far behind the BBC at 77% and ITV at 33%.  Since DMGT includes the Metro and the Evening Standard, neither of which take the same line as the Mail publications, this 16% figure greatly overstates the potential impact of the Mail’s bully pulpit.  The next largest newspaper group is News Corp with 13% reach.  Trinity Mirror scrapes in the top ten with 8% reach.  Northern & Shell, the Express’s owners, manages 7%.  Social media garners 15% reach.  Twitter may not be Britain, but social media reaches as many people as Trinity Mirror and the Express combined.

The public were asked to name their single most important source of news.  29% named BBC1. 50% named a BBC source.  The only newspaper to reach the top ten was the Sun, with just 2%.  Just 9% named any newspaper.

OK, but surely the newspapers are disproportionately important in moulding the views of their readers?  It seems not.  59% of the viewing public think that BBC TV is trustworthy and 41% say it helps them make their minds up.  The Mail newspapers tally 41% trustworthiness among their own readers and 37% of their own readers say that they help them make their minds up.  The figures for the Sun are still worse: 23% for both measures among their own readers.  Only the Guardian and the Observer are more trusted by their own readers than the BBC is trusted by its viewers.  Most newspapers entertain rather than inform their readers, who are considerably less credulous about their contents than is commonly hoped or feared.

The following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Newspapers influence relatively few people. Their sales have been declining for a generation and their audience penetration has been dropping particularly sharply recently.  Their readers appear literally to be dying off.
  • With a steep decline in sales and audience penetration for newspapers, newspapers are chasing market share. Their editorial line is more likely to be calculated to attract reliable new readers from other newspapers (the remaining newspaper readers seem to be old and very conservative) rather than designed to influence existing readers.  It should not be a surprise to find that a business is catering to its audience rather than seeking to mould its audience to its own tastes.
  • People have always chosen the news source that suits their personal tastes and that has been made much easier with the advent of Twitter and Facebook.  But this can be overstated: in Britain, news provision is still overwhelmingly dominated by the BBC.  We are nowhere near the position of the USA, where the public picks what news it gets to hear according to political inclination.
  • If you really want to influence public opinion, go on TV.

Alastair Meeks