Friday, January 18, 2008

All the 'news' that's fit to be... minted?

Newsnight last night seemed to have an odd set of priorities, if you look at some blog comments. I tended to agree.

We all seek the holy grail of a slot on national TV, but what chance do we have if those with deeper pockets seem to have magic ways to not only gain better access, but a pretty blank canvas handed them as well.

There has always been a fine, and difficult to navigate line between 'news' and 'current affairs'.

News is pretty simple. Stuff happens and your report it... who, what, why, where, etc.

Current affairs drifts into other territories, and much muddier waters (to mix my metaphors) once a product or service that is there to be sold (and hence can benefit from being seen and/or talked about) is involved.

While 'the arts' have always had a pretty easy ride (they are still flogging their wares after all), most still seems fair enough in the name of public information and/or entertainment.

But lately it does seem that a lot of PRs have a pretty direct line to the BBC's producers.

Especially those from the, much grubbier, corporate world. I was watching BBC Breakfast's 'business' section this morning, and there was some CEO so desperate to score just one more sale that whatever topic was being discussed he might as well have run a sales video. Even the presenter was embarrassed, if too late to intercede.

I even recall a while ago Sir Michael Rose was allowed on with a rack of garments and given public broadcast time to flog 'em for Xmas like some market trader.

Yes, there is a balance to be struck, and in return for a story about their stuff you do give an opportunity for profile. But really guys, are they slipping bungs out now or what? Or is it just sooo much easier (and in these cost-cutting days cheaper) to let your mates from the lobby firms pitch an idea, set up the meet and provide the script?

Maybe we need a story on payola rearing its profitable, if ethically-questionable head again. And even if no money exchanges hands, who knows what mutual back-scratching deals get done over a nice lunch in SoHo? On 'ex's, natch.

Share and share... not alike?

Still smarting a bit from being told that I wasn't going to get any NGO-assistance to move to a revenue-generating model because... I didn't yet have enough revenues.

That's up there with the one a few years ago that rejected my application because it was 'too left filed and nothing like it had be doen before'. It's name? The Creative Innovation Fund.

I was pondering this as I watched today's BBC Breakfast local/Midlands section, with a report on a Birmingham Council carshare initiative (no link I can find, thanks to the woeful BBC online search - subject to confirmation, it might be referring to this).

Any road up, seems that this initiative has been in place a while now (and I'm betting with a few more folk and a few more involved than any that has come my solo, mostly self-funded way), and has netted... 60 sign-ups. This puts me in mind of a press release for a national green online effort recently that was trumpeting 50,000 monthly hits . That's... not great, bearing in mind I'm gunning for 500,000 unique visitors, which is a lot different (and tougher) measure.

The platitude offered was that such things are 'slow-burners'. Well yes, that's what I have been saying about us, but this slow burner seems to be doing a lot better than many, yet can't get arrested, yet bazillions get poured down green holes to a very questionable enviROI+ degree at the drop of an inter-departmental hat... er.. memo.

The even more annoying thing is that I have in the wings tripsplitters, which is a whole new take on car sharing that I really think could work and make some serious money, and acts in complement to the local postcode facility.

To get this off the ground I would need help, mainly in time (but that is, at the end of the day, still money). But considering the effort to reward ratio of applying for help from these bodies, and where their heads are at as to what you get and how they connect you with the right folk to help the ideas person turn it into a business, I am not so keen any more.

If ever there was a system designed to drain the creative soul out of an innovator, these seem to be perfectly crafted for the task.