If Rupert Murdoch succeeds in buying Time Warner, and puts CNN up for sale, will anyone want to pay billions for a safe, inoffensive news channel?
Here is the $5bn question. If Rupert Murdoch comes back to the table, bids higher for Time Warner and wins, he will have to stick to his pledge to sell off CNN: and Reuters reckons those big billions a going price. But why would CBS or Bloomberg, say, want to pay so much for America’s third-place cable news channel, falling ever faster ever further behind Fox or MSNBC? Isn’t 24-hour news on the way out given that smartphones or tablets will bring you sparse bulletins on demand? What’s so impressive about being in hotel bedrooms from Hong Kong to Hamburg?
Answer: neutrality. Fox is whipping CNN in the US because it is brash, bombastic and biased. CNN is different. It doesn’t pound tables. It gives little offence. It’s the safe, stolid package service that hotels love. No wonder Murdoch doesn’t fancy solving this $5bn conundrum. Fairness and balance mean you lose in the US – and win everywhere else.
Farewell logical thinking at the BBC
A net loss of 220 journalist jobs out of 5,000? It’s not exactly BBC Armageddon, but you have to sympathise with James Harding, newish but long-suffering head of news, as he reaches for his scalpel. Morale isn’t good. See the way strike threats precede better offers. But nor is the logic of what he must do. More investigative journalism but no staff reporters for Panorama? (Farewell John Sweeney, once of this parish.) Responding to BBC trustees who want more original stories by losing original newsgetters? Wooing young viewers by ditching the shorter bulletins? Protecting the World Service by dumping another 105 bodies and closing bureaux? Investing in digital but throwing onscreen presenters over the side?
Of course it’s difficult and Harding can’t please everyone. But the whole prospectus looks creaky. Wouldn’t it have been better to announce an overall structure, then make the redundancies that fit the vision?
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