St Bride's: News - All the news, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

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St Bride's: News

All the news, 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Down the centuries, the journalists' spiritual home of St Bride's in the heart of Fleet Street, has witnessed the comings and goings of people from every walk of life, who have stepped inside Wren's great church and perhaps have sought solace and peace within its walls.

But when all is said and done, those who might just appreciate it more than anyone else must, obviously, be journalists, many of whom present themselves in the church mostly on sad occasions, such as memorial services. But there are joyous times as well, and such an occasion is the annual Tom Olsen lecture, this year delivered by that towering figure of Mr Adam Boulton.

Now Mr Boulton is a television journalist out of the top drawer. He has been at Sky News right from the beginning. He has interviewed every British Prime Minister from Gordon Brown back to Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the strains of which are there for all to see. His exclusive interview with President Barack Obama a few months ago was a triumph.

As Political Editor of Sky News, Mr Boulton, it has to be said, is by no means a Rottweiler in the Humphrys sense, nor is he a pestering, pushy Paxman, or even a nosey Naughtie. He is, well, just Adam Boulton with a pedigree in television journalism second to none.

Standing before a packed church with the stunning backdrop of the high altar gleaming under a superb lighting display, Mr Boulton quickly appeared to be at ease with himself and looked as though he was ready to meet an illustrious studio guest.

With very few words of introduction, he moved swiftly into his stride with a mission statement on a topic he is clearly passionate about, namely 24/7 news. And he argued that a good 24 hour news channel has the capacity to show its audience events and arguments live every day which they never had access to before: from Nobel prize acceptance speeches to world cup draws to Jade Goody's funeral; from a statement to parliament to a beach struck by a tsunami to live fire-fight in Afghanistan. 24/7 news also usually has the airtime for analysis, opinion and debate on each action as it unfolds; as well as room for summaries of other news items and information.

'Good, live journalism requires attribution and contextualisation of all information passed on,' he went on, reminding his audience that over the past 20 years 24/7 news had shown a standard of accuracy which would stand comparison with any of the stuffier news organisations. 'Where we have made mistakes, it is often because we have been misinformed by official sources,' he declared, with the vast majority of his audience nodding in agreement.

Then he posed the question: Have we made the news agenda more intrusive or more trivial? In answer, Mr Boulton said that he had one simple piece of advice for anyone in the public eye - and that included both politicians and television presenters - do not do anything in your private life and personal affairs that you could not defend if it became public.

By this time, Mr Boulton was in full flow 'There are now common rights to a private life, reinforced by a surprisingly broadminded public but, I believe, any special privacy law to protect the powerful or prominent would be profoundly damaging to our democracy,' he barked. He said he spoke as someone whose own personal affairs had often been commented on in newspapers, sometimes hurtfully. He doubted whether anyone found the disclosures interesting and he certainly did not find them accurate. 'But comment should be free. Real life is much more important than a gossip journalist's misrepresentation of it.'

With the forthcoming general election in mind, Mr Boulton referred to the Sky News initiative in calling for a TV leaders' debate. The Tory and Lib-dem leaders, Cameron and Clegg respectively agreed to take part immediately, followed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown four weeks later, he revealed.

After nearly an hour of riveting comments and statements, often delivered in a somewhat dour, but meaningful fashion, Mr Boulton concluded: 'We are understandably, if sometimes excessively, burdened with all kinds of laws, regulations and expectations - not to mention pressures - which tone us up for the hard task of showing our viewers, in the most interesting way possible, the world as it is - right now in real time - so that they can make their own choices about how to live their own lives.' It is, as he put it, a 'noble mission.'

After rightfully receiving thunderous applause, Mr Boulton was bombarded with questions, which reminded us of Prime Minister's question time. In answer to the final one - no he could not forecast the result of the next general election. But, he added, the twins would win the X-Factor. Goodness knows what Mr Wren would have thought about all this...

Click to view/hide transcript of the lecture

I am greatly honoured to be asked to give this Olsen Lecture at St Bride's. We journalists spend our careers asking questions about others and I am firmly of the belief that we should be prepared to reciprocate and give an account of ourselves and our work when challenged.

Both St Bride's and the Tom Olsen Trust have been friendly and important supporters to our calling as we undertake this often painful task of self-revelation - a process which, it has to be said, usually involves much dog-eat-dog, in the best traditions of Fleet Street.

Indeed I first came to this church for the remarkable service recognising the last withdrawal of the trade of Journalism from the geographical location with which it is most associated - "Fleet Street" - a term which even President Obama used when I interviewed him earlier this summer. On that day we were marking the departure of Reuters, eastward into the city - I note that their old building has now been put to good use as the latest venue for a Conran restaurant. Rupert Murdoch read the lesson - a pious recognition of his long association with Reuters and the Chancellor family who have been such an important part of the wire service. Murdoch was surrounded by family and executives from the News business - both capital and small "n" in this context. Even if you know nothing of that service you will have seen the pictures of it. It is the illustration most often reached for by picture editors - shades of a Mafia funeral - when they want to air conspiracy theories about my ultimate employers. So much for the rewards of going to church.

Alas I never met Tom Olsen our benefactor, although I am delighted that his son Tim is here today. Tom's long career was very different from mine - being in the print. And many would say that preoccupations that he and the Trust have been able to further - wine, music, and considered ideas expressed in lecture form - all matured in the vat so to speak - are a long way from the live gabblings of a 24 hour news reporter.

However, over the next half hour or so I hope to demonstrate that perhaps we have more in common than may at first appear; in terms of our concerns about the potential dangers of journalism - both to journalists themselves and to the community which we serve; and in our belief in what journalism is for - to inform, educate, entertain and (the one the BBC left out) to shock as well on occasion. Functions, which I shall argue, are exercised by the digital electronic media today more analogously to the print of Tom Olsen's heyday than by our current newspapers and magazines.

* * *

Such claims may strike you as overdone because, Ladies and Gentlemen, I've got to admit that we are starting from a low base and I'm sure some of you are wondering why we printed 24/7 News - Free and Irresponsible with a question mark at the end. I'll try to explain.

Sky News is now in its twenty-first year of non-stop operation, CNN started eight years earlier in 1980.

As I shall point out, 24 hour news is evolving in a very different way on either sides of the Atlantic. But whichever version we talk about we've got to accept that 24 hour news as we call it here, or "cable news" as it tends to be known in America, has seldom been more denigrated - both by some politicians and some media grandees.

Jeremy Paxman has accused us of "expectation inflation"; in his book Flat Earth News Nick Davies pontificates about manic, high speed "churnalism" suggesting there is an irreconcilable conflict between the accuracy and speed of reporting; Libby Purves claims that "the mission to explain" has been turned into "a licence to witter".

From his Hugh Cudlipp lecture to his blog site, Alastair Campbell complains about everything from the size of my head, to the tone of Kay Burley's voice. He says 24 hour news is only patronised by the lonely (something my mother once said to me about public houses). He brands a question to President Obama about Afghanistan and Pakistan as "smart aleck". He suggests that 24 hour news would have dissipated public support for D-Day if we had been around in 1944. And of course things aren't as good as they were in his day as a tabloid hack "when you kind of knew where you were. You had the tabloids, you had the broadsheets, and you had the broadcasters. They did very different things. The advent of the 24/7 media age means that the barriers between them are pretty much broken down, certainly in our country."

In 2007, Tony Blair developed such criticisms in a more thoughtful way in his famous Lecture on Public Life delivered at Reuters' new headquarters in Canary Wharf a fortnight before he stood down as Prime Minister. "The News schedule is now 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," Blair observed, "it moves in real time. Papers don't give you up to date news. That's already out there. They have to break stories, try to lead the schedules. Or they give a commentary. And it all happens with outstanding speed."

Blair maintained that for competitive reasons "accuracy" now took second place to what he called "impact". He too bemoaned the merging of agendas between media outlets. Claiming that "misconduct is what has impact... the fear of missing out means that today's media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack... it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits." Blair made it clear that he believed new forms of instantaneous digital media had made things worse, as he put it: "the new forms of media can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five."

An ex-journalist himself, and not the only one in his family, Gordon Brown takes a rather more sympathetic and considered approach to the problems of instantaneous digital media. But he too recognises a change in the terms of trade of information, suggesting that texting and blogging provoked recent political upheaval in Burma and the Philippines and telling a seminar in New York earlier this year: "I think the thing that has changed in the last few years is that the ordinary media that we think about - newspapers and television - are less important for the future than our ability to communicate with each other across the world."

* * *

Undoubtedly there is a self-serving element to all of these attacks - the settling of professional rivalries or the salving of bruises and lash cuts. I'm going to resist the temptation to get into that now. But I will try to deal with the serious points raised, which can be summarised simply. 24/7 news stands accused of driving the media's supposed drift towards inaccuracy, shallowness and intrusion.

Much of this protest seems to me unjustified and in vain. If the media reports and reflects the world as it is, should it also be blamed for what it shows? (Shooting the messenger is a tradition dating before even the ancient Greeks and Persians). Breakthroughs in technology have enhanced both what we can do and transformed what we actually do. From the internet to highly portable instantaneous television transmission, we have the tools to subject today's world to ever more scrutiny in real time. What's more, the branches of digital technology complement each other. The internet is a repository for stored images and words. But in an age of YouTube, iTunes applications, Sky+ and MP3 players, television's unique selling point is more clearly defined than ever. It is the ability to transmit live events simultaneously to big audiences of people. That's why the focus of television is increasingly on just four genres: live sport, news, live cultural events and reality TV - live events and competitions contrived by the TV stations themselves. There's a commercial driver to this separation as well - the more ears and eyes they attract the more money a broadcaster can make; but the larger a live online audience the more it costs the originator to provide bandwidth.

(Documentaries, drama, films, light entertainment and comedy still have their place in TV schedules. But in an age of downloads and DVDs they are no longer uniquely televisual experiences - and, let's face it, they are proving increasingly unattractive investments for conventional TV networks as well. In the US for example, NBC has just replaced its prime time drama hour with a nightly topical chat show from Jay Leno.)

A good 24 hour news channel has the capacity to show its audience events and arguments live every day which they never had access to before: from Nobel prize acceptance speeches to World Cup draws to Jade Goody's funeral; from a statement to parliament to a beach struck by a tsunami to a live fire-fight in Afghanistan. 24/7 news also usually has the airtime for analysis, opinion and debate on each action as it unfolds; as well as room for summaries of other news items and information.

Authority is derived from the authenticity of the events shown as they develop and the depth of analysis provided simultaneously rather than the presumption of infallibility of the broadcaster. Remember that the first head of BBC News 24 declared that they would not relay news conferences live, because editorial control would be lost.

Those old school journalists who invoke the canard of inaccuracy - who remind us of the unofficial slogan "Never Wrong for Long" (which was coined by John O'Loan, the first head of Sky News) - are forgetting that all journalism is only "the first draft of history". Good live journalism requires attribution and contextualisation of all information passed on. Over the past twenty years I believe our standard of accuracy would stand comparison with any of the stuffier news organisations. Where we have made mistakes it is often because we have been misinformed by official sources. At Sky News we know the difference between stating "Police say over a hundred people may have been killed in the Ladbroke Grove rail crash" and "Over a hundred dead in rail crash" as one of our competitors put it. Mercifully, as we reported accurately, the toll turned out to be far lower.

Even when information is imparted in an accurate and provisional way, TV producers and reporters have to be careful that the emphasis, what Tony Blair would call the "impact", is not wrong. For example, I recently reported that the British authorities were trying to confirm reports that the Lockerbie convict Al-Megrahi had died. All true but it turned out the reports in question were inaccurate. It was a mistake on our part to back this up our story with the full panoply of breaking news - on screen text, rolling video and instant phone calls for comment.

Frank Sesno, the veteran of CNN has written about developing a "language of live", commending the way in which then Mayor Giuliani commented during the breaking news of 9/11. Few of us will forget his announcement that casualties will be "more than any of us can bear". Sesno suggests that we should create a place called "story in progress" where information is presented as "incremental and developing". I believe that we, and the viewers and the best communicators of our times are already in that place. We can only remain viable because of the trust our viewers and online users place in us to provide the best information that we have.

Have we made the news agenda more intrusive or more trivial? I have one simple piece of advice for anyone in the public eye - and that includes both politicians and television presenters - do not do anything in your private life and personal affairs that you could not defend if it became public. There are now common rights to a private life, reinforced by a surprisingly broadminded public but, I believe, any special privacy law to protect the powerful or prominent would be profoundly damaging to our democracy. I speak as someone whose own personal affairs have often been commented on in newspapers, sometimes hurtfully. I doubt anyone found the disclosures interesting. I certainly didn't find them accurate. But comment should be free. Real life is much more important than a gossip journalist's misrepresentation of it.

These are arguments well backed up by this year's revelations over MPs' expenses. I freely admit that I never had much taste for such stories, on an individual basis, and that I also have some sympathy with MPs who complain about their salaries. However, thanks to the Telegraph's comprehensive exposé, we now know that I was wrong. The outraged general public clearly disagree with me. What's more, we now know that perhaps half of parliament were prepared to exploit their allowances in private in a way which they could not defend in public.

Just as trust is important between the news broadcaster and the viewer, so trust is important between the politician and the voter. Part of that is based on the personal impression made. Most of us would regard many such personal details as irrelevant but I don't see why the curious should be denied by law from looking for personal details about participants in the national conversation. Increasingly, we seem to think it's right that there should be openness about money. Health is clearly pertinent if you are choosing someone to work for you. These days sexual behaviour continues to fascinate but it is rarely a career threatening issue - as politicians from Bill Clinton to Boris Johnson have found to their advantage.

* * *

Creeping liberal tolerance may be shared across the pond - but we in the media often fail to recognize the starkly different media ecologies separated by the Atlantic Ocean.

The American TV culture has evolved in a free market mainly as a platform for advertisements; and subsequently with the introduction of pay-per-view as an additional revenue source for premium product, usually on cable.

In this country, and much of Europe, the airwaves have from the outset been treated as the property of the state to be licensed out to broadcasters under set conditions. At least until the arrival of satellite TV, the profit motive was replaced by some form of state patronage, either through the licence fee or the granting of privileged access to the audience.

As it happens, both the American and British systems have produced programmes of the highest and the lowest quality - and we could spend all night debating their relative merits. That is not my intention now.

American 24/7 news has developed in a very different way from here. For a start it's not strictly 24/7 there. In a country of six time zones, much of the daily output is repeated from tape. At Sky News it's not so much never wrong for long as never on for long - typically all our stories are changed and updated at most every four hours or so. A developing story will never be reported in the same way twice.

Secondly, the legacy from terrestrial television is that the British viewer expects picture and on-location journalist led reports - there simply is not the appetite for talking head comment that there is in North America (perhaps because you can get that with knobs on from print and online).

Thirdly, it's a much smaller market here. To be successful in Britain you need to be in the mainstream, participating in the common national discourse. In America, thanks to cable subscriptions, news channels can make a tidy profit with just a niche audience of a few million zealous fans each. Not surprisingly, with opinion and argument at a premium, there is a far greater concentration on politics in the cable news agendas.

Not that approaching things in a different way means that 24/7 news gets any better press in the United States, nor that the criticisms are any different, or even better informed!

President Obama likes to remark that he doesn't watch cable news - but he certainly lets it get under his skin. Pressed why he wouldn't spell out his position on Iran by an MSNBC reporter, he spat back: "Because I think, Chuck, that we don't know how things are going to play out. I know everybody here is on a 24 hour news cycle. I'm not, OK?" [He was speaking to Chuck Todd not to Michelle in the sense of Macbeth's "Dearest Chuck"].

Elsewhere Obama has complained about cable news and Washington saying "There is an impatience that characterizes this town that has only grown shorter with the 24 hour news cycle, and insists on instant gratification in the form of immediate results and higher poll numbers." Or again: "the easiest way to get on CNN or Fox or any of the other stations - MSNBC - is to just say something rude or outrageous. If you're civil, polite and you're sensible, and you don't exaggerate the bad things about your opponent... you might maybe get on one of the Sunday morning talk shows - but you're not going to be on the loop".

There are strong shades of Blair in the President's simultaneous expression of outrage and media savvy. But for Blair, detachment from and disillusionment with the media were the result of a long love affair gone wrong. That's why, for example, Tony Blair was the Prime Minister who introduced monthly news conferences - a genuine move in the direction of openness - because he was no longer getting his message across to his satisfaction via the conventional media. Alastair Campbell had tainted the well. And this was even before Kelly, Hutton, and the other disasters of 2003.

Obama has never tried to treat the media as his friend - however often he has employed their means of communication. Obama has tried to be detached rather than dependent on the MSM (mainstream media) from the outset - recognising that the digital age gives him many different platforms to get his message across, often with very little editorial intermediation. Indeed the 44th President is a digital multimedia phenomenon. It's a year to the day [November 4th] since his election but Obama has already given more prime time news conferences than George W Bush did in two full four year terms. Obama has given more TV interviews (but almost all to the domestic US media) than any other President in modern times. He has already given two joint addresses to Congress. He is the first incumbent President to go on the Leno and Letterman late night talk shows. He has posted over a 1000 pictures on his Flickr site, gazumping the paparazzi with his own images. He is a bestselling author in print twice over, and he read his own audio books. His race speech was the most watched video on YouTube with over 1.6 million hits in 48 hours, and 7 million until now.

As Jennifer Senior logged in her excellent article, 'the Message is the Message' for New York Magazine - In one typical 36 hour period Obama had 11 televised or videoed interactions with the public in which he delivered messages on the surgeon general, healthcare, Africa, employee rights, Israel, urban renewal, Afghanistan, the economic stimulus, job training, community service, gays in the military and baseball.

None of these were soundbites - brief one line zingers. Instead Obama has realised that the limitless capacity of online and rolling news allow him to deliver considered statements on a range of topics which will be accessed by interested members of the public in their own time. The pressures of the 24/7 media mean that there is no longer just one daily news cycle. In its place, as Jennifer Senior stresses, is "an infinite media marketplace, with micro news cycles and niche news outlets," where "no one story gains traction for very long, and there's always room somewhere for one of your ideas".

Frequent multiple communications allow Obama to try to set the context and frame an argument in the national conversation. By taking an issue up he can also set the topics for discussion, as he did in choosing to become involved in public following the arrest of the black Harvard professor Henry L Gates for breaking into his own home.

This approach is the opposite of a classic New Labour-type spin operation. A spinner tries to fix the views of opinion formers in the national media in the hope that they will influence the public. Obama takes the argument to the public first, in the hope that they will then help him swing the political classes. Most famously this was the way he built momentum for his own Presidential campaign, mobilizing the grass roots long before he was seen as a contender by the commentariat.

This process would be impossible without the dedication, application and range of 24/7 news provided by the internet. In contrast to traditional news packages, the political message conveyed by these media is much less editorialized and often transmitted live or as a simple recorded extract.

Of course as they are no longer the primary means of communication, the newspapers and daily TV news programmes have had to find a new secondary role. Some, including perhaps The New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS (reacting to the shrillness of cable news) and BBC terrestrial have gone in the direction of trying to be more authoritative and comprehensive than their round the clock competition. The alternative approach - exemplified in this country by the national press, ITV and Channel 4 News - is to seek impact through tendentiousness, concentrating not so much on the facts of a story as on exaggerated aspects or opinions on it.

These two approaches are of course in total conflict with each other even though some organisations try to go in both directions, using their websites and multi-channels in the opposite way to their premium output.

In Britain, viewers of 24/7 news see and hear so much of the primary sources for themselves; it is not possible to contrive stories and headlines in the same way as the periodical media. For example, a recent Times splash showed the Post Office workers' leader Billy Hayes claiming to be "stronger than Scargill". That was true in the sense that Mr Hayes pointed out that he had won a ballot of his union members for strikes unlike Arthur Scargill. But the comparison left the amiable Hayes giggling for all to see, when I interviewed him live the next day. My observation here is that terrestrial news bulletins are now more inclined to follow the high-impact newspaper agenda than 24/7 news whose extensive coverage often undermines an impressive if tenuous headline. Who is irresponsible now?

As I have explained, the path of evolution is different in America. Before leaving President Obama whose declamatory style has earned him nicknames such as the Explainer in Chief and the Professor in Chief, it would be remiss not to mention the current dispute with Fox News which has brought the White House down from its Olympian heights. Following the extensive coverage given by Fox to the anti-Obama tea parties, and the extreme comments of Glenn Beck, the channel's newest ratings-busting host, White House political aides have declared war on the channel. They denied it access to Obama and called it a branch of the Republican Party and "not really a news station". This has created some problems for Fox News, including the loss of a few advertising sponsors for some shows; a direct attack from the editorial pages of News Corporation's own Wall Street Journal; and a drive inside the news channel itself to separate the news gathering service from the evening opinion shows, so that the main reporters no longer appear on the likes of Beck and Hannity. But overall it appears to have been a net positive, cementing Fox as the highly profitable ratings leader in the cable news sector. In America's very different media world, where journalists enjoy the protection of the first amendment to the constitution, rather than give way to provocation, Obama might be well advised to remember that an omnipresent media strategy will probably work best when it is indeed omnipresent.

But this is a diversion which I consider has no immediate relevance to our media in Britain. I chose to make my career in television news because of our binding commitments to impartiality, and I am not one of those who supports weakening them, however many blandishments the BBC offers for us to vacate the centre ground to them. Nor do I believe that there is a living to be made in this country from providing fringe news. It follows that I don't think that the Conservative proposals to loosen the impartiality rules are constructive. Sky News would be unlikely to alter its editorial position in those circumstances, and I certainly would not alter mine.

For quite understandable reasons, the BBC has often been reticent about innovation in programming, particularly in the highly visible realm of television news, when it risked confrontation with politicians. Competition has always been the driver of change, with independent companies taking the commercial risk even if the maintained BBC has subsequently occupied the territory gained with great professionalism. Thus it was the upstart ITV which first introduced news bulletins prepared and presented by journalists, coverage of elections within the 14 day quarantine period, World in Action, News at 10 and breakfast TV. And in 1989 Sky News brought 24 hour news to Europe, eight years and two general elections ahead of the BBC.

Once again, this pattern is being repeated in the latest effort by broadcasters to bring a new and important service to the viewing public: the campaign for a Leaders' debate, or debates at the next general election.

With no debates Britain has long lagged behind the United States and Europe and even Iran. This September Sky News launched a campaign for a Leaders' debate at the next election, urging the general public and politicians to support it. David Cameron and Nick Clegg agreed to participate immediately and Gordon Brown eventually gave his support some four weeks later.

On the day of our initiative, the BBC said that they were constrained from campaigning for a debate although they supported the idea in principle, while ITV accused Sky News of a PR stunt. Since then I am glad to say that the broadcasters have come together and we are now working with the parties to agree the format for a series of debates before the General Election.

This is the first time ever in British political history that the main party leaders, incumbents and challengers, favourites and underdogs have all agreed to debate in principle. I am confident that the debates will happen, not least because there is a growing realisation on both sides, TV and parties, what a disgrace it would be if we squander this great opportunity to re-engage a jaded public with the political process, using the best means at our disposal.

I believe the Leaders' debates will set the example to encourage an election during which hundreds of debates will take place up and down the country, on and off the airwaves, between many combinations of candidates and party spokesmen.

Unmediated, unblinking, live news with plenty of room for contextualization and subsidiary debates. It's what 24/7 news was made for.

But it all costs money. In television terms, news is relatively low cost per hour compared to drama, sport and entertainment but it is even lower in terms of revenue returned; not least because of the amount of so called "free" material available and the number of organisations fishing the waters.

To provide British viewers with the depth and quality of news which they expect requires that TV news organisations be part of a large and relatively indulgent parent company.

More broadly, in the current economic downturn, advertising-funded television companies are struggling.

All of us face competition of a kind from new technologies. Part of our response is to join in. In this country alone, Sky News is now consumed by tens of millions of people, on TV, online, on the radio, on YouTube and MSN, on big public screens, via Twitter and through iPod and mobile phone applications.

But our success in all these forums depends on a single thing: the reputation of our brand - the trust which our audience is prepared to place in us.

Looking at some of the toxic and bigoted rubbish circulated in blogs and blog comments, and the trivialities of Twitter - it's not surprising that consumers look for quality.

But it requires significant investment to satisfy them. That's why we must find ways of earning revenue from online. This is uniquely difficult in Britain for newspapers and broadcasters alike because the BBC's pay TV model generally makes its product free at the point of use, undercutting the market.

Rather than trying to micro-manage and handicap existing businesses, these matters of competition and market distortion are matters which our legislators should be considering with urgency.

I look forward to reporting that debate.

But to conclude by answering my own question: Is 24/7 news free and irresponsible?

Free and independent in spirit certainly. And in practice - so long as we or our parent company can return a profit in the free market.

Irresponsible? Most certainly not. Our future depends on maintaining the trust of our viewers.

We are understandably, if sometimes excessively, burdened with all kinds of laws, regulations, and expectations - not to mention competitive pressures - which tone us up for the hard task of showing our viewers, in the most interesting way possible, the world as it is - right now in real time - so that they can make their own choices about how to live their own lives.

It's a noble mission and one which I hope you'll agree is much the same as that of Tom Olsen in Fleet Street's heyday.

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