High quality, reliable news must never be taken for granted. It seems like a statement of the obvious but it is worth restating.
This week saw the announcement of the closure of Buzzfeed news.
Quite simply – the sums did not add up. This was despite the fact that Buzzfeed had produced innovative content over the years which connected with some of those who might not get their news from traditional sources.
Meanwhile the scourge of fake news on dubious platforms continues to poison debate. And some simply seek out the news they want to hear – stories which back up your existing interests or opinions even if the individual articles are perfectly fair and accurate.
This means the role of reliable news from the public service broadcasters is more important than ever.
It is a reminder of why the BBC must be properly funded and why journalism is at the centre of the organisation.
But without appropriate funding, it is almost inevitable that journalism will suffer.
We will gloss over the comments about the new BBC News Channel. Things will inevitably take time to settle down.
But the channel would not have been relaunched had it not been for the corporation’s financial state.
Remember though the vital importance of the BBC One bulletins, Newsnight, major daily and weekly programmes like Politics Live, Radio 4, Radio 5 Live and, of course, the BBC website. They all reach far more people than the news channel does in the UK at any one point in time.
Remember too how important it is to reach those who are not actually watching or listening for news. The importance of Radio 1’s Newsbeat (which some of those who like more traditional BBC journalism can tend to be snobby over) in reaching young listeners who may not regularly consume other reliable news programmes can’t be overemphasised.
Memo to the Government and the DCMS – further real term cuts in BBC income could be dangerous. Either for journalism and democracy or for the BBC’s ability to provide a wide overall service. Or both.
Meanwhile it is worth Ofcom reinforcing that the likely increase in ad time on ITV 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 needs to have some clear benefit for audiences.
It is unlikely to be a positive benefit – an actual improvement. Rather it is about preventing possible but realistic harms.
It needs to be made clear that reductions in the regulatory requirements for national and regional news are out of the question.
But wouldn’t it be good if Ofcom had power to actually ensure they were properly resourced. It can be tempting to cut resources or staff by stealth. Again, this must not happen.
Independent, impartial news is a precious thing.
So too is plurality – if the BBC chooses not to cover a particular story, to my mind, it is no huge issue (regardless of whether it was the right decision or not) as ITN might.
You only need to look at Fox News or state broadcasters in countries which are not mature, stable democracies to see the alternative to what we can take for granted.
And remember, despite anything you may have read on Twitter, that the BBC belongs to the British people – all of us regardless of our politics and identity – and not the state.
PICTURED: BBC News/ITV News/Channel 4 News/5 News. COPYRIGHT: BBC/ITV plc/Channel 4 Television Corporation/Channel 5 Broadcasting Ltd/ITN.