Prim and Proper? Please. Just Look at the British Media

Ivan Pollard From London

By Published on .

Myths abound about us Brits. Some of them are probably true, but some of them need to be challenged.

We do not all talk like Hugh Grant; we do not all stop for a spot of afternoon tea; we did not all go to private schools; and we do not all stick to a code of fair play.
Ivan Pollard
Ivan Pollard is a partner at Naked Communications, London, a communications-strategy shop with offices in six countries.

Leaving tea cakes aside, the notion that we are fine, upstanding people here in the London media scene is under special scrutiny. Two examples have rather sullied the image of our profession lately as they have been dragged across front pages and web pages.

The first is the scandal of unscrupulous media owners making a fast buck from unsuspecting viewers phoning in to competitions on premium-rate phone lines. The sting is that they are held too long, the competitions have already finished or there was never a competition in the first place. The latest villain is GMTV, but everybody from "Big Brother" to "Blue Peter" has been caught with their phones hanging out. And everybody has been stung, from little kids to pensioners.

As TV companies feel the squeeze on revenue from the blooming internet, the squeeze on audiences from other forms of content and the squeeze on operations from demanding shareholders, it is little wonder they are trying to find alternative means of making money. Maybe making it direct from consumers as opposed to relying on marketers is the next step in a bigger trend that began with subscription services and will end with little concern for providing advertisers a viable commercial platform. Still, ripping off grannies is not really on.

It isn't just TV stations, and it isn't just grannies. Two big newspaper groups -- News International and Associated -- are having a public spat over their free London newspapers, The London Paper and London Lite. It appears they have been falsifying the number of copies being read by skulking off to rubbish sites and dumping thousands of unread papers under the cover of darkness. Associated even hired an ex-Scotland Yard detective to expose the scam and ran advertising about it.

Who would have thought it, eh? But is it really news? Media owners have been pulling the wool over the eyes of advertisers and consumers as long as Brits have been having tea.
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