Jun 14

The most hated Brit since George III?


June 14
I
wasn't around in 1775 to see what our forefathers said about British King
George III and his 'vexatious' taxes, but I've been front and center to witness
many of the vitriolic epithets being hurled at BP CEO Tony Hayward in the
aftermath of the horrific Gulf oil spill.

In
an interesting twist on this mega-disaster, relations between the U.S. and
Britain
have become strained, to say the least. Americans HATE Hayward and BP while (whilst?) Brits aren't pleased
with the way their home-grown multination petroleum concern or its leader are
being pilloried by Obama, pundits and plebeians alike.

It
seems the Brits are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. One
particularly vociferous John Bull blogger criticized our president for his '…
crude, bigoted, xenophobic display of partisan, political, presidential
petulance against a multination conglomerate.' I love alliteration.

The
mayor of London has also weighed in.

Last,
but not least, Peppercom's very-own London-based Carl 'Union Jack' Foster
uncovered another British blog that posited the following:


the contract was American


the contractors were American


the subcontractors were America


the platform was American


the failed blowout preventer was American


BP is simply the brand name for a corporation which is 40 percent American

Still, don't let a few inconvenient things like the facts get in the way of a
handy bit of xenophobic scapegoating, instead of accepting that the great
American public's continued demand for ever-increasing amounts of cheap
gasoline is entirely to blame. Hmmmm.

Rhetoric
aside, Mr. Hayward has done everything possible to make himself and his
organization look dimwitted, heavy-handed and just plain incompetent (i.e. 'I
want my life back.'). And, BP's inability to fix the problem while constantly
underestimating the volume of crude pouring into the Gulf doesn't help (nor did
Heyward's saying '…The Gulf is a big ocean.').

Still,
being the magnanimous blogger that I am, I can see both sides of the story. So,
to allow both parties to air their grievances, I've decided to devote this
week's little-known and seldom-heard RepChatter podcast to the issue*.
Representing the U.S. side of the discussion will be Peppercom's very own
charter member of the Tea Party movement, the xenophobic Edward M. 'Ted'
Birkhahn. And, arguing for Queen and country will be none other than the aforementioned
Carl Foster (a direct descendent of the Duke of Wellington. Or, maybe it was
Walter Wellington. I'm not sure).

Either
way, I'm psyched for what may well very be the second battle of Lexington and
Concord. Tony Hayward may not be King George III, but that doesn't mean we
can't tar and feather him all the same (especially since we can repurpose some
of his own damn BP oil for the tar). We'll post the podcast as soon as it's
recorded.

*If you'd like to participate in this RepChatter podcast recording on June 18 at 12pm EST, please send an email to lbegley@peppercom.com and you'll receive a dial-in number. 

Nov 18

Newspapers vs. ‘Newspapers’

Guest Post by Carl Foster, Peppercom UK

Uk mags "Good morning, Trinity Mirror news desk"

"Hi, I'm calling from Trinity Mirror PR to follow up on the press release I sent you about our new widget"

"Oh, right. When did you send it?"

"Just a little while ago"

"And you're calling from where?"

"Trinity Mirror PR. We sit on the other side of the office from you. Look, I'm standing up and waving – yoo hoo!"

"Oh yes, hi. Can you send it to me again? Or better yet, just tell me where it's saved on the server and I'll copy and paste it from there."

That worrying scenario could play out at a newspaper near you if the suggestion of Neil Benson, editorial director at Trinity Mirror in the UK, comes true. The idea that struggling newspapers should set up PR agencies as an additional source of revenue has set tongues wagging in PR circles, but the notion should be of concern far beyond our little fiefdom.

Of course, desperate times call for desperate measures. We're certainly at the stage where no idea is a bad idea when it comes to saving the newspaper industry from further closures. However, if newspapers were to set up PR agencies, even if they were to operate at arm's length, their very credibility and trustworthiness would be called into question. If the model did prove financially successful it would not save the newspaper; it would simply mean it was replaced with a 'newspaper'.

The newspaper vs. 'newspaper' concept is not new. An Evening Standard column from earlier this year highlights the rise of councils in London producing their own pseudo-newspapers. According to the Standard, more writers in London are now employed by these official papers than by the local independent press. Who is paying for this? The Standard says one of these pseudo-newspapers, the Greenwich Time, has a total gross cost of £708,000 a year, with at least £532,000 of that borne by the public purse.

Apparently Andy Burnham, the then media secretary Andy Burnham said that council newspapers were "overstepping" the mark. But this is too vague. In the U.K. we need an U.S. FCC style proposal that requires transparency for "endorsements and testimonials" by people with "material connections" to sellers of a product or service.

Would a PR agency linked to a newspaper group have a "material connection"? One for the lawyers I think.

So if the credibility of some newspapers is in decline because of the source of their revenue, and the very existence of other newspapers is threatened by a collapse in revenue, where does that leave the citizens in our democracy that need varied but credible sources of news? Well, the ad-supported, free online (and sometimes offline) model doesn't seem to be working – even if the Evening Standard has put all its eggs in that one basket. At the other end of the spectrum we have Rupert Murdoch, who will be putting all News Corp. content behind subscription walls soon, and also possibly block Google from searching its pages.

Another suggestion, put forward by Greg Dyke, the former director general of the BBC, is a state-funded (not state-owned) media. This seems to be one of the few ways to guarantee that the media has the resources to provide credible and thorough news coverage. Dyke puts forward the suggestion in a debate on Al-Jazeera’s Empire programme, which is well worth watching. However, the question of how this funding would filter down from the giants of the BBC and France24 to local newspapers is a tricky to answer.   

So, in the spirit of no idea being a bad idea, how do you suggest the newspaper industry save itself from collapse?