MEDIA: BUSINESS TELEVISION - Major channels really mean business Not before time, the BBC has appointed its first business editor with a pledge to increase its coverage across the board.

Last week, Sunday Business editor Jeff Randall was appointed as the BBC's first business editor. Just six months earlier, he had written the following: 'Running through the (BBC), from top to bottom, like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock, is a liberal agenda, set by patronising, middle-class, guilt-ridden do-gooders who dominate its corridors.'

Last week, Sunday Business editor Jeff Randall was appointed as the BBC's first business editor. Just six months earlier, he had written the following: 'Running through the (BBC), from top to bottom, like the word Blackpool through a stick of rock, is a liberal agenda, set by patronising, middle-class, guilt-ridden do-gooders who dominate its corridors.'

After a rant about Radio 4's 'almost non-existent' business coverage, he concluded: 'It's as if this country's executive class, whose taxes underpin the BBC's funding, does not exist.'

As job applications go, it has a certain bite - for it was this piece which reportedly prompted director general Greg Dyke to approach him to fill the new role. Randall himself was not available to expand on his views, but a BBC spokesman described the comment as an example of 'typically forthright thinking from Jeff'.

The BBC already has an economics and business editor: Peter Jay's tenure has been characterised by strong emphasis on economics and relatively few TV appearances. Under Jay is a pool of 100 or so specialist journalists consolidated at TV Centre in August 1999.

Jay will be economics editor.

When he takes up his post in March, Randall will be in day-to-day charge of business output across all platforms.

What Dyke admitted has been lacking is the hard business news, such as mega-mergers which should be newsworthy per se. One future rival believes they may have found the man for the job. 'I'd imagine Jeff Randall will be able to give that. It is a smart move.'

Randall had a spell as a director at Financial Dynamics before joining Sunday Business: 'Up to now, businesses feel that coverage is either playing to the lowest common denominator or appears to be intrinsically anti-business.

Jeff's plan is to make sure businessmen get balanced coverage and a fair hearing,' says Financial Dynamics MD Nick Miles.

But assuming the alleged anti-business ethos in the BBC is even half as rabid as Randall indicated in his article, this will be hard. Trying to explain the importance of, say, Cisco Systems to a wide audience is tricky at the best of times.

Detractors argue that the BBC's failure to give sufficent prominence to several big business stories, including Vodafone/Mannesmann and Rover/BMW, has allowed its rivals to gain greater credibility with a business audience.

But Miles is confident Randall can put that right: 'He is not a person to be led away from where he wants to go.' And as one source said: 'Whether or not Jeff is allowed to succeed will tell bucketloads about whether Dyke means business.'



CNN INTERNATIONAL - Mike McCarthy

Position: executive producer, CNN financial news

'The average viewer is in the top 25 per cent of the European earning population. 90 per cent are Europeans, not ex-pats or itinerant Americans watching in hotel rooms.

'We try to give a diverse array of business stories.

Viewers tend to watch in bursts of 15 to 20 minutes and want a rough encapsulation of what's going on in the world. We have feature pieces, it's not just number-crunching; we have consumer issues, such as how the big corporates impact on everyday life.

'There is a blurring of the lines between 'business' and 'news'. For example, Luis Figo going to Real Madrid for a world record-breaking fee is as good as a business story as it is as a sports story. Everything is there on editorial merit.'



CHANNEL 4 NEWS - Liam Halligan

Position: economics correspondent

'Business and economics coverage on Channel 4 is quite challenging but I am acutely aware of how sophisticated viewers are. Personal finance has been a revelation in the last year; up until now the industry has assumed the British punter is thick when it comes to numbers, which is a mistake. Look at the explosion in share ownership, the mis-selling of pensions and mortgages - the job of shows like Channel 4 News is to shed light on these areas.

'There is an increasing awareness of the importance of business stories in their own right. From the PR point of view, we get bombarded with straight corporate information - this doesn't really help. What we want is access: we want to sit down a chief executive on camera.'



SKY NEWS - Michael Wilson

Position: business editor

'Sky has always been very business-friendly. I get two half-hours a day and a bulletin every hour.

'I think of two 'average' viewers: one is my mum, because I never assume that someone minds explanation; and the second is somebody who takes an intelligent interest in the markets.

'On other channels business has only got onto the news because of a strong consumer angle. Politics always seems to get automatic promotion to the front story.

'PROs often get in the way of getting business people on TV. But the public perception of what business does is very important, and it's up to people like us to keep pressing companies on what they are doing - it's very stupid of PROs to get in the way of that.'



ITN - David Hannah

Position: editor, ITN Moneydesk

'ITN thinks more and more people are interested in business and finance news and we're aiming at the middle to upper market, providing core business news for the whole of the company.

'We have a team of 12 financial journalists working across ITV, channels 4 and 5, the web site and radio. What we need to do is generate the excitement of the sector - business is the new politics now; it is so much into our everyday life.

'There is a sea-change: people are looking after their own financial affairs; new technology is having an impact on the workplace.

The old industrial correspondent doesn't exist anymore. It's not a question of 'jobs going here, strikes there' - it's much more subtle than that.'



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