Understanding Structure and Ownership
Media Sectors in the UK
In the UK, there are multiple media sectors including films, advertisement, television and the Press.
Another of these sectors is radio, which holds around 600 licensed stations and thousands of employment opportunities in the UK.
Typical job roles in the radio industry include presenters, producers and journalists. Major sectors in the radio industry include Heart FM, Capital FM, and the BBC.
The radio industry is one of the most traditional forms of entertainment in the modern day, however with the creation of the internet, this robust industry faces the challenge of under 30s (radio’s general demographic) using more online services for entertainment.
The radio industry asks whether listeners aged 15-24 might revert to more traditional listening habits as they age, as they have found that only 71% of listeners are 15-24, whereas listeners above this age account for 89% of listeners. This is a challenge to the radio industry, however, as the dominance of radio in cars is decreasing as newer technology such as Apple Car Play and AUX features become installed in the latest cars –a feature that appeals to many young people.
Moreover, the growth of digital stations offering more choice and diversity to cater to a variety of tastes may be a saviour for the radio industry. In 2016, more national radio stations were launched which married successfully with Radioplayer, to provide radio online and in smartphone apps which can be played anywhere there’s a connection to the internet – another feature popular with young people.
Private and Public Sector Owned Media
There are two types of sector-owned media; private and public.
Private, in the context of media, means a company is owned privately and may have shareholders. It also means this company will seek to make profit.
An example of a private media company is The Guardian Media Group. This company is funded by private foundations such as Open Society Foundations and Humanity United.
In contrast, public, in this context, means the companies are owned by the public and do not have shareholders. It also means any form of profit will be invested back into the company.
An example of a public-owned media company is the BBC. The BBC is publicly funded through TV license fees.
Conglomerates, Multinationals, Mergers and Takeovers
In the UK today, there are many large companies that operate such as conglomerates, multinationals, mergers and takeovers.
A media conglomerate is a group or institution that owns many companies such as radio, television and films. Examples include Sony or the news corporations 20th Century Fox and Sky.
An example of a multinational company would be Coca Cola, as they are a company that is based and has headquarters in one country, but operates globally.
Mergers is the term referred to when a large company takes over or merges with another company. In equal partnership, the companies join
and form a new company.
Takeovers refers to one company taking a controlling stake in another and then owning the smaller company.
An example of mergers and takeovers would be Time Warner, who own Warner Brothers, DC Comics, HBO and Time Cinema, to name a few. These are also examples that show how Time Warner is a cross-media ownership, meaning they own media in different sectors.
In the UK, our government enforces Cross-media Ownership Rules. This is a form of regulation that sets rules on what media companies can own.
For example, the company News Corporation owns Fox, Sky and The Sun, which means they can only own 20% of the company ITV. This regulation prevents competition as it prevents companies owning too much, and in turn, allows for balanced content to be produced. If, for example, News Corporation was allowed to own more media, the UK would only receive their messages which would be biased and unfair to other companies with different ideologies.
Independent Media refers to the opposite of Cross-Media Ownership; any form of media outside of the control of large companies or the government.
Examples of independent media are independent or “indie” films.
These films are produced outside of the major film studio system with much lower budgets. These films also allow the creator’s personal artistic vision to be realised, which is a key ingredient in the definition of any independent media. Independent films are generally screened locally or at film festivals and rarely reach “the big screen” or DVD releases.
An example of an indie film is the 2014 film “Frank”, directed by Lenny Abrahamson. The film premièred at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014 and is about a group of musicians and their journeys through mental illness and their formation into a band.
Frank is an indie film as it had a budget of £1m and only generated £1.2m at the box office, not making it a highly successful film.
New technology has made it easier for film makers to make films today. Cameras and recording equipment are becoming more affordable and the internet has
played a major part in educating filmmakers and allowing them to use their own personal computers and cheap/free software in post-production of their films. There are also many ways to access free or affordable tutorials online to help filmmakers succeed. This new, low-budget technology has changed and revolutionised the art of filmmaking, allowing anyone to take part.
British Broadcasting Company (BBC)
The BBC (British Broadcasting Company) is a British public service broadcaster, however it also owns the channels BBC America and BBC World that have a global reach. The BBC holds the mission statement “To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that: inform, educate and entertain”.
The BBC is funded by the public through our TV licences. This means the BBC has a duty to the public and must be above other similar companies that the public do not have to pay for.
The BBC TV licence costs £147 per year and causes controversy.
On the one hand, the licence fee allows for the BBC to fulfil their mission statement. To inform and educate, the BBC provides a reliable and unbiased source for news and information. To entertain, it allows for full programmes to be played without the interruption of advertisements and it also broadcasts a variety of programmes from CBBC (Children’s British Broadcasting Company) to BBC Parliament. The BBC caters for all and acts as a generalist station for the British Public.
In addition, the licence fee also funds the production of BBC radio stations, BBC iPlayer and the festival Radio 1’s Big Weekend, to name a few, which are
strong examples of how BBC funding has allowed BBC services to adapt to the modern world and provide alternative entertainment options outside of television.
On the other hand, there are many cases against the licence fee.
The main argument is that the licence fees are not necessary. Many BBC employees have admitted that the BBC has an extortionate amount of funding and heavily encourages them to claim back any form of expenses that occur while working for them, be it personal or relevant. One anonymous worker revealed that he was threatened with losing his job for not submitting enough to expenses.
Another argument is that the British public are used to TV advertisements, and can find them convenient at times. In addition, advertisements can be avoided using Sky+ features that allow you to skip them.
It is also argued that there is now a rise in specialist channels such as MTV and Comedy Central to cater to a variety of TV habits, so the BBC isn’t as unique in its acting as a generalist station.
People also argue that the licence is simply not affordable, or that it’s unfair to have to pay it if they don’t use any of the BBCs services.