Media industry searches for the right words

Not everyone in the business is a fan of terms such as ‘content’, ‘product’ and the ominous ‘savings’

 

When Minister for Communications Alex White forecast that the debate on future media policy will be “fractious at times”, he might have been hoping not to get too bogged down in the semantics.

At the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) seminar on media plurality in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre last Thursday, several speakers, including White, outlined their distaste for some of the current jargon. Moderator Dearbhail McDonald, associate editor and legal editor of the Irish Independent, kicked things off by saying that (like most reporters) she was uncomfortable with the voguish term “content” when it is used in place of “journalism”.

The Minister, who is a former RTÉ radio producer, agreed that “content” didn’t quite cover it. “I find it a bit hard to use that word as well.”

But Mark Deering, Sky Ireland’s corporate affairs director, had a somewhat different perspective. Noting BSkyB’s eyeball-snatching annual content budget of €2.75 billion – which includes a pot of some €700 million for UK and Ireland productions – he concluded: “We love the word ‘content’ at Sky.”

Continuing the theme, BAI chairman Bob Collins said the only term worse than “content” in the broadcasting business, in his view, was “product”. As for his preferred terminology, “there is this old-fashioned thing in broadcasting called a programme”.

Independent Broadcasters of Ireland chairman John Purcell pointed to a more ominous euphemism.

“Equally, ‘savings’ means people and jobs,” he said as he explained that he is in the process of having to identify another €100,000 in “savings” at his radio station, KCLR FM, and called on the Minister to divert public funds to a stricken local sector.

Mr White wasn’t going to make any promises to anyone on money matters just two months after he took on the portfolio: “Somebody described me as a newly minted Minister. I don’t know about the minted part, but I am new.”