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Ex-Ofcom Member: ‘Digital Britain Needs Networked Journalism, Not Another BBC’

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imageA former Ofcom board member has called on Digital Britain author Lord Carter to create a citizen media ecosystem instead of the rumoured public-funded counterpart to the BBC.

Ian Hargreaves said during his Unesco World Press Freedom Day lecture Friday night : “What you need is not a second BBC but investment in networked journalism. It offers an interactive, confrontational, rock ‘n roll journalism. Such a network can also animate much else, but this cannot (be made) by a single organisation bound to the 20th century – it must be a patchwork of organisations, mutually competitive with each other … that must be our focus.”

Communications minister Carter has said he wants to secure a strong public service alternative to the BBC. Hargreaves – also a former Independent and New Statesman editor, FT deputy editor, BBC News director and Cardiff Journalism School director – is now strategic communications director at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and a regular on Radio 4’s Moral Maze, but said his views are not those of the government department.

He set out a mouthwatering vision for reforming journalism, whose proprietors are slashing jobs thanks to falling ad revenue: “It is the work of entrepreneurs, not corporate giants. Some say the business model for this online journalism won’t work because we’re swimming in free content, the internet is the domain of the free, much of it coming form the BBC. But even in a brutal recession there are important reasons not to be too pessimistic … the impressive spread of broadband … advertising on the internet has already overtaken the value of advertising on the radio. A business model will emerge – it always does.”

Hargreaves said some proprietors are blaming online for “problems that long predate the internet”: “But that doesn’t stop (them) looking to Digital Britain to help solve old problems as well as new ones.”