Jeremy Lee: Put the violins away, the media industry has done pretty well

By Jeremy Lee, campaignlive.co.uk, Thursday, 08 December 2011 08:00AM

At its annual awards, Bafta always flashes up a roll-call of actors who have passed that year, accompanied by a maudlin soundtrack. It sets a momentarily depressing mood for an otherwise fun evening of back-slapping and self-congratulation.

Jeremy Lee

Jeremy Lee

This year, the media industry has seen an unusually large number of industry figures similarly move on, the latest being Channel 4's brilliant and thoughtful Mike Parker. But there seems to be no point in holding up a giant sepia picture of the wise old goat stroking his chin - like others who have left jobs that they have held for a long time, I don't expect he'll be away for long. That's one of the joys of the industry - it looks after its own, particularly if, like Parker, they are any good.

So let's get on to the back-slapping. As any fool knows, confidence in the economy is at a low, leading to a sense of gloom. So you'd think that looking for reasons to be cheerful would be a bit difficult.

While no-one expects 2012 to be a walk in the park - and at the risk of sounding Pollyanna-ish - there are many positives that should ensure we can at least raise a glass over Christmas rather than attempt to drown our sorrows.

British television is in fine fettle - the success of Downton Abbey, arguably ITV's most successful quality format since Brideshead Revisited, shows that commercial television can still produce global belters. And who would have thought that Channel 5 would finally manage to find and settle in a happy place in the broadcasting ecology, while also returning money for its owners? Credit to Nick Bampton and his team for that. Despite worries that consumers would cut back on discretionary spending, Sky continues to grow. In fact, of all the TV companies, it's the BBC that looks the most unsure of itself.

In radio - long a basket case of mismanaged mergers - Global Radio has also turned itself into a successful business, while Absolute Radio looks like it finally has the full backing of its owners that it deserves.

Elsewhere, the Olympics is coming and it presents the outdoor industry in particular with a brilliant opportunity and one that it is sure to seize.

Newspapers, too, have made leaps of progress in embracing rather than ignoring digital, while the dirty laundry exercise of the Leveson inquiry (a consequence of a press investigation, remember) has led to some much-needed soul-searching and hopefully improved standards across the board.

For their part, agencies have evolved their offering, there have been exciting new start-ups and the plurality of the sector remains strong. So all things considered, the industry enters an uncertain year in good shape. There's definitely something worth celebrating in that.

jeremy.lee@haymarket.com

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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