Content online and the end of public media? The UK, a canary in the coal mine?
Online delivery of content has changed media advertising markets, undermining the business model which has underpinned provision of ‘public media’. Three business models have sustained mass media: direct payment for content, payment for advertising and state subsidy, and the author argues, contrary to others’ claims, that advertising finance has made possible production and provision of high-quality, pluralistic and affordable public media. In consequence, substitution of the internet as an advertising medium has undermined the system of finance which, in the UK and societies like it, sustained public media. Global advertising revenues have both fallen and been redistributed, though to differing degrees in different countries, with particularly deleterious effects on local newspapers. Prices have risen, original content production has fallen and reversion to a direct payment-for-content business model is pervasive. And this despite the growth of new entrant online media and established publicly funded media (notably public service broadcasters) resulting in the likelihood of a continued general worsening of affordable and pervasive access to high-quality and diverse public media.