A new media venture began tonight - ironically on the day that Google announced its takeover of another unexpected but huge internet success, the Youtube site. The new venture is a web-based tv channel - 18 Doughty Street - which broadcasts politics shows each evening only on the web. The avowed aim of the Doughty Street founders is to challenge old media. Two of the leading spirits behind the venture - Tim Montgomerie and Iain Dale - are both prominent Conservative bloggers (their sites are linked at the side) who believe that the blogosphere is increasingly able to challenge the 'established' media agenda.
It is too early to see whether the Doughty Street channel will succeed on the founders' own terms - i.e. effectively challenge the dominance of mainstream media as our principal source of news and analysis. Their programmes, on tonight's evidence, are chatty (well, it's talk tv after all), and are very much an audio-visual version of the presenters' blogs, but with more time to fill by the chatting! It is certainly too early to be predicting the demise of mainstream media. Where millions watch terrestrial news channels or read the main print media, mere thousands log into the most popular blogs, whilst fewer than hundreds will frequent the vast majority of others. The current influence of the socalled blogosphere has been in the way it has persuaded mainstream media to latch onto some of its stories (for example, the John Prescott scandals originated on the blogs). On the whole, stories don't have credibility until they have been broadcast or written up in the mainstream media. Even the founders of 18 Doughty Street have been keen enough, in their various blogs, to trumpet their appearances on programmes such as 'Newsnight', 'Today' and'Channel 4 News', suggesting they know only too well where the news agenda is set.
Nevertheless, the web does represent an unregulated source of free speech and opinion. I am increasingly fond of online magazine The First Post, whose edition today carries the provocative story of a terror plot in Blackburn that was unreported because it didn't involve Muslim terrorists. Their contention, that the main media conspires to promote attitudes that fit a particular world-view which is not necessarily accurate, carries some force. (Their report is here).
Even very localised media can have its problems. SGS has its own monopolistic publication - Sporting Glory - whose editors, it seems, are not always as one; this writer witnessed an alarming display of disunity between prima donna editors only this evening. Can the school's much loved paper survive??!! And is it loved because it is alone??