Mark Thompson is Chief Exective of Channel 4. His speech at the Convention was outstanding. His principle point was that the old, Reithian language of public service means little to contemporary audiences and that a new language is now required – one that acknowledges the ‘second order’ benefits of public service ‘merit goods’. These second order benefits are the indirect ones that ripple through society, making use of network effects as they go. For an example he used Jamie’s Kitchen, whose direct public service benefits may be uncertain but which, he claims, has created a new attitude to unemployment, apprenticeship and the obligations of employers.
Andrew Graham is an economist and Master of Balliol College. His trenchant and entertaining views on media regulation are well known. He famously said that “if you could measure quality it would just be quantity”. One of his observations in Oxford was that the effect of the Communications Bill and Ofcom’s arrival is that broadcasting has been overrun by economists. Mark Thompson bore this out by basing his keynote presentation on a term obviously borrowed from economics (even if only the Bluffer’s Guide): ‘Merit goods’. Graham predicts that the next wave of colonists will be the lawyers, once they get their teeth into the opportunities created by the new legislation.