Monthly Archives: November 2012

John Gapper

Ofcom could oversee press. Getty Images

Ofcom?

Lord Justice Leveson’s report on the ethics and culture of the UK press is generally sober and carefully considered, but it confuses matters by proposing giving a big role in press oversight to Ofcom, the UK telecoms and broadcast regulator.

“I am firmly of the view that the goal here is voluntary independent self-regulation,” writes the judge. His core proposal is for a new press oversight body established by the industry, with powers of arbitration in disputes.

In many ways, this fits with my column setting out a way in which a new arrangement with statutory underpinning could enhance the freedom of the press, while cracking down on Fleet Street’s abuses.

But he allocates an important oversight role to Ofcom; an independent regulator whose chairman is appointed by the government and that is ultimately accountable to parliament. That strikes me as badly misguided. Read more

Andrew Hill

Entrepreneurs should take a look at the video of Groupon founder Andrew Mason being interviewed at Wednesday’s Business Insider conference. It could be the last time you see him as the internet company’s chief executive. The board is due to meet later on Thursday to discuss his future, in the wake of the sharp fall in the stock since its IPO. A series of brutal leaks suggests his job is on the line.

Mr Mason evinces an odd and contradictory mixture of arrogance and humility. For example, he told Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget: Read more

Some years ago, when I was the media editor of the FT, I used to deal with one David Cameron, the public relations executive of Carlton, a large broadcasting company. Since then, Mr Cameron has become prime minister of the UK while I have stayed roughly where I was.

Andrew Hill

A British chief executive I met this week was fretting about the UK government’s attempts to kick-start the economy with infrastructure projects. He didn’t fault the plan, but he worried about the execution, likening ministers to Biblical prophets. The only problem, he said, is that “the word of God” is not enough to make roads, bridges, power stations and broadband networks miraculously materialise. Read more

A charity fundraiser told me recently that it was a rule of thumb in philanthropic circles that you should thank donors seven times.

Apart from online references to “tradition”, “common wisdom” and, inevitably, “Chinese custom”, I’ve found no empirical research to support this magic number. Some experts on charitable giving have never heard of the idea; those who have are divided about whether it is even a useful maxim.

Andrew Hill

If I kept crashing my car, I might well decide that I needed to keep a bigger chunk of cash available to repair it, but I would also consider whether I needed to improve my driving.

Following the same logic, regulators’ efforts to force banks to hold more capital to guard against operational risk seem to me to address only half the issue: the other half is about ensuring basic management competence at financial institutions.

As Brooke Masters writes in Monday’s FT:

Operational risk covers almost any problem – bar trading losses, bad loans and legal cases – that could damage a bank, such as the weeks of computer problems at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Yet while it may suit banks to characterise some of these operational risks as bolts from the blue – interruptions to the smooth running core business of making money from money – the truth is that most of these incidents start with simple mismanagement. Read more

John Gapper

The appointment of Tony Hall as director-general of the BBC, succeeding the unfortunate George Entwistle, indicates how hard it is to appoint a genuine outsider to one of the most wide-ranging and complex jobs in the media.

The director-general is not only chief executive of the organisation but (now notoriously) its editor-in-chief as well. Indeed, since the job of chairman of the BBC was switched to chairing the BBC Trust, the DG is arguably chairman, chief executive and editor-in-chief. Read more

Things got quite exciting in London at noon on Tuesday. First Kweku Adoboli, the rogue trader formerly employed by UBS, was sentenced to seven years in prison for fraud. Then Hewlett-Packard accused the former management of Autonomy, the UK software company, of wrongdoing. The moral appeared to be, as a New York journalist wryly tweeted: “Don’t trust the British.”