Happy New Year

First of all, may I begin by wishing you all a Happy New Year. You don’t need to be Mystic Meg to predict that the year is likely to be dominated by Brexit.

On the political front the posh boys on the Tory right (Johnson, Rees Mogg, etc) may well succeed in their desire to sabotage the Prime Minister’s deal and push through their own vision of a no deal Hard Brexit. The fact that this could possibly result in shortages of food and medicine for the rest of us doesn’t seem to worry them too much. As for Labour, does anyone actually know what their policy on Brexit is?

There are many people, particularly those in the centre ground of UK politics, who are calling for a second referendum, a so called people’s vote. While I can certainly see where they are coming from, I can’t help thinking that it would be a very dangerous path to go down. There is a real risk that such a move could be interpreted by those outside the Westminster Bubble as “We the over educated metropolitan elite think that you, the great unwashed, got it wrong. So we now need you to vote again and to do as you are told this time!” It would surely damage the very concept of the UK being a democracy.

Of course Brexit, particularly a Hard Brexit, will have a huge impact on public sector communications. Emergency Planning needs to be a top priority for all public sector communications teams, particularly if the worst predictions turn out to be true and there are indeed shortages of basic goods and services. It will be of crucial importance to send out accurate, relevant and prompt information to the public before rumour and fake news cause widespread panic.

On the media front 2019 could well be a year of change. Rumour has it that Facebook may try to deflect attention away from accusations of interference in elections by bidding for more exclusive rights to screen major sporting events. This would of course be on a subscription basis; the days of any sports event being free to air are all but gone.

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon seem likely to strengthen their grip on the TV market, particularly among younger viewers. Public sector broadcasters like the BBC and Channel Four will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their relevance and seem set to concentrate on niche audiences, with the BBC’s soon to launch Scotland channel being a good example.

Despite increased competition from Instagram, Twitter will probably continue to be the social media platform of choice for politicians and media professionals. After all, Donald Trump’s Twitter feed remains the only way to find out what’s actually happening in the White House.

Sadly 2019 is certain to see the closure of yet more local newspapers. The reality is that the classified advertising market which these publications used to rely on has long gone. The Cairncross Review of press sustainability is set to report this year and may well recommend some form of public subsidy for local newspapers, although I find it difficult to see how that could work in practical terms.

On a more cheerful note, the Rugby World Cup in the autumn is likely to be the big sporting event of the year. It should be an exciting tournament, even though I fear that Scotland will struggle to get beyond the quarter finals. New Zealand’s All Blacks are, as always, the favourites with Ireland looking like the strongest of the Northern Hemisphere teams.

All things considered, 2019 reminds me of the old Chinese proverb about being cursed to live in interesting times.




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