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Trouble At Mill
Trouble At Mill

Dismal and Getting Worse

By: David.Wilkinson
Date: 15/08/2006

LIKE everyone else I support John Fenty in his efforts to build the Club and I wholeheartedly agree with his appointment of Graham Rodger as Manager and the efforts to relocate to a new stadium. The commercial side of the Club's activities seem to outperform other Club's of our size.

However, when it comes to understanding and dealing with the media it is one lamentable episode after another. I have no intention of rehearsing the details of the current dispute - I'm not even sure they matter that much - but it is about time the Club had some sort of philosophy which underpins their dealings with the media. Every major corporate organisation, pressure group and political party knows that a good media exposure is of a value beyond costings. Denis Healey once famously said "The British Media may be the most prostituted media in the world - but it's the only one we've got so we have to get into bed with it".

Dangerous Undertones

The dispute with Radio Humberside last year was bad enough but this appears to be assuming more dangerous undertones. Billo makes a good point when he puts the view that there may be a gap between the two sides but continued negotiation should be able reach a settlement - but does the Club want a settlement? My reading of the response of the Club seems to be that they think Mariners World is a viable alternative to a free to air broadcaster. Whilst far from ideal, at least Radio Humberside is an independent coverage - it is likely to be critical and questioning of the Club in a way that no "in house" operation can possibly be. Employees of the Club will obviously feed a line, ask the easy questions and avoid the controversial issues in a way that independent coverage doesn't.

It is not only the fans that benefit from this approach - the Club do to. Searching questions and critical inquiry mean the Club has to think issues through - sloppy or complacent thinking will be exposed by independent coverage in a way that an in house operation cannot. This is important because if the Club - at every level - doesn't have the spotlight of publicity on them to force proper thinking through of issues then complacency and secrecy can gnaw away at competent administration in a way that can be of enormous detriment to the Club.

Muddled Thinking

There is also muddled thinking in assessing the commercial value of the media coverage rights. Has an alternative Broadcaster come in to offer a better deal? - Of course not, there isn't one. In the end something - whatever it is - is worth what someone is prepared to pay which is why the Club are simply wrong not to try and get the best deal on offer.

In all this who loses? Well, the truth is everybody loses:

  1. The fans are being denied a service and it is infuriating this season not to be able to get commentaries because that is what we have come to expect.
  2. I feel very sorry for young Peter Bore who wasn't able to get the moment of local fame on the radio that he deserved after his debut and the non coverage of the game by Humberside.
  3. Radio Humberside are being pushed further and further away from the Club - a position that is easy for them because of their natural disposition to focus on Hull because of it's much larger listener base. Their presenter on the evening of the Wrexham game didn't even know Graham Rodger's surname!
  4. The Club are being "denied the oxygen of publicity". They need the Club to be talked about, gossiped about, criticised and praised on air. This creates and maintains interest. It maintains the profile of the Club.

Small Town Thinking

The way in which the Club deals with the media is reminiscent of small town thinking that has more regard for cost than value. John Fenty exemplified this when he talked of media harm and that people might listen to a Radio commentary rather than attend a game. I am not aware of a shred of evidence for this - or in the absence of evidence any rational thinking behind it. Listening to the Radio is the last resort for fans who otherwise can't or won't get there. Radio isn't TV and never will be. It is just as likely that listening to a radio commentary will stimulate the interest to attend in future. This situation is, indeed, dismal and getting worse and it is about time that Club sharpened its thinking on the media and worked out a strategy of getting more involved and not dragging itself from one pointless dispute to another.

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