Newcastle United, preferred media partners and a surprising accomplice


Newcastle United’s decision to have preferred media partners relates to their desire to ‘control and reinforce the positive messages the club wishes to deliver’.  That’s why, last month, the club announced that only The Mirror and Sky Sports would have the traditional level of press access and, accordingly, why those two outlets will be given unrivalled access to all club announcements for the duration of the agreement.

Unusually, Mike Ashley isn’t the villain in this. His intent to censor the press is cynical and obviously dislikeable, but it stems from his wish to protect his club’s commercial value. The greater the volume of negative stories about Newcastle there are in the mediasphere, the less attractive the club is as a marketing proposition and the more risk a sponsoring organisation will have to endure.

There’s a very valid counter-argument to that which says that, really, Ashley is only having to do this because of the negativity he himself has bred, but the reality is still the same: he wants the club to be perceived in a certain way and he will use as much smoke and as many mirrors as possible to achieve that aim.

In this instance, then, he is only doing what he’s being allowed to get away with. It’s archaic and petty, but Newcastle have been able to create preferred media partnerships because - staggeringly - the demand for their heavily-filtered content exists.

Sky Sports’ involvement is not a surprise and is actually rather incidental. Because the company already own a significant percentage of the television rights to the Premier League, it’s very much in their interests to present the competition as a sporting fairytale and, preferred media partner or not, they have never shown any desire to shine any light on the machinations at St James’ Park. To them, the English top-flight is a footballing utopia without any fault or imperfection and they will keep to that script for as long as they show the games.

The Daily Mirror, however, are a shocking accomplice to this.

Newcastle fans - and anyone who takes a broad interest in the league - will have noted the new tone with which news from Tyneside is now reported. Where there was once skepticism, distrust and suggestions of painful stagnation, now there is optimism, jovial enthusiasm, and clear and obvious evidence of a full-scale revival.

It’s nauseating. Some supporters will disagree, because everyone enjoys being fed good news, but this sets a terrible precedent for the future and it’s remarkable that The Mirror would willingly engage in something which is so obviously to the detriment of their industry. Their actions are traitorous to their profession.

The individual journalists aren’t to blame, because Simon Bird - or whoever else is used as a correspondent this season - is just doing his job and following a directive from an editor. Still, there’s something slightly stomach-turning about seeing a previously negative reporter suddenly dancing to a club’s tune and acting almost a PR executive.

Maybe that does Newcastle a disservice and maybe lessons have been learned from last season’s listless float towards relegation, but if that’s truly the case and the club really is approaching a renaissance, then it would be more beneficial to have as much media exposure as possible.

There would be no need for curtains, veils or restricted access.

At their worst, the press can be awful and the constant prying and trouble-making can be very corrosive. As a supporter, there’s nothing worse than seeing your manager, your players or your club as a whole being undeservedly pecked at by an exclusive-hungry reporter, but that’s still preferable to the alternative.

The media are not always benevolent, but they do provide a level of accountability that fans alone are incapable of replicating and, as such, their freedom to report - for that and all sorts of other reasons - is extremely precious.

Follow @SebSB


1 Comment on "Newcastle United, preferred media partners and a surprising accomplice"

  1. Ashley is not everyone’s idea of the ideal football club owner and has been hounded by every media with really negative stories of the club. The written media all know that bad news sells papers and in Newcastle they found plenty. Now because he has promised a new beginning he does not want the same media to criticise in depth every decision he makes with the sole purpose of denigrating the club and him. The media in general have previously allowed every ex-player going way back, to state their views publicly because as they all know bad news sells much better than good. Football radio programmes have done exactly the same. By doing what he has done Ashley has not broken any Premier League rules and Ashley has promised to change the current situation as and when both sides of any story are published equally. His appointment of Steve McClaren and his support staff has been well received and although new signings have been slow in materialising it is apparent that when he said the standard of future players he bought would increase, their first signing has been justified by what he said.

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