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Boris Johnson explains why he hardly listens to Today and never watches Newsnight

By Tim Montgomerie

Johnson Boris Copenhagen Two shocking statements from the Mayor of London this morning, in his Telegraph column...

"I do not regularly listen to the Today programme."

"I never watch Newsnight."

He explains why. He is becoming an international news consumer, because of the internet:

"Bruce Forsyth could present Newsnight and they could bring back Basil Brush to present the Today programme, and it wouldn't make the blindest bit of difference to my state of knowledge about the world. And that is because over the past five years I have completely changed the way I consume news... I get up early and read a fair quantity of newsprint, notably this paper and the FT. But if I then switch on my computer and go to Google news, I can see what everyone is reading across the planet. I can watch stories break in real time... You can see the news as it is being reported in India, in China, in Canada and above all in America – still the most powerful country on the planet. You can decide what you want to watch, which avenues of inquiry you want to pursue. You don't have to wait and fume for a quarter of an hour while some egotistical journalist tries to skewer some temporising politician. You don't have to worry about the bias of programme editors, because the sheer multiplicity of sources enables you to shake out the bias and work out what is really going on. You can find it all out in your own time, and it usually takes about five minutes."

Most people are not like Boris Johnson. As I noted last week, the BBC continues to dominate the UK"s broadcast news market. I don't watch Newsnight much, largely because I don't watch much TV at all but, despite my regular moans, I'm a devotee of Today.  But things are certainly changing. The internet is changing our reading and watching habits in profound ways. I spend much more time reading websites than newspapers. I spend as much time reading the Op-Ed pages of the Wall Street Journal as I spend reading the comment pages of The Times. I go to sleep, no longer to Five Live, but listening to an iPad playlist of the best of NPR.

The striking BBC journalists need to wake up to this world. Newsnight's economics editor, Paul Mason, called, at the weekend, for the Corporation to sell assets and cut programmes in order to protect his and other BBC staff pensions, even though, as today's Telegraph notes, the BBC pension is more generous than most private sector pensions. If the BBC doesn't modernise and bring its costs under control it won't just be Boris that they'll lose. We all have much more choice now.


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