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Where’s the European GAFAT?

Thursday, 17 October, 2013

A rum lot of politicians and publishers have gathered in Munich for the annual Medientage talk fest. They’re being aided and abetted in their deliberations by the bureaucrats of Germany’s media apparatus, who intone the yearly incantations about the vital role that newspapers and state broadcasters play in preserving democracy. That these pieties are nothing but a tawdry appeal for protectionism against the inroads being made by the new media is lost on no one, but they must be uttered to ward off the dark shadows being cast by GAFA. That’s Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, by the way. Europe’s total failure to produce its own GAFA is never openly discussed at events like the Munich Medientage for fear that it might expose how dependent the continent’s media industry is now on the kindness of more innovative strangers.

And when it comes to the future of journalism, the shape of things to come won’t be defined in Europe, either. Yesterday’s announcement by Pierre Omidyar that he was “in the very early stages of creating a new mass media organization… that will be independent of my other organizations” suggests that it won’t be paper based or based in Omidyar’s native France, for that matter. He made his money by founding eBay and now lives in Honolulu.

Then there’s the agora, that space in which democracies conduct open discussion. According to the Munich media apparatchiks, state gatekeepers are best placed to take care of that. In the real world, however, the critical service for the well-being of the global public sphere is going to be Twitter. So, make that GAFAT.

This just in: The International Journalism Festival, set to take place in April 2014 in Perugia, has been cancelled. Reason? The thing that’s said to be the root of all evil. In this case, the lack of it. The organizers should have asked @pierre for a few dollars. He’s got them and he’s hot on journalism. Major fail, that, Europe.


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