Could the FT swing right?

The Financial Times is a media organisation. As you enter you are greeted by a painting of a shark being eaten by ever larger sharks opposite a drawing of Richard Branson made up like Che Guevara.  Amongst its general staff there are closer links with organisations like the BBC and the Guardian than the Times or HSBC. When Thatcher died there was much rejoicing. No one wanted the new owner to be Rupert Murdoch. It’s prior owner, corporatist education provider Pearson, is steeped in the profession of teaching. So between its media and educational cultural influences the FT is a perhaps surprisingly a left-wing Obama-backing paper.

Why surprising? Because this culture does not fit with the word Financial in its name and with the usual political views of people in the financial industry. What is finance if it is not the operation of markets? How then is it natural for people with political views that set them against the operation of markets to own or run a Financial anything, let alone a newspaper that lives to help its readers.

Allister Heath wonders if this might change:

Last but not least, it is worth highlighting the company’s mission statement: “Nikkei believes that a free market economy with a small government is the best policy to maximize Japanese welfare.”

And so does the confused Guardianista Justin McCurry (who tellingly assumes the FT is full of right-wingers):

Its reported rival bidder, Axel Springer, publisher of the German tabloid Bild, may have lent the FT’S salmon-coloured pages a more risqué hue. The Nikkei’s raison d’etre is a decidedly less raunchy commitment to the values of the free market, although that hasn’t prevented the ruffling of feathers at the FT’s global network of bureaus.

As a right-winger left feeling distinctly out-of-place in the FT’s programming team, I think the more likely transformation (which Heath misses) is a transformation of Nikkei by the superb FT Technology department.

We [Nikkei] are really impressed by the FT’s innovation in digital media and technology. They employ many engineers and we want to learn from them. They are also developing mobile services which we need to catch up on. We want to study what they are doing in a humble manner.

As to why a left-wing paper would have a superb technology department, don’t get me started…

5 Comments

  1. Simon. I hereby throw down the gauntlet, in the hope that you will get started! :>)

    Why would a left-wing paper have a superb tech department? And on the other hand, why wouldn’t it?

    A question that wouldn’t have occurred to me, though I can think of one obvious answer.

    It does seem FT’s choice of lobby art is … interesting.

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    1. See the recent article Costs of Control. Modern IT professionals value autonomy, diversity in approaches and technologies and experimentation. The FT *in particular* has an effective technology function because it practices essentially Hayekian ideas. The problem is they are good at practicing these ideas professionally but have entirely different ideas politically.

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      1. Thank you, Simon. I see, “The problem is they are good at practicing these ideas professionally but have entirely different ideas politically.”

        Good for the IT folks for recognizing the value, but amazing that Management will sit still for it. In such an established, staid operation as the FT that is.

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  2. I remember the FT newspaper from years ago – card carrying members of Communist Party were employed by it.

    These days it is just a bunch of Keynesian subsidy supporters – rather like the Economist magazine. Products of Oxford PPE courses – who actually believed what the lecturers told them.

    Will be bought by a Japanese financial media company – that has not opposed the wild spending policies of the Japanese government all these years – change its editorial line or news coverage?

    I doubt it.

    And remember the financial industry depends on the subsidies of the Central Banks – such as the Bank of England.

    It is also dominated by government regulations (so the people who get along with government prosper and the ones that do not – either go bust or go to jail).

    The old independent “City” died with “Big Bang” (the government take over – absurdly described as “deregulation”).

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  3. Quite how the new owners would change the culture is a bit of a mystery. The incumbent staff would have employment protection in the main and would be hard to remove. Quite why anyone reads the paper (or rather website) is a bit of a mystery. It used to be found discarded in significant numbers on trains coming into London Waterloo in the early morning in the 1980s, being pink and quite distinctive. By 2003, virtually all newspapers vanished from trains, bar the give-aways like the Metro, which clutter the trains and London Underground.

    Next to no one reads the FT, but perhaps the ‘right’ people like to be thought to read it. It is really a lifestyle adjunct rather than a newspaper.

    In the 1980s, the FT was on sale in Moscow, a British visitor, iirc a Conservative MP, asked why and was told that the Soviets appreciated the ‘balanced’ coverage.

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