“We got him,” proclaims a well-refreshed senior television executive in the early hours in an Edinburgh nightclub. “We got Mark Zuckerberg to take notice.”
It is a few hours and a few drinks since Jon Snow, the veteran Channel 4 newsreader, fired a broadside at Facebook on behalf of the British television industry. The social network, along with Google, was blamed for the destruction of local journalism and a disconnect in society that meant long-standing concerns over safety at Grenfell Tower were unheard by the “elite”.
Giving the main lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Snow attacked Facebook as the uncaring attention seeker playing “fast and loose” with the work of others. Government should force the Silicon Valley giant to pay for the material it distributes and more taxes, he said.
Snow was not first choice to deliver the keynote speech, but his choice of attack target may have been. Organisers originally sought a female speaker to address concerns about a lack of diversity at senior levels. They then held talks with the actor Stephen Fry, who despite his technophilia has also called for Facebook and other technology companies that are “evading responsibility” for material they distribute to face regulation as publishers.