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  1. Culture
18 May 2007

Democracy’s job is on the online

Mike flicks through the job pages.

By Mike Butcher

You wouldn’t think that classified advertising and the future of a healthy democracy have much in common. Unfortunately, they have a great deal in common. So it’s interesting to note that job searches on the government’s Jobcentre Plus website have reached a new high. The website now handles over 70m job searches a year, accounting for over 14% of the overall recruitment market in the UK.

Now here’s a quick history lesson. Before newspapers started to carry adverts they tended to be owned by the political elite – Lord Such-and-Such would start a paper to push his own views and interests. When classified adverts came along newspapers could pitch themselves as independent of politics and start to report the news independently.

The result tended to make for a healthier democracy, if that’s not too fleeting an observation.

What is happening now however, is that the job ads are bypassing the media. As fast as media companies try to buy or set up job web sites, others appear. Now the government is in on the act, you can see that the media industry might be more than a little worried.

Of course, it’s not possible to stop the march of progress, however there remain big questions to be answered on how impartial media is funded, when its revenues are eroded by classified web sites, which exist independently of the news process.

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