Home Tomorrow's Business With apologies to industrial correspondents…

With apologies to industrial correspondents…

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Why do media organisations obsess about the UK steel industry?

It is a comparatively small sector that employs roughly 30,000 people – around half the number that work at, say, Capita – and yet it captures the imagination of broadcasters like few others.

That is perhaps because TV editors love to run footage of vast steelworks, complete with aerial shots of smokestacks, accompanied by big, sweaty men hitting things with hammers.

They can follow these up with interviews with despondent steelworkers contemplating the worst. Newspapers love these kind of stories, too.

I fear the coverage does the casual viewer and reader, dipping into the business programmes or the business pages, a dis-service because it creates a false impression of what really makes the UK economy tick.

Services accounts for 80% of UK GDP, and rising, while the UK’s total steel output accounts for something like 0.7% of global production and falling. You wouldn’t know that from today’s coverage of the woes of the steel operations bought by Greybull Capital three years ago and cynically re-badged British Steel as a marketing gimmick.

That these struggling assets based in Scunthorpe, now teetering on the brink, are attracting such attention today may be because news editors do not realise they bear very little relation to the mighty company privatised by Mrs Thatcher that was once a household name.

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UK dividends are under threat, so it’s been reported in more than one place. But across the globe they were up strongly in the first quarter, says this from Janus Henderson. Dividends rose 7.8% to $263.3 billion, “shrugging off concerns about the world economy”. Divis are twice what they were a decade ago. Interesting and a bit surprising.

See press release


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