Skip navigation

Media Analysis – RBS Ex- Chief’s Pension

For this portfolio piece, I am going to critically discuss and analyse the breaking news story of ex RBS Chief Sir Fred Goodwin and his pension. The discussion will centre on what angles the forms of media, I have chosen, take. Are they angry at the Government or The Royal Bank of Scotland? I have taken examples from different forms of media and will also describe how it and why it made the news.

Firstly, I will analyse why the story made news. It was announced on the 25th February 2008 that Sir Fred Goodwin would be receiving a £650,000 a year pension after he stepped down as the RBS CEO in November 2008. Prior to the story being published, RBS announced a possible record loss of 28 Billion and had been nationalised by the government after buying shares worth £20 billion resulting in the tax-payers owning 70% of the company.

It can be argued, that it is for these reasons, the news of his pension was breaking news. It was a controversial issue, causing uproar and anger amongst the government and people. It was thought amongst the majority, that he did not deserve the pension considering he brought the company into near death after purchasing the Dutch Bank ABN Amro and once again leaving the tax-payers to save the bank. The fact that the Government knew about the pension made it more controversial.

The story adheres to Galtung and Rouge’s Model of Selective Gatekeeping (1965) where by it fulfils several news factors that made it worthy to appear in the media. The news values that it fulfils are personality, continuity and cultural proximity/relevance. The stories also exemplify the news value of eliteness, of people and nation. It is the main reason it makes it so newsworthy along with the controversial issues placed upon it.

Now I am going to discuss how it was reported in the forms of media I have chosen.

The story made front page on the tabloid newspaper, The Herald because of familiarity and relevance. It is a Scottish newspaper and RBS is a Scottish bank. The link can be clearly seen. The newspaper is also obliged to report on the matter to serve the community. Seemingly taking a centre/right wing stance, here it appears that the newspaper is angry at Sir Fred Goodwin. The selection of quotes used suggests this with both of them commenting on how a man ruined a ‘proud’ bank.

It can be argued that the article has taken this angle because RBS was a treasure of Scotland, something the community was economically proud of and now they are angry at the man who has ruined its reputation, and may run the risk of bringing scrutiny to Scotland – with the tax-payers paying for University student loans and tuition fees however, the article has been written in more of a factual manner with the headline “RBS pays ex-chief Goodwin £650,000 pension” suggesting this.

The story also made front page on the Daily Mirror on the 27th of February 2008. The headline “OFF WITH HIS FRED”, immediately notifies the tone of anger and violence. An attack on this figure is about to be made and is evident in the article. Throughout the article negative language is used to portray its feelings towards the ex RBS CEO. Clearly the newspaper is very angry, almost furious at the man. With derogatory and negative words being used such as, “arrogant, greedy, defy, decline, and threatened”, being used.

It could be argued the reason for this was to give an interpretation of Sir Fred Goodwin’s personality. He was always known as being “Fred the Shred” for ruthlessly generating cost savings and efficiencies whilst at Clydesdale Bank. With the Daily Mirror being a left wing paper aimed towards the working people. It could be venting its anger on behalf of the people. Those are who really affected by Royal Bank of Scotland’s failure. Its share price fell from a peak £17 per share to a mere 44p in a year. Those who invested in the bank lost so much money. The people have a reason to be angry and Sir Fred Goodwin did not deserve the pension, are the views that are being interpreted.

The Guardian newspaper also printed the story front page and was reported in the Broadsheet because of its importance. It is a detailed account of the story and it written very factually with the content consisting of facts and figures. The reporter has taken the story and has investigated further showing different sides allowing each figure to have they’re say. From Sir Fred Goodwin claiming the government knew about the pension to the government denying it. It also includes sections of letters written between Lord Myners and the ex CEO. The article is very serious but quite objective at the same time.

It could be argued that it was written in this way because the guardian is an educational newspaper reporting on serious matters in the world. It is a favorite with students and business workers. It allows the reader to decide for themselves who to be angry at, possibly because of the newspapers liberal nature.

As with all breaking news, the TV is the first form of media to report on the story. This is why it was covered in the BBC as a news bulletin. As discussed previously, it is an important story concerning the public and fulfils several news values.

The news bulletin was edited in the form of a mini documentary of Sir Fred Goodwin. Giving a brief description of his history, what he has done and what’s happening with him now. It appears to be factual bulletin with the purpose of being objective and letting the public know of the story. It centres on whether he deserves the pension. However, on closer analysis, strong emotive words arse used such as “exclusive, huge and catastrophic”, to create an emotional response from the audience thus allowing the reporters subjective opinion to come through.

TV news purpose is to give all the information and report on the news and be not to be subjective. They have to be objective in the way they report the news. The tone and the way the news reporter speaks, connotates this. However, as discussed the language used veers away from the usual procedure. It is similar to the Guardian in that it allows the audience to form they’re own conclusion.

On the BBC online website, it has been reported from a political angle, writing an account of the government’s involvement in the story. It allows the opinions of other government parties to have they’re say and again, forces the reader to make a political decision on whom to be angry at.

The main reason for this approach is because it was published in the BBC website politics section therefore it has to focus largely on the politics side of the story.

To conclude, going through the analysis, all of the media I have chosen has perceived the story to be breaking news worthy. This is shown by placing them on the front page or putting the effort in to create a mini documentary.

In my opinion the story was news worthy and significant because I believe it was a ridiculous amount of money and unfair to be given to someone who, through his arrogance and overconfidence, let a business fall. With the consequence of making the hard working tax paying citizens, like myself, take the fall for him. He should have voluntarily given some of his money to help out the bank.

Though now, after reading my conclusion, I have come to think that although the forms of media appeared to be objective in the style It was written, some of he language suggest subjectivity and now I question whether the reason I believe the story is significant, is of my own opinion, or influence from the forms of media.

As one guy commented in the news bulletin “no one battered an eyelid when the company was doing well”. Maybe Sir Fred Goodwin deserved his pension after the hard work he did in significantly raising Royal Bank of Scotland’s profile to be one of the 5th largest banks in the world during its time of success. None have appeared to come from the angle of supporting Sir Fred Goodwin by giving a detailed account of his achievements which could have had the effect of influencing the audience to support his decision to keep his pension


“The rise and fall of ‘Fred the Shred’ – Business Analysis & Features, Business”. The Independent. 2008-10-14. Retrieved on 2009-02-27.

“Stand_off_over_sir-freds_pension – BBC online – politics.BBC. 27.08.09:

Huge_pension_for_former_RBS_boss, 2008 [BBC News] BBC, BBC1, 25feb2009-04-23
Lyons, J.,2008.No shred of shame. Daily Mirror, 27feb09, p1.

Tinning, W.2008.RBS pays Ex-chief Goodwin £650,000 Pension. The herald, 26feb09, p1.

Treanor, J & Wintour, P.RBS Boss: Minister approved my pension and im keeping. The guardian, 27feb09, pg1a.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: