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Where does the UK media’s interest in semiconductors lie?

My knowledge of semiconductors before joining The Hoffman Agency was rudimentary at best. I only really cared about the best chipsets for phones so I could get the best value for money on my handset as a student.

Suffice it to say, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first started working on semiconductor clients earlier this year.

There were so many aspects that came into play, from domestic policy to foreign investment decisions to potential IPOs. The UK media’s framing of these topics only served to spur my interest in the sector, which brought me to write this blog.

Green and black circuit board

The UK’s domestic strategy has notably faced significant scrutiny at home, with the government’s plans for £1B of investment criticised across the board by industry experts and chip companies alike. Most of the criticism has centred on the figure, with national outlets, such as the Guardian and Financial Times, comparing it to the USA’s ($52B) and EU’s (€43B) sizably larger investments.

The government’s view was, of course, featured, although not as convincingly. While disappointing, it is understandable why the approach of focusing on strengthening areas such as chip design, where UK companies are already world leaders, was taken over trying to create UK-based semiconductor manufacturing capability. The aim isn’t to recreate Taiwan in South Wales, as the UK’s tech secretary would say. But you can understand the frustrations of UK-based semiconductor companies as the common view would be “more funding equals more innovation.” They might also cast envious eyes across the channel as the likes of Intel, TSMC and local players are handed billions of dollars in subsidies to build manufacturing plants on the continent (though this in itself isn’t always received positively by the media).

Criticism of the UK’s approach has been a running theme in the media over the past year. The harsh reality of the UK no longer being an attractive place for tech companies to IPO has been covered with zest. The decision that garnered the most attention was undoubtedly Arm’s decision to list in New York. Off the back of persistence from the Conservative government, Co-Founder Jamie Urqhuart slammed the market environment in London, telling the BBC that the decision to avoid the City was “an indictment of the economics” in the UK.

The focus and framing of stories in the media can often give away a publication’s stance on an issue, even when they aren’t explicit about it.

When they are, you’ll know, as they tend to be overt, so much so that you might even refer to it as “government bashing” (case in point, The Telegraph). While the facts are indeed still being reported, it is important to note how they are being presented. In the case of my example, The Telegraph makes it clear that they think the UK should be spending closer to the levels of its peers.

At the end of the day, I think it’s fair to say that while media in the UK covers the industry quite broadly, you might not always find in-depth analysis of some aspects outside of trade media (such as the technology powering chips). You’ll often find specific points, such as investment levels, being homed in on to have headline-making stories. The variety of coverage available in UK media makes me believe that it was the perfect starting point for me as I began to immerse myself in the industry, and it has helped me become familiar with the space.

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