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The 'Meeja' - a feral beast or necessary evil?

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  • Morgan Kane
    replied
    french medias are no better than in others countries, with more cynism and influence from the business.

    All the french media are controlled by big business and by the governement. Links beetwen stars news mongers and top political persons are too common.

    the independence of the press is a joke, even if most of news people are truly independent.

    One other matter is that the star new people belong to the jet society. With incomes of dozens thousands of dollars a month, you are more open to the views of the rich and famous than to the problems of the man or woman who has troubles to pay his rent and fill his market basket.

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  • Grey Mouser
    replied
    Real information, subversive information, remains the most potent power of all—and I believe that we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn't true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia and it isn't true of the United States.

    In all the years I've been a journalist, I've never know public consciousness to have risen as fast as it's rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the sheer scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

    Why did the New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush's wars—look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public was beginning to see the concealed role of the media, and that people were beginning to read between the lines.

    If Iran is attacked, the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The national security and homeland security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It is not unlikely the constitution will be suspended—the laws to round of hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come along way since 9-11, and a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That's why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed. But they need truth, and journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power.

    I believe a fifth estate is possible, the product of a people's movement, that monitors, deconstructs, and counters the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism, journalists themselves need to ask themselves about the part they now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind that we have never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. The web site Medialens.org has single-handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web—I can't mention them all here—from Tom Feeley's International Clearing House, to Mike Albert's ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web—Dahr Jamail's courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.
    We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.
    John Pilger, Speech delivered at the Chicago Socialism 2007 Conference on Saturday June 16 2007

    Source: http://www.informationclearinghouse....ticle18046.htm

    The rest of John Pilgers speech is well worth a read.


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  • devilchicken
    replied
    That's rich coming from Blair, who with his crony Alastair Campbell were the biggest spin-meisters going.

    Perhaps he's forgotten the savaging that the previous Tory government received from the media during the 1980's and 90's. If anything, the media isn't critical enough these days.

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  • L'Etranger
    replied
    I cannot seriously have opinions on the media in your country, David.
    Here media divided in populist, service-orientated and serious journalism/enlightened still work as a "fourth power" within our society. The "impact"- or "event"-orientation is growing, it is appalling, but most people still know to distinguish, and so do the politicians.
    We have a body, the "Deutsche Presserat" which is comparable to the Britisch "Press Council" (it was actually founded based on your council) which in regular meetings condemns excesses or transgressions of a certain "codex" of the trade. This has some influence and a paper or TV station that gets the yellow or red cards, to use a term from a more sportive field, does usually try to make good lest it loses all respect.
    I think their is more restraint in the treatment of individuals. No matter how much I like your Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, but his many attacks, and how he over and over depicts Blair, would not be tolerated very long, as they are very, very hurting. Also the way "The Sun" treats people is surely by far overtaking our counterpart "Bild".

    L'E

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  • The 'Meeja' - a feral beast or necessary evil?

    On the eve of his departure, Blair makes stinging attack on 'sensationalist' media

    Originally posted by Tony Blair
    Published: 13 June 2007 - The Independent

    The purpose of the series of speeches I have given over the past year has been deliberately reflective: to get beyond the immediate headlines on issues of the day and contemplate in a broader perspective, the effect of a changing world on the issues of the future. This speech on the challenge of the changing nature of communication on politics and the media is from the same perspective.

    I need to say some preliminaries at the outset. This is not my response to the latest whacking from bits of the media. It is not a whinge about how unfair it all is. As I always say, it's an immense privilege to do this job and if the worst that happens is harsh media coverage, it's a small price to pay. And anyway, like it or not, I have won three elections and am still standing as I leave office. This speech is not a complaint. It is an argument.

    As a result of being at the top of the greasy pole for 13 years, 10 of them as Prime Minister, my life, my work as Prime Minister, and its interaction with the world of communication has given me pretty deep experience, for better or worse.

    Free Media
    A free media is a vital part of a free society. You only need to look at where such a free media is absent to know this truth. But it is also part of freedom to be able to comment on the media. It has a complete right to be free. I, like anyone else, have a complete right to speak.

    My principal reflection is not about "blaming" anyone. It is that the relationship between politics, public life and the media is changing as a result of the changing context of communication in which we all operate; no one is at fault - it is a fact; but it is my view that the effect of this change is seriously adverse to the way public life is conducted; and that we need, at the least, a proper and considered debate about how we manage the future, in which it is in all our interests that the public is properly and accurately informed. They are the priority and they are not well served by the current state of affairs.

    In the analysis I am about to make, I first acknowledge my own complicity. We paid inordinate attention in the early days of New Labour to courting, assuaging, and persuading the media. In our own defence, after 18 years of opposition and the, at times, ferocious hostility of parts of the media, it was hard to see any alternative. But such an attitude ran the risk of fuelling the trends in communications that I am about to question.

    It is also hard for the public to know the facts, even when subject to the most minute scrutiny, if those facts arise out of issues of profound controversy, as the Hutton inquiry showed.

    I would only point out that the Hutton inquiry (along with three other inquiries) was a six-month investigation in which I as Prime Minister and other senior ministers and officials faced unprecedented public questioning and scrutiny. The verdict was disparaged because it was not the one the critics wanted. But it was an example of being held to account, not avoiding it. But leave that to one side.

    And incidentally in none of this, do I ignore the fact that this relationship has always been fraught. From Stanley Baldwin's statement about "power without responsibility being the prerogative of the harlot through the ages" back to the often extraordinarily brutal treatment meted out to Gladstone and Disraeli through to Harold Wilson's complaints of the Sixties, the relations between politics and the media are and are by necessity, difficult. It's as it should be.

    The question is: is it qualitatively and quantitatively different today? I think yes. So that's my starting point.

    Why? Because the objective circumstances in which the world of communications operate today are radically altered.

    The media world - like everything else - is becoming more fragmented, more diverse and transformed by technology. The main BBC and ITN bulletins used to have audiences of eight, even 10 million. Today the average is half that. At the same time, there are rolling 24-hour news programmes that cover events as they unfold. In 1982, there were three TV stations broadcasting in the UK. Today there are hundreds. In 1995 225 TV shows had audiences of over 15 million. Today it is almost none.

    The Market
    Newspapers fight for a share of a shrinking market. Many are now read online, not the next day. Internet advertising has overtaken newspaper ads. There are roughly 70 million blogs in existence, with around 120,000 being created every day. In particular, younger people will, less and less, get their news from traditional outlets.

    But, in addition, the forms of communication are merging and interchanging. The BBC website is crucial to the modern BBC. Papers have podcasts and written material on the Web. News is becoming increasingly a free good, provided online without charge. Realistically, these trends won't do anything other than intensify.

    These changes are obvious. But less obvious is their effect. The news schedule is now 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It moves in real time. Papers don't give you up-to-date news that's already out there. They have to break stories, try to lead the schedules. Or they give a commentary. And it all happens with outstanding speed. When I fought the 1997 election - just 10 years ago - we took an issue a day. In 2005, we had to have one for the morning, another for the afternoon and by the evening the agenda had already moved on.

    You have to respond to stories also in real time. Frequently the problem is as much assembling the facts as giving them. Make a mistake and you quickly transfer from drama into crisis. In the 1960s the government would sometimes, on a serious issue, have a cabinet lasting two days. It would be laughable to think you could do that now without the heavens falling in before lunch on the first day.

    Things harden within minutes. I mean you can't let speculation stay out there for longer than an instant.

    I am going to say something that few people in public life will say, but most know is absolutely true: a vast aspect of our jobs today - outside of the really major decisions, as big as anything else - is coping with the media, its sheer scale, weight and constant hyperactivity. At points, it literally overwhelms. Talk to senior people in virtually any walk of life today - business, military, public services, sport, even charities and voluntary organisations - and they will tell you the same. People don't speak about it because, in the main, they are afraid to. But it is true, nonetheless, and those who have been around long enough, will also say it has changed significantly in the past years.

    The danger is, however, that we then commit the same mistake as the media do with us: it's the fault of bad people. My point is: it is not the people who have changed; it is the context within which they work.

    We devote reams of space to debating why there is so much cynicism about politics and public life. In this, the politicians are obliged to go into self-flagellation, admitting it is all our fault. Actually not to have a proper press operation nowadays is like asking a batsman to face bodyline bowling without pads or headgear.

    And, believe it or not, most politicians come into public life with a desire to serve and, by-and-large, try to do the right thing not the wrong thing.

    Politics
    My view is that the real reason for the cynicism is precisely the way politics and the media today interact. We, in the world of politics, because we are worried about saying this, play along with the notion it is all our fault. So I introduced: first, lobby briefings on the record; then published the minutes; then gave monthly press conferences; then Freedom of Information; then became the first prime minister to go to the select committee chairmen's session; and so on. None of it to any avail, not because these things aren't right, but because they don't deal with the central issue: how politics is reported.

    There is now, again, a debate about why Parliament is not considered more important and as ever, the Government is held to blame. But we haven't altered any of the lines of accountability between Parliament and the Executive. What has changed is the way Parliament is reported - or rather not reported. Tell me how many maiden speeches are listened to; how many excellent second-reading speeches or committee speeches are covered. Except when they generate major controversy, they aren't.

    If you are a backbench MP today, you learn to give a press release first and a good Parliamentary speech second.

    Pressures
    My case, however is this: there's no point either in blaming the media. We are both handling the changing nature of communication. The sooner we recognise this the better, because we can then debate a sensible way forward.

    The reality is that as a result of the changing context in which 21st-century communications operates, the media are facing a hugely more intense form of competition than anything they have ever experienced before. They are not the masters of this change but its victims.

    The result is a media that increasingly and to a dangerous degree is driven by "impact". Impact is what matters. It is all that can distinguish, can rise above the clamour, can get noticed. Impact gives competitive edge. Of course the accuracy of a story counts. But it is secondary to impact.

    It is this necessary devotion to impact that is unravelling standards, driving them down, making the diversity of the media not the strength it should be but an impulsion towards sensation above all else.

    Broadsheets today face the same pressures as tabloids; broadcasters increasingly the same pressures as broadsheets. The audience needs to be arrested, held and their emotions engaged. Something that is interesting is less powerful than something that makes you angry or shocked.

    The consequences of this are acute. First, scandal or controversy beats ordinary reporting hands down. News is rarely news unless it generates heat as much as or more than light.

    Second, attacking motive is far more potent than attacking judgement. It is not enough for someone to make an error. It has to be venal. Conspiratorial. Watergate was a great piece of journalism but there is a PhD thesis all on its own to examine the consequences for journalism of standing one conspiracy up. What creates cynicism is not mistakes; it is allegations of misconduct. But misconduct is what has impact.

    Third, the fear of missing out means today's media, more than ever before, hunts in a pack. In these modes it is like a feral beast, just tearing people and reputations to bits. But no one dares miss out.

    Fourth, rather than just report news, even if sensational or controversial, the new technique is commentary on the news being as, if not more important than the news itself. So - for example - there will often be as much interpretation of what a politician is saying as there is coverage of them actually saying it. In the interpretation, what matters is not what they mean; but what they could be taken to mean. This leads to the incredibly frustrating pastime of expending a large amount of energy rebutting claims about the significance of things said, that bears little or no relation to what was intended.

    In turn, this leads to a fifth point: the confusion of news and commentary. Comment is a perfectly respectable part of journalism. But it is supposed to be separate. Opinion and fact should be clearly divisible. The truth is a large part of the media today not merely elides the two but does so now as a matter of course. In other words, this is not exceptional. It is routine.

    Balance
    The metaphor for this genre of modern journalism is The Independent newspaper. Let me state at the outset it is a well-edited lively paper and is absolutely entitled to print what it wants, how it wants, on the Middle East or anything else. But it was started as an antidote to the idea of journalism as views not news. That was why it was called The Independent. Today it is avowedly a viewspaper not merely a newspaper.

    The final consequence of all of this is that it is rare today to find balance in the media. Things, people, issues, stories, are all black and white. Life's usual grey is almost entirely absent. "Some good, some bad"; "some things going right, some going wrong" - these are concepts alien to today's reporting. It's a triumph or a disaster. A problem is "a crisis". A setback is a policy "in tatters". A criticism, "a savage attack".

    Non-governmental organisations and pundits know that unless they are prepared to go over the top, they shouldn't venture out at all. Talk to any public service leader - especially in the NHS or the field of law and order - and they will tell you not that they mind the criticism, but they become totally demoralised by the completely unbalanced nature of it.
    It is becoming worse? Again, I would say, yes. In my 10 years, I've noticed all these elements evolve with ever greater momentum.

    It used to be thought - and I include myself in this - that help was on the horizon. New forms of communication would provide new outlets to by-pass the increasingly shrill tenor of the traditional media. In fact, the new forms can be even more pernicious, less balanced, more intent on the latest conspiracy theory multiplied by five.

    Opportunity
    But here is also the opportunity. At present, we are all being dragged down by the way media and public life interact. Trust in journalists is not much above that in politicians. There is a market in providing serious, balanced news. There is a desire for impartiality. The way that people get their news may be changing; but the thirst for the news being real news is not.

    The media will fear any retreat from impact will mean diminishing sales. But the opposite is the case.

    They need to reassert their own selling point: the distinction between news and comment.

    And there is inevitably change on its way.

    The regulatory framework at some point will need revision. The PCC is for traditional newspaper publishing. Ofcom regulate broadcasting, except for the BBC, which has its own system of regulation. But under the new European regulations all television streamed over the internet may be covered by Ofcom. As the technology blurs the distinction between papers and television, it becomes increasingly irrational to have different systems of accountability based on technology that no longer can be differentiated in the old way.

    How this is done is an open question and, of course, the distinction between balance required of broadcasters but not of papers remains valid. But at some point the system is going to change and the importance of accuracy will not diminish, whilst the freedom to comment remains.

    Accountable
    It is sometimes said that the media is accountable daily through the choice of readers and viewers. That is true up to a point. But the reality is that the viewers or readers have no objective yardstick to measure what they are being told. In every other walk of life in our society that exercises power, there are external forms of accountability, not least through the media itself. So it is true politicians are accountable through the ballot box every few years. But they are also profoundly accountable, daily, through the media, which is why a free press is so important.

    I am not in a position to determine this one way or another. But a way needs to be found. I do believe this relationship between public life and media is now damaged in a manner that requires repair. The damage saps the country's confidence and self-belief; it undermines its assessment of itself, its institutions; and above all, it reduces our capacity to take the right decisions, in the right spirit for our future.

    I've made this speech after much hesitation. I know it will be rubbished in certain quarters. But I also know this has needed to be said.
    Personally, I think the target of Blair's frustration/exasperation/ire is misplaced. Other commentators have noted that he didn't make any references to Murdoch's News International media outlets, but rather made a cheap shot at The Independent, which has been one of his staunchest critics, particularly over Iraq. (When Blair says "Middle-East" he really means "Iraq", doesn't he?)

    To be fair, Blair does have some valid points. The 24-hour media circus means that there is seldom time for reflection or thoughtfulness, instead everything is 'now-now-now'. The recent media hysteria over the disappearance of Madeline McCann is just the most recent example of this. It has also resulted in the 'reporter-as-pundit' phenomenon, where the newsreader crosses to a reporter at some breaking news event, who reports:
    "Well, we don't have any details at present, but something has happened. We don't know what has happened but speculation is intense that it has indeed happened and could be very serious indeed, although we won't know how serious it is until someone issues a statement. And I have the statement here, it says: "We're unable to make a statement at this moment in time." So there you have it. Back to the studio."


    There is less reporting of Parliamentary debates now then there was 10 years ago, but it was Blair who changed Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) from twice weekly to once-a-week (allegedly because he found it too nerve-wrecking when in opposition). Of course, there is a perception that Blair's style of government has largely side-lined Parliament, so that ministers are making announcements to readers of The Sun or viewers of GM-TV (both 'down-market' media outlets) rather than in Parliament. There's also a practice where an 'idea' is leaked to the media, which stirs up a hornets nest of hysteria over it, resulting in the original idea apparently being toned-down to something more acceptable; but the suspicion is that there was never any intention of pushing through the leaked suggestion and the final (accepted) result was the one desired in the first place. Oppon ents feel smug that they got the Govt to change their policy and the Govt feels smug because they got what they wanted after all.

    All of which, just ferments cynicism and disillusionment in our politicians.
    Last edited by David Mosley; 06-14-2007, 02:19 AM.
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