trust – tolerance – self-sufficiency
Few would deny that our press is self-righteous, sanctimonious and hypocritical, or that it can be vicious to the point of sadism. However, repellent though this is, it must be acknowledged that we buy the papers, so we get the press we deserve. The sub-judice and contempt of court rules need to be re-examined to prevent the increasing trend to ‘trial by media’, and it is possible that minor alterations to the law may be needed to protect individuals from the excesses of bad journalism or to prevent too limited ownership, but, on the whole, the press should be left unfettered. The hazards of a free press pale into insignificance compared with the hazards of State control.
The Licence Fee should be abolished as part of the rationalization of taxes generally. It is an expensive and irrelevant relic of other times and quite inequitable. Funding for the BBC should come from general taxation, moderated through a politically independent board of some kind and from its own normal commercial trading as at present. More importantly, the BBC’s Charter should be reviewed with a view to:
- renewing its role as a provider of objective and accurate information both nationally and internationally, in its news programmes, and as a purveyor of excellence in its arts, science and documentary programmes.
- providing entertainment which does not involve the humiliation and degradation of participants so much in vogue today.
- generally halting its relentless decline into a second-rate audience-seeking broadcaster
- ending its grotesque over-management
Good public service broadcasting is beyond price to a free country and people must be able to tune into the BBC anywhere in the world and know that they are being told the truth. It is not enough that the BBC may compare favourably with other countries’ broadcasting services – it should set standards not follow those of others, and it should constantly aspire to improve on those standards.
Notwithstanding the above, the media generally need to ask themselves very serious questions about their role as news gatherers – ‘bringers of tidings’ – in our modern society. The gloating obsession with bad news, the generally frenetic presentation, the endless, pointless speculation, and a degree of downright laziness and/or incompetence, not only give a distorted view of society but do active harm. Consider some simple examples:
- We are told that a plane has crashed with total loss of life. If we empathize with the passengers and their families we can only become deeply distressed. If, being unable to do anything, we dismiss it, we become ever more desensitized to mass death. And if we have friends travelling in the area of the crash, we become concerned and anxious. What purpose therefore does this ‘news’ serve other than to cause pain?
- A news announcement: ‘It is believed that a Government report to be published today will say . . .’ This is followed by several minutes of invariably vacuous speculation by ‘experts’ about this pending report. Is there any reason why we cannot wait until the report has been published and then listen to interested parties discussing it properly?
- As for using the desperate grief of bereaved relatives as entertainment by sticking microphones in their faces or persuading them to hold ‘press conferences’, frankly, words fail me – it is a practice disgusting beyond belief.
- And then there’s ‘Terrorism’ Where would the media be without this staple ‘soap opera’ to hyper-ventilate over?
- Why are important fundamental questions never asked? For example, ‘Why is economic growth good?’ ‘Why do you say a billion when you mean a thousand million?’ ‘Why is a strong/weak currency good?’ ‘Why do you pay so much attention to the Stock Markets – they’re only gamblers, you know?’ On fracking, say, ‘Why aren’t we looking to eliminate the use of all fossil fuels?’ etc
- Why is an ‘interview’ with a bewildered householder living near to ‘an incident’ regarded as journalism? “Well, there was a bang, then people shouting and running, then the police came . . . told me to go inside . . .” etc – points vaguely over hedge . . .