Monday, September 01, 2003

Democracy = State-Controlled Media

Three wrong-headed Guardian specials today - and that doesn't include Roy Hattersley

Bea Campbell takes time out from telling lies about families and abuse to tell lies about why Tyneside council estates aren't nice places to live. Apparently if the council stumped up for some decent doors and coloured kitchen tiles, people wouldn't fire shots through her windows. But the council are tight fisted - so poor Bea has had to move. What's a renowned author, journalist and academic doing in a council house anyway - aren't there people on the list in greater need ?

Darcus Howe bemoans the fall in attendance at Notting Hill Carnival. Apparently if the council stumped up more cash ... and also the stuffy, conservative organisers aren't keen on getting those rough hip-hop and garage boys involved. Darcus rightly points out that that's where the musical action is - those happy days of One Love (for I and I) seem to have gone, and F*** You Bitch has taken its place.
Not sure I'd want to be hanging round the So Solid Crew sound system though. Maybe the Carnival could move to Shooters Hill.

"And Finally ...." Andrew Graham - Master of Balliol College, Oxford, non-executive director of Channel 4 and author with BBC chairman (and Labour donor) Gavyn Davies of "Broadcasting, Society and Policy in the Multimedia Age" says the taxpayer must continue to stump up more cash ......

"Citizens are entitled to core information about their society, much of which now comes from broadcasting. Citizens are also entitled to participate fully in society; and democratic discussion, much of which takes place via television and radio, is an essential part of such participation.

The delivery of these rights is not the purpose of the market. To be met, they require the existence of broadcasters - public service broadcasters."

There is a case to be made for a state broadcaster, and two dozen cases against Mr Murdoch. Unfortunately Mr Graham isn't going to make it. Anyone who thinks 'rights' are to be 'delivered to', rather than possessed by, citizens is off to a bad start. Anyone who thinks that the discussions we hear on BBC are 'democratic' has just made his case worse - isn't this the organisation where 'populist' is a term of abuse ?

And this destroys his piece. "Notwithstanding the friction between the government and the BBC on the particulars of Gilligan's report, no one has cast any serious doubt on the much more important question of whether, overall, the BBC reported on the arguments about the war in an objective manner." There we hear the authentic voice of the liberal - 'no one I know thinks the BBC is left wing, so it can't be'.

Try this site for starters.

The same cannot be said of Fox Television in the US (owned by News Corporation). Indeed, Page reports that the consistency of view across all the News Corporation outlets in favour of the war displayed a unanimity of view greater even than the Pentagon. When, at the same time, a large proportion of Americans are reputed to believe that Saddam Hussein was implicated in al-Qaida terrorism, a belief for which there is not a shred of credible evidence, one wonders if the world's largest democracy is being well served by its media.

Well, up to a point. Fox make no secret of their support for US troops and aren't ashamed of calling them 'our boys'. But it's not the only channel in the USA. Murdoch didn't BUY his Fox audience - he built it, taking market share from other more liberal channels, just has he turned the UK Sun from a pale left-of-centre paper to the big and profitable beast it is now. And for a Master of Balliol to connect that with an instance of American ignorance makes you wonder when they stopped logic classes at Oxford. British kids are notoriously ignorant - is that down to the BBC ?

Putting the same point another way, should the UK not fear for its democracy if public service broadcasting were to be squeezed into the ghetto-like position occupied by the PSBs in the US (where they are constantly under-funded, plead for contributions and hold only around 5% of the market)?

So America is not a democracy. And without the BBC we might not be one either. But presumably Egypt, Saddam's Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with their dominant state-controlled media, are OK. Oxford seem to have stopped teaching politics and history as well as logic. Is that what Fukuyama meant ?

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