SHOCK: Not everyone cares about the New York Times

Apparently Ira Glass isn’t aware of who Jill Abramson is, in addition to the fact that she has recently been given the opportunity to spend more time with her boxing gloves away from the New York Times. Apparently people who know about Abramson’s ousting are fuuurious that he missed this nugget of information. This serves to illuminate two points:

1. People like discretely crowing about the knowledge caught in their heads, however insignificant it may be to the outside world. They forget that the reason they know about it is because the topic interests them and may be sandpaper-lickingly dull to another.

2. As people are intrinsically self-centred and precious about knowledge that they have worked so hard to obtain, they seem to think that it is crucial to the functioning of the social-juridical-political order that everyone knows about it (the raison d’etre behind blogs and twitter). In this instance, a large news organisation firing an executive editor is big media news, but inspecting the gamut of injustice, disasters and political dicksmanship in the world, it is quite irrelevant.

So, do not worry Ira Glass, feel free to continue in your ignorance, you are definitely not alone and are most probably are worrying about bigger things.

Of Protests and the Media

With Ukraine, Thailand and now late entrant, Venezuela competing for the title of World’s Shoutiest Nation, the manner with which their anger is disseminated to the wider public has come under scrutiny. Framing and bias are all words that are thrown about with abandon in blogs and the media but usually only to describe the other side’s media logic. The hypocrisy goes unreported.

Happy Protestor

To look at Venezuela, la protestation de la jour (pardon my French), it seems as though the majority of media coverage so far consists of commentary than actual reporting. Facts, like international organisations, seem to be scarce on the ground but that will not stop the news machine whirring into action. In a sharply local dispute, the anger from both sides is being directed toward the Western media. The ‘opposition’ decry the mainstream media organisations for ignoring their demonstrations and subsequent government crackdowns; of course, as the protestors need the oxygen of publicity, they would never argue against more coverage. However, I have a hard time understanding their argument, especially considering the US favours and supports the opposition movement. Why would American media resist the opportunity to show the Venezuelan government as corrupt and stopping democratic protests with truncheons? And yet the government say the media coverage is biased and influenced by right-wing propaganda. Both can’t be right.

For those not on the ground, the question is of who to trust. Even in the past few days alone there have been mountains of reports: news coverage of the protests; commentary bemoaning the lack of international media attention in the face of beatings and killing of demonstrators; and further words about how the many reports filed are all supporting the rich, anti-democratic opposition (though this seemed almost the dictionary definition of ‘apologist’).

What should we do: placard up and join the protestors against the elected dictator, shake our heads at the anti-democratic action as after al, it was an election; or sit idly by and watch as the death toll rises. Once again, international spectators are left in a morality play with no clean resolution and a heck of a lot of misinformation to guide us.

The Leveson Report – Reading between the criticisms

With the publishing of the Leveson Report on Thursday, after seemingly 237 years in the making, those instantly critical or dubious of the conclusions have come out of the woodwork faster than Gary Barlow on a slip-n-slide.

1. With the earnestness of a nun at the Vatican, all of the leading newspaper and TV organisations have dutifully focused on the importance of the report and its wide ranging implications for the future of the press, but no one has really taken a step back and questioned the place of newspapers in our society. With circulation diminishing year on year, it feels like regulating on a new type of stable door after the horse has bolted. There is seemingly little forethought as to how newspapers will operate in a world full of iPads and the Mail Online; if more newspapers reduce their publishing frequency or become a digital only entity, like Newsweek, then the difference between a regulated media outlet and one that is not, will be rather stark and absurd.

Lord Leveson

Lord Leveson with his magic report

2. The new Ofcom style regulatory body that will be established (Ofpap anyone?) will herald the first press law since the 17th Century, and the Conservatives don’t like it. Their main reason for ‘hating on’ Leveson is the ‘mission creep’ fear that politicians today have about their counterparts in the future. Apparently they are creating a vehicle for the future government control of the press, which in turn raises many interlinked points:

  • A ‘vehicle’ that can alter the future sounds like a time machine – is that where George Osborne has been hiding whilst it is being built?
  • When is this expected government takeover of the press likely to take place, as we can keep a look out for it?
  • Do politicians really distrust the future iterations of themselves that much? Though saying that, I suppose they know the wants and desires of politicians better than us mere mortals. Maybe we should take their warning with a greater seriousness than we have so far.

3. The reaction of most of the newspapers is of collective shock at how their industry has been slandered by Leveson. But lest we forget the ‘last chance saloon’ of the 1990s, and to be able to drink in such a salubrious establishment there must have been one or two other bars they were thrown out of because of raucous behaviour. Newspapers are a public entity with a moral duty to upload to society, and that was destroyed with phone hacking, profit maximising, politician entrancing behaviour.

4. People bought the papers out of their own free will. So surely we, the people should accept some share of the blame

There isn’t a magic elixir to solve the ills of press behaviour whilst maintaining the ideal amount of freedom, and I think it is time that that fact was acknowledged a bit more by those in power. Much like a teenager that has misbehaved once too often, the press will have to be grounded until it has learnt it’s lesson and only then will it be allowed to go out by itself again, but hopefully with more wisdom and greater responsibility.

Fucking Jonnie Marbles

Is there anything more desperate than an unsuccessful comedian? A person convinced that they are just one joke away from Mock the Week, one gig away from the Comedy Store, yet they can’t even make their mums laugh. And to prove a point, here’s Jonnie Marbles and his shaving foam dispenser.

Mr Marbles (even his name is tediously ‘zany’) is like the action hero that tries to solve a tense negotiation by annihilating the other side. Yet somehow this is worse. Murdoch was already on the ropes; he didn’t need anyone to make him look stupid or foolish, his old man schtick saw to that (or at least I hope it is an act, because if it isn’t, then Presidents and Prime Ministers are fighting over HIM?!).

Jonnie Marbles has a very linear thought process: (Murdoch= bad)+ shaving foam = untold adulation. But thankfully for a general public spared from his humour, it backfired.

Moron

Anti-Murdoch forces knew this would play into the hands of the News Corporation owner, with headlines showing a young protestor assaulting an elderly man.

So thanks Jonnie. We all know you want to be famous, but just run it by us next time.

RUN! The BskyB is falling in!

It was not so long ago that Chicken Little grabbed the front pages of newspapers around the world with the news that ‘the sky is falling’. His later arrest and imprisonment under the ‘Anti-Doomsday Act 2009’ saw him share a cell with the exhumed bones of the century’s dead compilers of William the Conqueror’s tax-grabbing land and property survey, the Domesday Book. It was a hideously lazy piece of legislation from the late-stage New Labour Government, not least because it drew no distinction between two but that was to be expected by the late stage Labour Government.

But the developments over the past few days have seen the likelihood of Chicken Little’s predictions having a ring of truth increase exponentially as News Corp’s planned buyout of the remaining BskyB shares has run into some’ slight’ turbulence. From Jeremy Hunts tacit acceptance of the deal early last week to its indefinite postponement at the end, it has capped off a week that can only be made worse if it was revealed that News Corp lace all their tabloid newspapers with a chemical that acts both as an aphrodisiac and an intelligence suppressor, resulting in a rapidly populating idiot class (The Sun readership).

Regardless of what has happened in the News of the World, it has no real bearing on the decision by Ofcom and the Culture Secretary regarding the takeover. Yes, we have ammo; yes, horrible things have occurred but no, that does not affect that plurality of the media. For that is what it all boils down to in the end, the need to have a variety of voices coming over the airwaves. Much like cricket cannot be played using the Queensbury rules, the decision cannot be undertaken on media ethics but on plurality alone.

Look at the lovely couple

Hold your horses! Before you start typing ‘Fit and Proper Persons Test’, I agree that Murdoch should be sent back to where he came from (that is the States, as he turned his back on Australia when he discovered that being an American could be a business advantage) with a resounding ‘No’ reverberating in his ears. Ofcom and Hunt should have seen the light much earlier, and not been drawn in by a rather obnoxious, decrepit elderly man (however attractive that does sound), but now truth has thrown on to the relationship between the media and politicians and they are backtracking faster than Usain Bolt on rewind.

The already scant levels of media pluralism in the UK have been eroded by successive Government decisions to relax restrictions on cross-media ownership. These safeguards allowed a variety of voices to be heard and prevented the rise of a monolithic media organisation, but this is based on a sufficient separation between the government and the fourth estate and not one where they both enjoy long walks on the beach.

With the entire Murdoch Empire now in the spotlight, the two issues – ethics and plurality – can finally get the attention they deserve but at the same time they should not be confused, however intertwined they might appear. The growing intensity of public opinion will only serve to diminish the flailing media tycoon’s influence over politicians, as they are slowly coming round to the old-fashioned idea that it’s the electorate that hold the true power.