Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: List of newspapers in the United Kingdom

Polls apart

For the last six weeks I have honoured the BBC’s request of me to step aside from the daily ‘phone in show I love and present the afternoon show, which was great fun and I really, truly enjoyed. It reminded me that radio and broadcasting is to inform, educate and entertain and I thank the BBC for this.

I also took this chance to positively step away from all the news I could. I avoided reading the newspapers, blogs, magazines, linked articles, opinion pieces or listening to podcasts. I just listened to the local news when I was on air and other news when it came to me, rather than me actively looking for it. I haven’t watched a news programme in over 6 weeks apart from the election night coverage. In the last few days, minded I am going back to my topical news based radio show on Monday 18th May, I thought I should get ‘up to speed’ on things and start to cram. I need not have bothered. Hardly anything has really happened nationally or locally apart from a change of government that the media failed to see coming.

I have learnt a great deal this year about many things. Firstly, the real kindness of people in contrast to how foul and depraved others can be for no real reason other blind stupidity, misplaced loyalty or actual mental health issues that could happen to any one of us at any time. Secondly, there is a real contrast between reporting and actual journalism in our papers and in on our broadcast media. There is plenty of the former but very little of the later. Thirdly, the news really doesn’t change that much at all. You might like to think it does but, in reality, nothing much happens other than the constant reporting on reports.

Here is a prime example of this. According to one study by a leading University on how the general election was covered by the main broadcasters, over a third of the coverage was based on reporting the polls. Broadcasters reported how close the polls were and what would happen if the polls were the actual result. There were lots of talking heads about red lines, coalitions, compromises and so on. The press followed this too. Nobody asked the question ‘what if the polls are wrong?’. In contrast the NHS got less than 2.5% of TV news coverage and according to other polls the NHS was a key issue in the election. Were those polls wrong too? In the current post-mortem of the election with the Left is complaining the Right got biased coverage and vice versa, we should all be complaining that our news was dominated by polls and surveys but very little actual journalism.

Any journalist should ask questions, get answers and then question those answers, regardless of what he or she might actually think. Thinking is not knowing and when you hear or read the phrase ‘I think’ it should be a warning to us all. Reporters are not journalists and journalists should not be reporters. To report and not to question is not news. To have an agenda and report it is not news. If you want this then buy your daily newspaper of choice just to confirm you were right all along.

Here’s a thing to try. Buy a newspaper you don’t usually take and see how you feel once you’ve read it. Listen to and watch other sources of news. Find local bloggers writing about where you live. Go beyond the lazy reporting and ask questions of those who just rehash press releases or report what they have been given without asking a single question about it.

The biggest lesson I have learnt over the last six weeks is to question everything and believe me I will, starting now.

This last week has been about the weak.

In Westminster last week the Leader of the opposition was called weak by the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister was called weak by the Leader of the Opposition. Next week neither will be there as they will both have a note from their mum’s saying they ‘can’t go as they are being bullied’.

Also it is the weak and vulnerable who will suffer with the coming winter fuel bills of the big six energy companies and their average of 9.2% increases in energy prices. What is actually being done about that? Naff all in reality. The ‘Big 6’ effectively said ‘not me mate’, Labour’s price freeze idea is totally potty as it can never work in the global energy market of today, the Coalition’s proposal of a competition review will take 12 months to reach a conclusion and shifting the Green tax into general taxation only mean you will pay more, just differently. It is going to be a long, cold winter for many so warm, snuggly Christmas jumpers might not be such a bad present idea this year.

All this has occurred against the background of Russell Brand calling for a revolution against the political class of today, those who seek to make a profit and pretty much anyone who is not him or who think like him. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

Yet it is free speech that is actually under threat by the very actions of those who benefit most from it, make money out of it and use it to fill the pages of our daily and Sunday papers.

Whether we end up the Royal Charter to govern and control the actions of the press, or they continue to ‘mark their own homework’ as the campaign group Hacked Off call it, one thing is for certain. Thanks to the actions of some journalists and maybe others on trial right now, our press and journalism will never be the same again in the UK.

But this is far bigger problem than just our UK press.

The world looks to us for a free press. Our tradition of free speech and a free press first gained its printed voice in the mewing 17th century newspapers and in the articles of Milton against the puritanical views of Cromwell and his the English Republic. If our press falls under parliamentary control other governments will use our newly ‘state controlled’ media as the very example they need to control, govern, censor what can and can’t be printed. Then it will be the same for broadcasting. Mr Brand may yet get his revolution, but perhaps not quite on the terms he was elucidating.

Why did all this happen? Why did the press do what they did? What made it okay for the press to rifle through the bins of Steve Coogan, ‘convict’ Bristol’s Christopher Jefferies on a series of front pages or hack into the phone of the then missing school girl Milly Dowler? You.

You bought the papers. You bought the stories. You chose the front page of the paper, you fed the beast. It is all down to you. And it’s down to me too. No paper, no journalist, no editor would have done any of the things revealed in the Leveson enquiry if you didn’t buy them.

So now we may not have lost the sensational headlines, but we have lost threatening, penetrating investigative journalism, challenging opinion and, most of all, the freedom of the press that we all enjoyed, maybe just a little too much.

The press will be weak from this last week.

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