Wednesday, November 22, 2006

New Generation Network

A good idea. A bloody awful title though. For some reason, it evokes images of '80s 'power-baladeers' such as Bonnie Tyler.

But, despite that minor criticism, it will be interesting to see how it develops. The stuff on representation is absolutely excellent, of course.

1) An end to communal politics
As Britons we want to be treated not as homogenous blocks but as free-thinking citizens with diverse views. So-called community leaders and race-relations experts should be seen as lobbyists not representatives. They do not have a democratic mandate to represent anyone.

I'm not sure that I agree with everything in the preamble. One person's 'dog-whistle politics' is someone else's fair comment. I'd like to see an acknowledgement that communal politics excites reactions that are hardly surprising from mainstream politicians. Having said that, I doubt if I'll ever spend long defending John Reid from any charges anyone wants to throw at him.

And I'd be interested to see how points four and five .....

4) We believe in freedom of speech
Enshrined in free speech and free expression are the same civil liberties which have allowed minorities to sustain and develop their cultures, wear what they want, go on public demonstrations and challenge laws.

We call on the government to support freedom of speech in situations where extremists threaten artists and writers with violence. Its failure to do so is state multiculturalism at its most unpleasant and should be viewed as collusion with extremists. To tackle extremism we must allow diverse voices to speak out.

5) We are for respecting people's multiple identities
The right to combine mixed identities, which include culture, faith, ethnicity, religion and more is the essence of an open society. These rights must be underpinned by a common citizenship which protects our rights.

We call on government to fund programmes giving new immigrants the language skills they need to participate in civic society and be more self-empowered. This is the primary way to ensure gaps can be bridged between different communities.

Proud of our strong identities, we aim to be free in voicing concerns about repressive cultural practices, corruption within religious institutions and forced marriages.

... will be interpreted the next time a classroom assistant is asked to remove a veil, or a newspaper decides to print a cartoon featuring The Prophet.

Perhaps these questions are left open for now by point six?

6) A new national conversation about race
Media organisations need to do considerably more to inform themselves about and to tune into the debates going on within multi-ethnic Britain today. Too often, extreme and highly unrepresentative voices are presented as authoritative or representative in part due to the shock value they provide.

All broadcasters have a particular responsibility to create the space for the much richer national conversation that we need.

The conversation is an important one. Probably the worst time to discuss the Mo-Toons or the veil is when events turn the heat up under the subject.

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