Saturday, July 23, 2011

Media balance

Further to the previous post, which touched on the way that public debate is framed around a notion of balance - where balance is defined as radical conservatism on one side of the fence and .... er .... anyone else on the other. Nothing else could explain why a journalist would ever quote the Tax Payers Alliance.

Steve Jones' report on science reporting at the BBC is well worth a look here. It's conclusions on a range of scientific issues - particularly climate change - are, I believe, good ones. Listening to the Today programme, their idea of balance seems to be that they need to get some who has a clue about what they're talking about and then balance it with more arsehole who knows how to pronounce the words 'nanny state'.

So 'balance' becomes a debate around whether a rational proposal to do something should be tried at all.

Other examples: Coverage of the marching season in Northern Ireland - bringing community representatives and marchers around a mic to discuss things may be a good way of explaining the situation in a classroom, but as a means of covering an ongoing situation in which most people don't care for either side that strongly and have a bigger preference for a quiet life undisrupted by proxy-incidents for violent sectarian agendas.

The prize here is pluralism. Any recasting of what journalism's mission is needs to recognise a failure in providing properly pluralistic debate based upon rational arguments and not the power to frame discussions. Now we're re-negotiating our compact with the press, it may be a good time to bring this issue up?

No comments: