This Week in the News

The desperate moves of an empire in decline?

Posted on November 18, 2009. Filed under: Blogroll, media, Rupert Murdoch, This Week in the News |

ABC’s Mark Scott recently took a swipe at Rupert Murdoch, labelling his latest move to charge for online content as the signs of a flailing ruler desperate to maintain his power.

“It strikes me as a classic play of old empire, of empire in decline. Believing that because you once controlled the world you can continue to do so, because you once set the rules, you can do so again,” he said at the A.N Smith Memorial Lecutre in Journalism.

And certainly, Murdoch’s long-interview with Sky Australia (of which he owns a third) revealed a man grappling with an uncertain future.

In thinly veiled threats to those that dare to threaten his dynasty including the BBC, the ABC, Microsoft and Google, Murdoch let his insecurities known.

Commentators have been unsure of how to respond to his plans to put a stop to free online content. On the one hand, few can see it working, but on the other, many journalists hope it will work if only so they can keep their jobs a little longer.

You can’t help but hope he does succeed, if it means a lifeline for the industry, but at what cost to the egalitarian and open nature which has so far defined the web? It would be more comforting if you could believe Murdoch genuinely cared about journalism and the industry and not just his own coffers.

Few too are willing to doubt Murdoch’s business sense too loudly; this is a man who has single-handedly managed to create a global media empire dominant in Australia, Britain and America, with a strong hold on parts of Asia.

However, it is hard to see how removing NewsCorp’s news from Google’s index would be beneficial. Would readers be so loyal as to only look at one news site, which they must pay for not use a search engine? As interviewer Sky News Australia’s political editor David Speers said, Google does drive traffic to News Corp, but “if they are not paying”, said Murdoch, “we don’t want them”. Murdoch is only interested in “serious money” which he argued, cannot be made online with free content. However Times editor James Harding hinted this week the paper may take a softer approach.

However the story unfolds now, it will help define the future of journalism and online content.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Many questions, but few answers from Question Time.

Posted on October 23, 2009. Filed under: media, This Week in the News |

BNP leader Nick Griffin’s much anticipated appearance on BBC’s Question Time did not give the party legitimacy as many feared, but allowed all others to bask in comparative glory. And how could they not? Griffin appeared impish, weak, inconsistent and deceptive, nodding along with the audience when it suited him and laughing strangely when it didn’t.

“I can’t tell you why I used to say those things any more than I can tell you why I have changed my mind,” he said in response to a Jewish audience member’s question as to why he once equated the “myth of the holocaust” with the myth of the earth’s flatness. His blatant lies, strange facial expressions and obvious discomfort roused the audience into camaraderie-amusement and mounted anger interchangeably, allowing other panellists to sit in benign smugness, like school children praised for their good behaviour.

Leftist viewers may have been surprised to find themselves nodding along with Conservative spokeswoman for community cohesion and crowned most powerful Muslim woman in Britain, Sayeeda Warsi, who perhaps came off best on the show. Time and time again Warsi articulately debunked the BNP in a calm and measured tone. She challenged Jack Straw to have “an honest debate about immigration,” which he seemed unable to do. She said political parties must engage with BNP voters and address their feelings of disenfranchisement.

In a way it was a shame that the whole attention was on Nick Griffin because it conveniently allowed other panellists, who actually have a direct bearing on policy, to dodge the questions. As much as a chance to denounce the BNP,  it was a chance for others to pose and posture. Even those that weren’t on the show generated their own publicity. Welsh MP, Peter Hain, has become a household name for his vocal opposition to the program.

It was only historian, playwright and author Bonnie Greer, who refreshingly unconcerned with her own public appearance, addressed the issues in a human and witty fashion.

“I am not a politician, I don’t know anything about politics,” she said unapologetically, by way of opening and later, turning to Griffin, “You have to change your constitution now, that will be interesting. You can laugh,” she said as he nervously giggled beside her, “but if I was a BNP member, I’d be scared.”  To which, strangely, he began clapping.

She later said the experience was “one of the weirdest and most creepy experiences” in her life.”

The BBC has also created its own publicity, generating a huge leap in ratings and unprecedented news coverage. The Guardian devoted its front page and a two page spread were devoted to the topic while it unleashed a Twitter storm.

In the end the show was an opportunity for the audience and the impressively measured panel members to hold the BNP to account. It did hold an uncompromising mirror to the BNP and forced Nick Griffin to explain his party’s views. But it was the claps, though small, of support for his anti-Islamic and anti-immigration spiels that we must be most concerned with. The BNP has been publicly ridiculed, but it is the supporters that need to be challenged and given an alternative, if it is to be defeated.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The BBC and the BNP

Posted on October 16, 2009. Filed under: This Week in the News |

The furore over the BNP and its various planned and past appearances on the BBC raise many questions about the role of the public broadcaster and the nature of free speech.

The appearance of BNP representatives, party publicity director, Mark Collett, 28, and Joseph Barber, 24, who runs the BNP record label, Great White Records, on Radio 1 may not be cause for concern in itself (if you ignore the fact that the radio station essentially operates as a top 40 commercial station with government funding, and is not generally interested in politics). However the presenters handling of the interview was alarming. The introduction of the guests as “Mark and Joey” not only deliberately concealed their identities and roles in the party, but suggests a matey-jokey relationship which surely should not feature on air between any BBC presenter and political party member. The New Statesman has published the transcript here.

Meanwhile the party’s planned appearance on the BBC’s Question Time has caused MP Peter Hain to make a formal complaint to the broadcaster and the program will be filmed at a secret location due to security concerns. The BBC maintains it is its duty to subject all political parties to rigorous and impartial interrogation, which begs the question when does a point of view become legitimate and who should decide? Hain said this week the exposure of the party on the public broadcaster gives its views legitimacy and is fundamentally wrong.

The election of two BNP members to the European Parliament in June suggests that to many, the party does have legitimacy and while to a majority of people its views are abhorrent, anti-social and fascist, can we ignore this gain? Is it the BBC’s role to shut out those it does not agree with no matter how distasteful? Surely it would be more effective to denounce the party live and on air and in a sustained campaign to show the BNP its views are not acceptable in modern society.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...