Saturday, February 24, 2018

Media guard dog needs a watchdog

Over the past 30 months, we have seen the media's regard for an incumbent Government slip from all-time high to all-in disdain. The Government consequently has found itself having to devote considerable energies on rearguard action, even as it pushes forward to deliver on its manifesto pledges after adopting upfront those promises as official State policy.

All in all, the Government has made significant inroads in fulfilling those mandates although there have been unwarranted hiccups and much still needs to be done. Having hit the midpoint of its term (and being a coalition arrangement), political norms tell us that around this time, the people's esteem for the government would be at its nadir.

However, from evaluating the sphere of competitive sport, we know that second wind kicks in when the eventual winner realises she has not only survived a blistering first half but is ahead of the pack at that stage. But competitive sport is civilised war, so sometimes, off-track manipulations do occur in order to alter a race's popularly favoured outcome. Politics is quintessentially civilised waró quintessential off-field interference is normally par for the course as recent developments in England have shown, regarding the way the fourth estate operates when it loses sight of its true purpose or becomes a runaway train.

British newspapers have reported that distinguished British judge Lord Justice Brian Leveson, who led the official enquiry into the Rupert Murdoch affair, has concluded there is urgent need for "new laws to underpin a tougher watchdog for Britain's 'outrageous' newspapers". To get the media back on focus, Lord Leveson "called for an independent self-regulatory body, backed by legislation, saying that decades of misbehaviour by the British press had undermined its own argument that it works in the public interest."

Lord Leveson issued a statement that the British newspaper industry had "wreaked havoc with the lives of innocent people" and "acted as if its own code, which it wrote, simply did not exist".

He further pointed out the behaviour of the press "at times, can only be described as outrageous".

It is noteworthy that like in Trinidad and Tobago, the British press currently regulates itself through a body comprising only media personnel: the Press Complaints Commission, a body staffed by editors. Like in Trinidad, many say it is a guard dog that barks but never bites because it is a dog guarding against itself.

Given our firmly set penchant for not believing in our own capacity for paradigm designing or shifting except if it mimics what's "in foreign", I beg to move that we quickly adopt Lord Leveson's proddings concerning reguarding the guardians watching our homefront. Like many "in foreign" who have been pilloried by the unwarranted wrath of a media gone wild, I'd be astonished if we don't.

Humphrey Diefenthaller

La Horquette