Wednesday, 29 February 2012

What’s wet and full of crocodiles?

Some individual words all by themselves strike us as just plain silly; monkey, wobble, banana, Belgium.

You can up the ante to two-word phrases that contradict themselves completely: young conservative; reality TV; moderate Islam; socialist worker; democratic centralism; TV personality.

Then for bonus bogus there’s the three-word BS phrase that just reeks of inauthenticity, such as any song lyric containing the triads; rock and roll; on the line; into the night; built this city.

But if you want to go large in modern life’s absurd oxymorons you need to go for the bigger compounds such as The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom. I’ll stick to broadcasting today.

Polly Toynbee at the Guardian refers to it favourably. Natch.

Here we go.

The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom is an independent voice for media reform. We work to promote policies for diverse and democratic media.
The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom was established in 1979. For over two decades we have worked for a more accountable, freer and diverse media…
To challenge the myth that press freedom is best served by current forms of ownership and control, and by 'self-regulation' on the part of the Press Complaints Commission.

There’s paragraph after paragraph of this fertile stuff. I must stop here before I go Full Fisk and you, dear reader, click away perhaps to the many, many pictures of all the pretty ladies that the web has so selflessly provided for us all.
I’m just going to select some buzzwords beloved of the CPBF and eventually draw your attention to what they really mean:

…diverse media; Broadcasting Freedom; freer and diverse media; the principles of public service … high programme standard; cultural diversity; broadcast audiences must be treated… citizens with distinct communicative rights; freedom both from state interference; vast, unaccountable business interests; coverage that reflects a wide diversity of views and cultures; promoting positive coverage of traditionally disadvantaged and marginalised groups; a reduction in legal restrictions on media freedom…

Let us set aside for now the arguments against State broadcasting and State-controlled broadcasting. For state power is what ‘democratic’ clearly means as the CPBF in particular and the Left in general are not talking about putting up a Facebook page to decide whether Channel Four should serialise Atlas Shrugged or a British-made, non Keanu Reeves Scouse socialist version of Hellraiser instead. They aren’t going to mount a YouTube campaign to urge the BBC to re-imagine The Double Deckers as the youth outsider vigilante superhero teen romance battle-of-the-bands revenge thriller wide screen sci-fi special effects blockbuster that we all knew it was meant to be. Nope, I suspect it’s going to be some form of regularized legal force that keeps freedom and diversity alive.

It turns out that they don’t seem to have noticed how well freedom and diversity of expression did under communism and the previous German constitution. Or perhaps they have. For proof that state-controlled media support freedom and democracy, you can check out TASS, the enlightened Chinese system, and of course the interwar German system.
Oh, you won’t get much detail going far into the past on the Chinese and Soviet censorship on Wikipedia – which is notoriously, um, tactful about the history of everything under communism. Just look at how it doesn’t point the finger to whoever it was that built the thing, and when and why. The voluntary sector can be highly editorial too.

Let us also, dear reader, set aside any considerations that the existing democratically controlled broadcaster is, ahem, somewhat favourable to their world view already. It’s been done.
Sky and ITN scarcely squeeze out of the box (you should excuse the expression) of cultural Marxism since (unlike the US Murdoch-owned station that actually allows conservatives to speak largely uninterrupted and indeed invites them to be interviewed in equal numbers with the left and centre Left) the UK Sky simply goes along to get along and ITN blithely follow the herd (with rare exceptions.)
Channel Four does better by admitting it is left-biased. This is honest and generally good for the health of the country as it is privately-funded (mostly) and as it occasionally admits that children and liberals will need to keep their heads attached and their skins intact even under Channel Four’s hoped-for regime of democratic socialism. 
Oh look. Another one.

But how real is the reality of the freedom and diversity which our Portside countrymen actually want?
Put them all together and what have you got?

As they search for reasons to be cheerful about Britain, the liberal-minded can latch on to the comforting notion that at least we do not allow the propaganda channels of American television on to our screens. We may have Jeremy Clarkson, Frankie Boyle and every other variety of media braggart and bully, but our regulators spare us a local version of Fox News….
For how much longer, I wonder. When I spoke to Tony Close, director of standards at Ofcom, who is meant to enforce the code, his language was suspiciously woozy and prevaricating. Instead of enunciating the clear, hard principles, which have kept broadcasting honest, he began to babble about fostering "diversity" and granting "flexibility" to foreign broadcasters transmitting in Britain.
The foreign broadcaster he had in mind was Press TV, the state network of Iran, a hostile foreign power, whose agents have just looted the British embassy in Tehran. To describe the regime's output as more propagandistic than anything the Murdoch clan produces is to understate the case in two respects.

That's your actual Nick Cohen, that is.
Nice collocation of the private ownership of broadcasting media by a conservative-tolerating station and the publicly funded and uncontrolled state broadcasting by an Islamist regime there. Got that? We’re kept safe from any UK equivalent of evil, conservative-tolerating Fox News and the reason why the protection is good is because another State broadcaster, not unlike out own dear BBC, is evilly Islamist.
Diversity and freedom for the Left in Britain (as elsewhere) means keeping the conservative voice out by using state power to prevent it ever being broadcast on anything like equal terms.
Now, Nick Cohen is, as far as the Left goes, one of the good guys. He’s aware that Muslim doesn’t really mean Methodist Tikka Masala. He’s foursquare alongside the despised Right Wing Conspiracy that the Religion of Pieces and Body parts is bad, m’kay?
But even he wants to be ‘protected’ from broadcasting that allows conservatives to speak uninterruptedly and to offer longer than sound bite arguments for Right-of-centre ideas. Somehow freedom, diversity and high standards can be achieved whilst keeping half of the political spectrum effectively off the airwaves.

Which leads us up another alley to a version of the Polly Conundrum. : when faced with a particularly egregious statistical error, one simply asks whether the writer is a moron or a liar. When faced with anything in Comment Is Free, the answer is usually that the writer is both a moron and a liar.

But Nick Cohen and his rare but valuable ilk aren’t stupid or liars in the conventional sense.
Quite how he imagines that the Far Left; acting in cahoots with the Islamists at home and abroad in the hope that once the bombings and beheadings end they’ll step in to bring on Da Revolution will ever tolerate his powder pink defence of our lives and civilization better than honest conservatives and the last handful of true liberals left standing, I just don’t know. They are unlikely to do it at all.
And quite how preventing one entire half of the politics in the country from arguing on air that perhaps unlimited immigration might have its faults, or that welfare state has spending limits and - ah - selective success socially can ever generate diversity and freedom in the non-Pickwickian sense of those words, I’m equally stumped. But how Cohen and the few surviving other 'open-minded leftists' seem to believe that it’s all going to be alright while expecting a body politic to be healthy and breathe the fresh air of truth with only one lung is a mystery to me.

Perhaps it’s just old-fashioned denial.

Picture from here.

1 comment:

JuliaM said...

"We work to promote policies for diverse and democratic media."

Haven't we learnt from bitter experience that the more of the former we have, the less of the latter we get?


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner