From Fourth Estate to Fourth Short-Let Apartment

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Isn’t it ironic that as we Britons become the most watched people in the world, fewer and fewer people are watching the watchers?
4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain and rising. One for every 14 people (Surveillance Society report, p.23)
But what about the sources of power? Who is watching the executive, the legislature and the judiciary? By all accounts less and less of us – at least for our day job.
Press Gazette reports this week on research it’s conducted – backed up by similar work by the NUJ – showing a steep decline in reporting of local government. ‘Most local newspapers now do not have a regular local government correspondent’. For political scoops local papers rely on leaks from ‘disgruntled politicians’ or ‘residents with an axe to grind’. In the same issue Adrian Monck describes the disappearance of detailed court reporting. Parliamentary reports, as we know, were dropped from all the nationals over a decade ago.
Why does it matter? It matters not just because we’re losing a base layer of knowledge and understanding about the use and abuse of power; nor just because there won’t be people ready and able to expose corruption or miscarriages of justice, but because those in power will know they’re not being watched.
If you’re being watched you behave differently. You know if you don’t participate you’ll be embarrassed (ask the guys at www.theyworkforyou.com -MPs have been attending votes and making speeches to make sure their stats don’t look bad), you’ll probably do more preparation if you know you’ll be asked difficult questions, and you’ll think twice before you decide to ignore something or cover something up.
There’s no question that the foundations of the Fourth Estate are being eroded. Sadly, we don’t yet know what, if anything, is going to replace them.

Written by Martin Moore

June 28th, 2007 at 8:27 am

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