Archive for the ‘trust’ tag

A new founding principle for the BBC

without comments

Fantastic. A proper thoughtful speech about politics, the media and the role of the BBC from Mark Thompson – the BBC’s Director General (‘The Trouble with Trust’).

Admittedly, part of the reason I’m impressed is that I’ve been banging on about many of the same issues for a while now. Indeed, for the last couple of months I’ve been on a road trip telling anyone who will listen (BBC included) that news organisations are changing fundamentally, that the Fourth Estate is under threat, and that the only news organisation with the scale and remit to take the lead in doing something about it is the BBC.

One aspect of his speech particularly struck me. Thompson did not just outline what he saw as the problems with democratic engagement (including a healthy dose of scepticism about the value of scepticism) he also had a go at suggesting a way forward. This included transforming “the way we [the BBC] connect British democracy – and all its many democratic institutions – to the public”.

This is important. It means, in effect, adding a fourth pillar – ‘to connect’ – to the BBC’s famous founding principles – to inform, educate and entertain’. I’m not sure I like the verb Thompson’s used – I’d probably go with ‘to engage’ or ‘to include’ rather than ‘to connect’, but the concept is right. Only by including the public in a reconstituted Fourth Estate can we hope to sustain and renew it.

Thompson then talked about what this might mean in practice, for example, giving the public “Direct access to information about your MP or representative: how they vote, what they stand for, how you can contact them”. Much, in other words, of what mySociety has started to do through www.theyworkforyou.com, and some of it’s other excellent websites.

Indeed it sounded like organisations like mySociety – and, I hope, Media Standards Trust – inspired this part of Thompson’s speech. Which appeared to be confirmed by Thompson’s comment at the end that “We don’t want to do all this on our own, but in partnership with some of the existing sites which are pioneering web democracy – and with the democratic institutions themselves”.

This is significant – and exciting – new territory for the BBC. The Corporation will need partners, and will need to sustain its ambition (not so easy given the financial and other pressures it is under), but this is most certainly the right direction. Thank goodness.

Written by Martin Moore

January 16th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

TV's trial proves inconclusive

without comments

This evening’s POLIS event, ‘Can we still trust TV? TV on trial’, was as interesting for what wasn’t said as what was.

The witnesses – and the speakers were literally cast as witnesses and questioned by lawyer Mark Stephens of Finer Stephens Innocent – used various religious analogies to describe how, like any good Catholic, TV needed to confess its sins and seek redemption. Although, to continue the analogy, there was much head shaking about not donning too many hair shirts or doing too much penance.

The most interesting of the bunch (which included Laurie Flynn – ex-Carlton journalist, Roger Graef – writer and filmmaker, Phil Harding – former controller of editorial policy at the BBC, Stephen Whittle – chair of Broadcast Training and Skills Regulator, and Neil Midgley – Telegraph broadcast journalist) was David Elstein, arch nemesis of the BBC, who was the only one to make substantive structural criticisms of television.

Elstein said he believed the crises could be explained quite easily. They were indicative, he said, of the contempt with which broadcasters (and he emphasised the BBC here) viewed their audiences. “A culture of immunity and impunity” pervaded the Corporation, and in such a culture, “where the BBC doesn’t trust us, why should we trust it?” Elstein asked. “I would never would never let the BBC interview me on a ‘pre-record’” he said, because he could not trust them to edit it fairly. Paranoid perhaps, but not entirely irrational.

Yet even Elstein did not mention the elephant in the room. That these ongoing crises are symptoms of the huge changes happening in the media. Socks the cat, Imagining Yentob and Queengate are all just outward signs of the gradual breakdown of the barriers surrounding ‘old media’. As they break down, the important thing will not be how broadcasters react to individual incidents, but whether they can see how the landscape is shifting and evolve with it.

Written by Martin Moore

September 25th, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,

Disenchantment with mainstream news media mounting

without comments

If you’re young, male, right-wing (and American), chances are you’ll be highly critical of the mainstream news media. If you watch Fox as well, you’re unlikely to believe a word you read. So says the latest survey about attitudes to news organisations from the Pew Center for People and Press.

Expand the sample slightly and you find that people who use the internet as their main source of news think news organisations are biased, inaccurate, too critical of America, and don’t give a hoot for who they report on. On this last question (‘Do you think news organisations care about the people they report on?’), only 20% of internet users think news organisations empathise with their subjects. Mind you, only 40% of those most sympathetic believe mainstream media care. I guess cynicism towards news organisations is about as low in the US as it is in the UK.

Neither does the survey make heartening reading for those in mainstream news if you expand it to the whole sample (1,503 adults, telephone survey, July 2007). Most people think that, over the last 20 years, news organisations have become less moral, more damaging to democracy, less accurate, more politically biassed, and less professional. Particularly scary is the number of people who now think stories are often inaccurate, up from 34% in 1985 to 53% in 2007, a relative rise of well over 50%.

It’s difficult to know how much of this translates to the UK. But given the recent polls about declining trust in the BBC, and the many surveys that track our lack of trust in British newspapers, I suspect the figures here may be similar or worse.

Written by Martin Moore

August 14th, 2007 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,