I gave a talk to some lovely people from the university’s WI group last week.
They asked some great questions, and gave me a cup of tea and a bottle of wine. Result.
One question I asked them was: Is there such a thing as The Media?
Are we all the same, to be tarred with the same brush and treated with the same suspicion?
My argument has always been that we’re not; that the regional and local media operate to standards of transparency, accuracy, sensitivity and integrity that some national outlets could never meet. And that we have an accountability that others don’t: we have to look the people we’ve written about in the eye and justify every word we’ve written.
So what if one element of the media comes under attack?
There’s long been a debate in the US over how other broadcasters should react when Donald Trump or his team decide to ban a journalist or TV station from the White House.
I’ve always been sympathetic to the argument that those rivals should boycott press conferences, or at least make a point of asking the question that their excluded fellow reporter could not.
But what if the Mail is banned from Labour press conferences? Should the Guardian refuse to attend?
What should football reporters do when one of their number is banned from press conferences or the press box? Should Radio Devon have shunned the increasingly despondent post-match interviews when my beloved Plymouth Argyle threw their toys out of the Home Park pram with the Herald?
It’s an issue given new life by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
After a bruising story about the organisation’s funding, the party has apparently told Channel 4 News it’s no longer welcome at its events.
Buzzfeed’s media reporter Mark di Stefano has asked the BBC, ITV and other broadcasters whether they’re going to express solidarity with C4 by operating their own self-imposed blacklist.
I’ve contacted the major UK broadcasters – BBC News/ITV News/Sky News/LBC radio – to see whether they’ll continue to cover the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage’s events while Channel 4 News is “blacklisted” from attending for its story.
I’ll keep you updated with each response. https://t.co/JCW7U1f3fJ
— Mark Di Stefano 🤙🏻 (@MarkDiStef) May 20, 2019
There’s no shortage of support for the idea on Twitter.
The other broadcasters should show solidarity and decline to cover until Channel 4 is reinstated – this is just Trump bullshit and should be resisted https://t.co/mllPvTRheD
— Marina Hyde (@MarinaHyde) May 21, 2019
All media should boycott Brexit Party events if they have really blacklisted Channel 4 News for exposing the truth. https://t.co/TypbNSXAT3
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) May 21, 2019
I think there’s a clear difference between this situation and a ban imposed on the print/online media.
The Mail, the Guardian – and even the Plymouth Herald should it decide to throw decades of impartiality to the wind – can take up political stances with impunity.
Channel 4 News cannot, and certainly not at election time.
The fact that there is a complex and tightly-regulated infrastructure which governs the reporting of broadcasters means that the temper tantrums of political parties should be taken more seriously.
Channel 4 News is required by Ofcom to provide due impartiality, to balance out its coverage and its questioning.
Who knows what Ofcom would make of a decision by all the broadcasters to pull out of Brexit Party coverage, in a spirit that says ‘if you attack one of us, you attack us all.’
I imagine Nigel Farage would absolutely love it because it would allow him to play the victim on behalf of the entire Brexit community all over again.
You could write his speeches now about the metropolitan elite closing ranks to ignore the British people, and showing their true leftie liberal colours.
He wouldn’t be subject to scrutiny from the Marr show, or from the far more effective BBC Wales political reporter Arwyn Jones, who last week offered up a bit of a masterclass in challenging politicians.
— Arwyn Jones (@jonesarwyn) May 16, 2019
So maybe a blanket boycott isn’t the answer.
But I would love to see Laura Kuenssberg openly asking questions on behalf of Channel 4 at a Farage event.
I’d love to see ITV saying this is a question from our friends at Channel 4, Mr Farage.
Sometimes, there does need to be one media.