Unpopular premier slams popular press
June 12, 2007 1:19 PM   Subscribe

The UK media is like a "Feral Beast", and is undermining Britain, says Tony Blair. Simon Kelner, editor of The Independent, responds. Some reasons why Blair might not be too keen on the press.
posted by Artw (21 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Thieves, male prostitutes, venal writers, venal newspapers. Such is our 'big press'."

Solution? "On October 26 (November 8), 1917, the Revolutionary Military Committee took a decision to close down a number of bourgeois newspapers — Rech, Dyen and others — for their counter-revolutionary propaganda. The Decree on the Press was adopted by the Council of People's Commissars the next day."

For the bourgeoisie, freedom of the press meant freedom for the rich to publish and for the capitalists to control the newspapers, a practice which in all countries, including even the freest, produced a corrupt press.

Shut 'em down, Tony! The People are with you!
posted by languagehat at 1:44 PM on June 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

Do you disagree with this statement though with regards the news media being driven by marketshare "The result was that the media was increasingly "and to a dangerous degree" driven by "impact" which was, in turn, "unravelling standards, driving them down," he said."
posted by zeoslap at 2:00 PM on June 12, 2007

Tell him to send them here to the US to replace our toothless press.
posted by octothorpe at 2:02 PM on June 12, 2007

I notice blair using that odious term "balance" to refer to the news. The use of the idea of balanced news is sheer and bald-faced manipulation. If the newspapers aren't printing half against you and half for you it's because your side has so very little of substance in support of it. No balance in the world would rest evenly with a kilogram on one side and a gram on the other, no matter how much you yelled at it to be fair to the gram.
posted by shmegegge at 2:33 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I can just imagine Blair waking up in the morning thinking "Palmerston never got all this earhole". In that respect I can understand his comment but really what is he suggesting? The news is fragmenting and it is impossible to imagine the government being able to keep up with enforcing what is said, which is not really a bad thing as them doing so is a far more nightmarish prospect.

Just as ha'penny papers being sold in the past to lower classes was seen as a threat it is now accepted as a boon rather than a bane (OK most of that printed is crap but at least we're reading something, even if it is an opinion piece on some vacuous wannabe).

"[I]nternet broadcasting blurred the line between TV and newspapers" Blair claimed and suggested more central control. No. Internet broadcasting blurred the line between the internet and newspapers.

There is no way with the tools we have now that the government can hopefully control what is said. Doesn't mean they won't try but it won't work.
posted by Gratishades at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2007

blair = whiny bitch.

That said, the UK papers do seem a bit dreary.
posted by delmoi at 2:53 PM on June 12, 2007

I listen to BBC interviews of politicians all the time. It is pretty great to hear them hold the politicians' feet to the fire in a way you would never see in the American broadcast journalism I grew up with. On the other hand, sometimes the points the journalists make are completely unfair. But all in all, I'd rather have the British system.
posted by grouse at 3:16 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

This is definitely a badge of honour for The Independant. I hope to see a significant rise in their circulation tomorrow.

14 days to go. Has Blair piqued early?
posted by Shave at 4:06 PM on June 12, 2007

Mr Blair, who will step down as prime minister on 27 June, admitted that New Labour's own attempts to "court" and "assuage" the media in the early days of his government may have contributed to the problem.

You think?! And for Tony 'sofa government' Blair to complain about the press undermining Parliament is just hysterical.
posted by jack_mo at 5:53 PM on June 12, 2007

Yep, what jack_mo said. If you run government to news cycles rather than a clear policy vision, you must share your portion of the blame.
posted by Abiezer at 6:51 PM on June 12, 2007

ah, fuck. I went through this with Thatcher. They whined about 'perceptions' being the problem, then they fired her out of a cannon, then Blair got in.

When they blame the media the fat lady is already singing.
posted by unSane at 8:05 PM on June 12, 2007

a person who's been called a poodle and a lapdog really shouldn't be calling other people feral beasts
posted by pyramid termite at 8:27 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

You cannot hope to bribe or twist / thank God! The British journalist / But, seeing what the man will do / unbribed, there's no occasion to

Well, Tony, you can't complain if you get bitten by the tiger you rode into office. Craven fear of the Daily Mail is not a principled position for policy-making. You made prime ministerial statements on the fate of soap characters, for pity's sake. The press made you, and it knew that you were scared of it whenever you weren't trying to use, bully, direct or mislead it.
posted by WPW at 8:29 PM on June 12, 2007

WPW, in 70 cogent words, just outdid tomorrow's Maureen Dowd column on (roughly) the same subject by leaps and bounds.
posted by blucevalo at 10:39 PM on June 12, 2007

Blair will remain convinced, till his dying day, that Iraq was a huge success and that everyone else is betraying him by not admiting it. That's why he's always made such a convincing liar: He believes his lies absolutely. He's clearly getting very pissed off with the world for not matching them, and looking for who's fault it is.
posted by Artw at 11:41 PM on June 12, 2007

That said, the UK papers do seem a bit dreary.

Dreary? I'm not sure that is the word.
posted by ninebelow at 1:13 AM on June 13, 2007

There was an interesting thread on the green a few days ago about whether Tony Blair actually writes his own speeches. But I think this speech must be pretty close to Blair's own words: if you read the full text, it has a slightly 'raw' feel to it which suggests it's been transcribed from dictation.

Blair's comments on the media are actually very moderate and restrained (particularly compared with the sort of things that Harold Wilson or Norman Tebbit used to say); he realises that the problem is not inbuilt political bias but competition for a shrinking market and the relentless pressure of the news cycle. I think he's right.

As for the Independent .. well, the Independent these days is just an embarrassment (though thankfully they seem to have cut back a bit on the climate-change porn recently). The Guardian recently ran an ad campaign with the slogan 'Opinions are not facts' (you can see a copy of the poster here) -- that's obviously a shot at the Independent, and I took comfort from it as a sign that other people are as fed up with the Independent as I am.
posted by verstegan at 2:20 AM on June 13, 2007

The Independent seems to be turning into a slightly upmarket Mirror. Not sure if that's a good thing.

On the flip side, the Guardian seems to me to have improved rather a lot since it went Berliner.
posted by Luddite at 4:11 AM on June 13, 2007

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Blair complains about the press?

See above.

posted by asok at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2007

I agree with the comments about politicians being slaved to the news cycle, but...umm....wait a minute....who has the power to change this..?

In recent history the UK papers have moved almost seamlessly from the hegemony of Beaverbrook via Maxwell to Murdoch. It's an object lesson on the dangers of allowing individuals an inordinate share of the news media. If anything can guarantee a democracy, it's a free press. Current monopoly rules are not sufficient to guarantee a free press - there needs to be more than 2 or 3 corporate players in the field. Blair has been all too cosy with Rupert to start crying now.

Additionally, the populist ratings drive pressed upon the BBC has lowered the bar in terms of serious debate. What's the point of subsidising a 'quality' channel then subjecting it to the vagaries of the ratings war. Objectivity is not populist, and populism most certainly is not objective.

The BBC's current, post-Hutton report, obsession with balance is eerily reminiscent of the ID debate. Just because you have an ill-informed arsehole loudly spouting an opinion does not mean that said opinion has any objective weight, nor deserves airtime.

As one of those directly responsible for the current state of affairs, all I want to hear from that fucker Blair is "sorry." And that's before I get on to his neo-con policies....

With any luck, Blair, Maggie and the Queen will soon meet a communal, photogenic, pyrotechnic end and the UK can get on with being an adult, responsible country.

posted by Jakey at 5:27 PM on June 13, 2007

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