Sunday, November 28, 2004

Why It Matters

Conservative bloggers are often accused of being obsessed with a certain Shepherd's Bush pro-terrorist lobbying group. Liberals put on their oh-so-reasonable act and enquire why one media organisation sends us so reliably ballistic. One answer is simply this: The Indie might be horrible, but at least you can read a copy of Right-Wing Maniac Monthly without having to give Robert Fisk a fiver. So yes, the licence fee does grate. But even that's not all of it.

In an excellent article in the American Spectator, Lawrence Henry points out that even in America - home of Rush, Fox et al - the news agenda is still massively influenced by the legacy media. That's why the BBC matters. If journalism is the first draft of history, then the BBC's output sets the frame of reference. It's no exaggeration to say that the Beeb acts as a gatekeeper, determining which stories are the scandal d'jour and which are left by the wayside. That's why BBC bias matters - not only the outright distortions the BBC airs, but also the way it can hype a non-story that suits its agenda (Jenin!) or strangle one that doesn't (Ivory Coast). As long as we have a government-coddled elephantine media organisation in existence, it will be able to distort the news agenda to suit its own ideology.

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