The internet broke the mainstream media’s cartel. That’s why politicians now choose to bypass it. By Charles Moore. This brilliant article is about the UK, but the themes apply here too.
Most of the [other important public-affairs broadcasters] have different motives. They wish to show how “woke” they are on issues such as feminism, LGBT rights and climate change, and “call out” those (roughly 90 per cent of the population) who fail to pass these tests. …
In the Eighties, when the “mainstream media” held unchallenged sway, I became a lobby journalist. This system, which survives in modified form, controlled who could pick up political news in Parliament and the usually anonymous terms (“sources close to the prime minister”, etc) on which it could be reported. As a new boy, I watched with some puzzlement how, at the end of lobby briefings, the most senior correspondents would huddle together in the room and decide among themselves what the story was. Despite working for rival channels and newspapers, they would settle the news line together.
This made life easy for us hacks, but exactly exemplified Adam Smith’s famous dictum that “people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public”.
We could be quite brave in our challenging questions to ministers, preening ourselves with that cant phrase about “speaking truth to power”; but what we passed on to readers, listeners and viewers was more for our convenience than for theirs. We were a sort of cartel.
Such practices help explain why the mainstream media (nowadays referred to, mainly by its opponents, as the MSM) have been having such a hard time in the online era. When people began to acquire other means of discovering information, they liked them. They found that the service given them by the MSM was often lazy, wrong, inadequate, or biased without saying so. They were at last free to choose other sources. So a great many of them did, and do.
No group has found this harder to deal with than the BBC, though of course it uses its privilege of income guaranteed by the compulsory licence fee to kill internet rivals who have to compete in an open market. Technology is making the corporation’s revenue stream insecure. Plurality has exposed its traditional authority as a form of fake news. …
Yesterday’s climate strike started in Australia. It would have been helpful background if the BBC had reminded us that the Liberal Party unexpectedly won the May general election there, chiefly because voters rebelled against energy prices which had been forced up by green rejection of the country’s vast fossil-fuel resources. It is part of the BBC mindset that “protest”, especially when made by the young, has a special moral virtue. The same mindset has no such belief in the virtue of majority votes in a democracy: look at how it covers Brexit. …
In the case of Mr Johnson, something has happened which I never remember before. Large sections of the MSM, led by the BBC, decided from his very first day that it would destroy him as Prime Minister. He was given no honeymoon, no benefit of the doubt. Every story is concerted to match the hostile narrative (this week, a Labour activist was found to abuse him in a hospital about the NHS). Interviews, if agreed to, would be fuel for the same thing. So it would be worse than useless for Boris to give one. It is part of Donald Trump’s shocking brilliance that he understands such things and tweets, without mediation, instead.
Same goes double for the ABC in Australia, who have even less competition.