Tuesday, 29 May 2012

tony blair at the leveson inquiry

i felt really sad about the 3 triplets killed in qatar, in a disaster that was poorly managed, to say the least.  i can't imagine what it must be like for the parents and extended family.  losing one child is terrible, but losing 3 at once - 3 who had to struggle when they were born - well, i don't have words.  i'm glad that the tv news coverage has managed to keep away from the family and their grief. it's been pretty non-intrusive & i hope it stays that way.

in other news, i was watching tony blair answering questions at the leveson inquiry last night.  the only positive thing that could be said about him is that he was very smooth, to the point of being slippery.  i guess he had a fine line to tread - trying to not incriminate himself, while railing against the inordinate power of the media and the fact that the current government should do something about it.

in effect, all of his explanations simply give david cameron an out.  everything that is true for blair is true for cameron.  he claims that he never changed a policy position for mr murdoch, which is possibly true.  it's likely that he didn't form a position on certain matters until he knew what would be palatable.  or more likely, he could figure out for himself easily enough what the palatable policies would have been, and took those positions early on.

he talked about "managing the press", which is a euphemism if ever i saw one.  but he looks pretty secure in his position that corruption can't be proven.  he was clear in pointing out the current relationship between press leadership and politicians as problematic, but not really too forthcoming as to solutions.  the most concrete thing i heard was strengthening their version of the press council.

to be fair, it's difficult to figure out how to improve the situation.  how to produce a media sector that holds politicians to account, scrutinises and where necessary critcises their spin, presents the various arguments around policy initiatives.  but also a sector that doesn't give so much power to the individuals that head media organisations that they can begin to dictate policy or positions, or that they can start playing favourites in return for concessions.

controls on media ownership seem to be a pretty reasonable way to go - breaking monopolies that are generally unhealthy in any industry but particularly so for the media.  public funding without strings attached would be helpful too, but how to ensure those strings are cut?  we've had the instance here of mr key's electorate chair being on the board of nz on air, and behaving badly in that role.  we have the national-led government appointing cronies to the board of radio nz.  more transparency in securing these appointments would have been really helpful.

if you haven't read it yet, this piece in the herald by bryan gould is worth a look:

Does any of this matter to us, in New Zealand? Yes, it does

The power that Murdoch has, whether real or perceived, means one man, with extreme views that would be rejected by all but a tiny minority, is able to shape the international political debate behind the scenes, and dictate terms to elected governments, whatever the views of the voters themselves....

The real threat of Rupert Murdoch, in other words, is not just to the decent standards we should expect from our media. It is to the very substance of our democracy. 

i happened to be watching during the bit when the protestor invaded the room & starting yelling about mr blair being a war criminal.  the minute he started, everyone including mr blair, knew the protestor would be leading the news on the inquiry across all media.  the conspiracy theorist in me thinks mr blair must have organised this protest, as a way to deflect attention. but i have to say that his comment was spot on about how, if there were a thousand people in a room & 1 started making a lot of noise, then the other 999 may as well not have been present.  the media would pay attention only to that 1 person, and this was at the heart of the problem.

with so many hours taken up by this hearing, and many more hours yet to go, we can only hope that there will be some serious reform that comes out of it.  unfortunately it's hard to be hopeful.  any change is in the hands of politicians who need the support of media.  regardless of the level of public outrage, i can't see the current lot of politicians standing up and taking them on.

1 comment:

Annanonymous said...

Christopher Hitchens hasn't written much that's worth reading, but in one of rants about Watergate, he made a point about the Democrats' inability to fully blow the whistle on Nixon, because of similarly dreadful things they'd done that would have been exposed - so the wrongdoing in a sense became bipartisan. Kind of a crappy non-aggression pact. That's what your description of Blair and Cameron reminds me of, sadly.