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Media: all the tat that's fit to print

Richard North, 10/11/2012  


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When the lead "news" item in the Daily Mail is on the adventures of a polyeurathane snowman, the state broadcaster is eating its words over false accusations about a senior Tory politician, and the lead in other newspapers is the resignation of General David Petraeus over an extramarital affair, it is unsurprising that real news struggles for a hearing.

This is actually quite dangerous, as a healthy democracy requires an alert, interested and active population. But since we don't have a democracy anyway – or anything even approaching one – the failure of the news media any longer  to perform a useful function is not so terribly important. As a branch of the entertainment industry, it has little relevance to how we are governed.

That Mr Cameron too has allowed himself to be absorbed into the entertainment industry, occupying a breakfast sofa the morning after he had been talking with Merkel and should have been dealing with serious things – also tells you that national politics no longer has the gravitas that it once had.

But, if the power has been exported to Brussels, the British media has not followed. Instead, it has trivialised itself and has focused largely on itself, while pandering to the baser instincts of its residual audience.

But when the "noise" level is so high, one wonders whether it is even worth trying to be heard. The roar of the tat drowns out attempts to run a different agenda. What thus comes over from so many of my friends, colleagues and acquaintances is the tendency to switch off entirely. It is simply not worth the effort of trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. The mental "off" switch is the only rational option.

This is quite understandable. When a tsunami approaches, one does not stand and face it. One runs for cover. So it is with the media. We build our shelter and let the roar of the tat cascade over us and drain away. Eventually, sense will return – everything is cyclical – and a grown-up media will re-emerge. But it seems to be a dreadfully long time in coming. How long are we going to have to wait?

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