I was listening to a discussion the other day. A radio guest was questioning why certain things were not being said in relation to the media coverage of the Queen’s death. The issues were in no way disrespectful and I considered them to be sensible and pragmatic but the presenter cut her short and politely reminded her that “there may be a time and place for a discussion of that nature but now is certainly not the time and I feel that will be the case for some time to come”. This seems to be happening an awful lot right now. My first reaction was to feel the following:
- a sense that the media are controlling a narrative in a similar way to what we have experienced with Covid, lockdowns and vaccinations;
- a strong empathy with that member of the public; a strong belief that the Queen herself would not have wanted the cancelling of important health services, funerals, sporting and other entertainment events, high street trade and measures that would assist our government-trashed economy; and neither would she have been comfortable with debate around such issues being stifled;
- when will there ever be a time for this discussion and, as appears to be happening with regards to Covid, will that time of openness and debate, when it finally arrives, be well past its sell-by date?
I feel this way as I attempt to imagine what the Queen, through all her kindness and consideration and devotion to a lifetime of selfless service to the public, would have wanted.
The amount of attention given to the current main news story is understandable and if some feel it is too much (including myself at times) they can switch off. But the whole situation can be difficult or even painful for some. I find myself again in a similar situation to the early phase of Covid where I talk to my friends, many of whom had (and now have) similar views but are unable to share them with the wider public through fear of being accused of disloyalty, selfishness or even heresy – such is the overwhelming control of the media narrative. Notice also that I have not, on this occasion, written ‘mainstream media narrative’ as is usual in my articles. The current narrative seems all-pervasive and the silencing of the poor woman I witnessed on the radio now seems more in keeping with what one would expect in a repressive, autocratic regime.
These days media companies may thrive by being paid by large organisations, either directly or through advertising, with the aim of influencing the consumer’s views to benefit their own purposes and multi-million pound businesses. When it comes to current affairs and news, shouldn’t there be a standard that both broadcasters and their readership can refer to and a code of practice incorporating a declaration of interests to protect the public?
If news is allowed to be dominated by large organisations or factors that determine their revenue it becomes more difficult for us to accurately assess our circumstances and more important that we have mechanisms to safeguard against this. We run the risk of being misinformed, disinformed or being nudged into decisions that might profoundly affect our future. Some will be more adversely affected than others. So whilst the sceptics and ‘critical thinkers’ among us are more likely to digest things with a large pinch of salt, the less sceptical and more trusting (regardless of educational attainment) are more vulnerable. This leads to a ‘false democracy’, since the public may end up accepting, consenting to and voting for things that turn out to be false.
Justice has to be seen to be done. Below, I propose a system to keep potential bias in check and rule out a potential excuse that, the BBC for example, devotes more airtime to one side of an argument or conceals information (as with the BBC’s ‘Unvaccinated‘) simply because it says that is what the public is most interested in.
So whilst the news relating to our late Queen, who lived for 96 years, has earned so much media coverage, wouldn’t she also have wanted a proportionate amount of professional journalistic time and analysis devoted to the death of around 96 babies (many of whom failed to survive for more than 96 days) in the Shrewsbury Maternity Scandal?
Instead of having BBC News and Ofcom in its present form, we should replace both with a system described below to give us a national broadcaster that we can trust for current affairs reports.
Ideally, before we reached that stage we would have to ensure that children are educated in a similar way to that described in one of my previous articles, so that their critical thinking skills and scepticism would be primed for their protection. That would provide the groundwork for a ‘People’s News Channel’. The proposal in brief:
- all news topics to be vigorously debated by experts with opposing views;
- the time given to and the quality of expertise provided by each participant would be reasonably matched;
- the time allotted to each news topic would be proportionate to the significance posed to the health and general wellbeing of society.
History has taught us that information once perceived and presented as fact often turns out to be false or less clear-cut. So those experts opposing the majority view should have as much say even if they represent a clear minority. The system can be supported because there will always be enough people who demand the truth and open free speech.
The BBC received a record 500,000 complaints over ‘perceived bias’ last year, so what I’m looking for is a reformed BBC News channel (or at least a taxpayer funded news channel) that is designed on an ethical, politically-neutral debating platform that simply puts out high quality opposing views so that the public can make up their own minds on important matters which:
- may determine their futures and;
- act as a reference for other media outlets to perhaps take sides (with one view or another or somewhere in the middle) and stimulate further (and possibly deeper) interest, debate and interaction with the public.
Ofcom should become redundant in its current form. The Communication Act 2003 specifies the six things Ofcom must do to fulfil its duty. It is clear to me that it is failing in:
- the third on that list: “High quality and wide appeal” – not for the many sceptics;
- the fifth on the list: “protection from offensive and harmful material” – is caution from medical experts about lockdowns, vaccine safety and efficacy harmful and offensive? Why should Ofcom decide when it can be responsibly and widely debated first?;
- last on the list: “provide adequate protection against unfairness” – is it fair to prevent bereaved relatives of vaccine victims or those suffering severe vaccine injuries from being able to have a voice and, again, why should Ofcom decide when the subject can be properly debated first?
Others might have something to say about how Ofcom fulfils its duty in relation to points 1, 2 and 4, but it is clear to me that we need a different type of regulator and BBC News channel that acts more democratically and is held more accountable. It is very telling and, quite frankly disgraceful, that Ofcom has apparently been trying to shut down Mark Steyn’s show on GB News.
A truly independent, corruption-free, taxpayer funded news channel could provide a trusted model and reference with which all other news outlets might be compared (and possibly shamed).
Some people may think that the idea of a sort of ‘paragon of news’ could not happen. But only if we sit back and do nothing is that true. I am no longer happy to write articles without offering up ideas. But my ideas or those belonging to any writer that has fought against the prevailing narrative of the last few years will forever fall on deaf ears as long as the public have been brainwashed into believing what the mainstream media have portrayed by their censoring of rigorous and fair debate. The evidence for the depth of harms resulting from Covid lockdowns, vaccination programmes and the Net Zero agenda is emerging now even in some of the mainstream media. It is possible to do something about it and we should demand an improvement to the quality of news.
Dr. Mark Shaw is a retired dentist.