Tag Archives: media

Three ways our democracy is being undermined

The articles that have appeared after the BBC’s referendum debate in Glasgow have given a lot of prominence to that one man who blamed the state of political discourse for his confusion as to how to vote.

This was too interesting not to comment on.

The audience was divided into leavers, remainers, and undecideds.

Leave and Remain both have their own ‘Project Fear’. Leavers tout a cultural crisis in the form of mass migration. Remainers raise the spectre of economic catastrophe.

Fear Projects, whereever they come from, are a concerted attempt to sway the public with threats dangerous enough to repeat frequently in scarce media time.

On the face of it my generation ought to be the most engaged generation there has ever been. Social media has turned every one of us into campaigners and journalists: we auto-report our lives and volunteer our opinions publicly. We are also happy to parrot or share anything we agree with.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Yet another headline writer trivialises violence against women

I’m very conscious of the way the media trivialises men’s violence against women. Often a false narrative is constructed to somehow give the impression that the abuser had some sort of excuse for their behaviour.

A story in today’s Metro, or more specifically its headline is a good example of terrible practice.

Let’s look at what the man in question actually did to his girlfriend:

Anwaar was open to fits of rage. In one incident she fell unconscious when he throttled her after smashing up her iPhone, slapping and kicking her.

He also attacked her in front of her sons and on two or three occasions slapped her around the back of the head.

Prosecutor Nicola Quinney said Anwaar had held a knife to Miss Doherty’s throat, asking her if she wanted him to kill her, and saying he wasn’t scared of a life sentence. During the attack, Miss Doherty’s son Ethan, three, was hiding under the bed.

So that’s a pretty serious series of violent incidents that fully deserved a decent jail term.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 13 Comments

Nothing of public interest in lurid headlines about SNP MPs

Pick up any newspaper today, particularly the Scottish ones, and you’ll find a whole load of froth about two SNP MPs who have apparently had relationships, not at the same time, with the same woman. Both MPs have separated from their wives, most recently Deputy Leader Stewart Hosie from Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison at the weekend.

Those events will be particularly traumatic for the people involved and most especially for their children. I can’t however, see why it is any of our business. If either of them had shown hypocrisy and sought to curb others’ personal freedom, then perhaps calling them out for that would be relevant. Where is the public interest in this?

Much of the reporting is sensationalised and, more importantly, misogynistic on all sorts of levels. The woman concerned is cast as the “home wrecker” and extensive scrutiny is made of her blogs she has written which are simply not relevant. Nor is it appropriate to compare with the SNP MPs who have had to resign the whip and sit as independents. They have had to do because of various allegations of financial misconduct which are being investigated, not their personal lives

We really don’t need to know all of this stuff, and I wish editors would think about the effects of their articles on everyone affected. It’s hard enough for kids to come to terms with parents’ separation without their schoolmates hearing all sorts of lurid, unverifiable speculation. Maybe people who buy these papers and enjoy reading these stories should ask themselves how they would feel if it was their child going through it. We need to remember that behind each wild headline are lots of people having a really hard time. Our demand for such coverage makes their lives worse and it’s not necessary.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 25 Comments

Nicola Sturgeon faces similar press trashing to Clegg in 2010 – but with added misogyny

I might have some fairly fundamental disagreements with Nicola Sturgeon on the best future for Scotland, but I have a great deal of time for her as a human being and as a politician. She is a much cleverer tactician than Alex Salmond ever was. I am perfectly happy to argue with people on their political outlook, but I’m not struck on the sort of nasty personal mudslinging that we see at PMQs, or in Labour’s deeply misleading personal attack on Nick Clegg last year and I sure as hell am not going to make up my mind how to vote based on how someone eats a bacon sandwich. Nor, I suspect, are the rest of the population.

It appears that after her very good performance in Thursday’s Leaders’ Debate that Nicola Sturgeon is, highly predictably, being done over by the right wing press in much the same way that Nick Clegg was in 2010. Remember Nick Barlow’s wonderful way of dealing with that – the #nickcleggsfault meme on Twitter where Clegg was blamed from everything to the weather to the cat being sick?

Of course, Nicola is getting much different treatment to a man. Her clothes come in to it. The Daily Fail describes her as a “glamorous power-dressing imperatrix.” Wow. A woman goes out wearing smart clothes. How remarkable. Of course, if she rocked up for FMQs in Parliament in her jeans, they’d have something to say about that, too. On appearance, women really can’t win.

The Telegraph’s splash is a bit different. Last night, when I read their account that she’d told the French ambassador that she’d prefer David Cameron to be Prime Minister, it didn’t seem right to me. Apart from anything else, the Nicola Sturgeon I know has more sense than to be so indiscreet. The paper bases its story on a memo written by a UK Government official who wasn’t even at the meeting in question and who actually doubts its veracity. It’s all very third hand and clearly questionable.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 87 Comments

Today’s headlines show just how much work is still to do on mental health stigma

All of us have been moved by the Germanwings plane crash, feeling for those who have lost loved ones or colleagues. The circumstances of the crash, caused by what seems to be a deliberate act by the co-pilot, has provoked much comment in the press, much of it deeply irresponsible. Headlines have screamed about Andreas Lubitz’s mental health demanding to know why he was allowed to fly.

Lurid headlines, written by sub-editors who clearly have no clue about mental health, do not help to either tackle the stigma faced by people with mental ill health or encourage those who suffer to seek help. The more open we can be about mental health, the more we understand. That leads to a more comfortable and sympathetic world for those who are suffering.

It’s worth reading this statement from Mind, which acts the media to report the issue responsibly:

The terrible loss of life in the Germanwings plane crash is tragic, and we send our deepest sympathies to the families. Whilst the full facts are still emerging, there has been widespread media reporting speculating about the link with the pilot’s history of depression, which has been overly simplistic.

Clearly assessment of all pilots’ physical and mental health is entirely appropriate – but assumptions about risk shouldn’t be made across the board for people with depression, or any other illness. There will be pilots with experience of depression who have flown safely for decades, and assessments should be made on a case by case basis.

Today’s headlines risk adding to the stigma surrounding mental health problems, which millions of people experience each year, and we would encourage the media to report this issue responsibly.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Opinion: The power of the media for good or ill

The existence of a free press is one of the hard-won aspects of our society, that makes it what it is. Added to this is the existence of a free broadcasting system and the internet, some of which features other countries are lucky enough to share.

Of course, there are problems associated with a free media, including the issue that it is largely profit-driven and can therefore occasionally overstep the mark of what many ‘ordinary’ people consider to be acceptable behaviour. Delving too deeply into the private lives of those who are not in a position to defend themselves is one example of what can go wrong. On the other hand, revealing the depths of corruption in various public bodies is something for which we should thank them.

It is therefore with a degree of diffidence that I wonder whether some of the 24 hour a day coverage we see is actually a bad thing. Take for example, recent events in Sydney, Australia.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 3 Comments

Baroness Floella Benjamin writes…Tax break for children’s programmes is great news

I am overjoyed with the wonderful news that the Chancellor has extended tax breaks to children’s television productions. This is something I have campaigned on for years as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and the Arts. I have asked questions and spoken on this issue in the House of Lords, supported by Pact (Producers Alliance for Cinema & Television) and the Children’s Media Foundation.

I always say, ‘Childhood lasts a lifetime’ and we can all remember our favourite children’s television programme, they hold fond memories, which are part of our formative years.

But even though children’s programmes are much loved, they are often undervalued and those who contribute to this sector of the creative industries are rarely credited.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments
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