Democratic free press


In a recent blog I put forward the idea that, in this country, we pride ourselves that we have a free press and that it fulfills the important role of holding governments and other institutions to account. We convince ourselves that our free press is the cornerstone of our political system. In the mother of democracy we have bought into the myth that our journalism is there to uncover corruption, highlight inequity and fight on the side of righteousness.

If this is the case where is the voice of the opposition. I don’t mean the official government opposition as in The Labour Party, they get plenty of coverage, but rather the alternative view to some of the major issues that are occupying the minds of the electorate at the moment.

Two spring to mind and whether you agree with then or not, the media coverage is very one sided. Those I have in mind are the United Kingdom leaving the European Union and the upcoming royal wedding.

The press is filled with stories about the so-called Brexit campaign yet there is next to nothing about the views of the 48% of people who voted to remain. (I say so-called as we live in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. #UKExit anyone?)

There is significant opposition still to the referendum outcome yet it gets hardly a whiff. This is particularly remiss of the BBC as it is paid for by public money and its charter requires it to do all it can to ensure controversial subjects are treated with due impartiality in its news and other output dealing with matters of public policy or political or industrial controversy.

As for the coverage of the latest royal engagement and planned wedding, there has been no alternative voice yet a recent survey by ComRes found that just over half of the population believe Britain would be worse off without the monarchy. This means that just under half believed that it would not be. Again this is a similar percentage of the population to the European Union referendum.

Why should we care? A true democratic process can only work if the electorate has access to the information it needs to make an informed decision. If we continue to be presented with only one side of an argument then we are not living in a democracy.

This is not a plea to overturn some of the decisions that have been made. My opinions are clear to me about both topics. Instead it is a plea to stop the slide into a state that is dominated by single views on important issues. It is in all of our interests to support our democracy.

Being given only one version of the truth is nothing more than propaganda.

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