In this first article, we have a story of the mainstream ignoring material that is nonetheless doing the rounds on the internet ... Thank goodness for that.
Stephen Colbert's Attack On Bush Gets A Big 'No Comment' From U.S. Media
Mainstream outlets largely ignore Comedy Central host's scathing remarks at White House dinner.
Stephen Colbert speaks at the White House Correspondents Assoociation dinner in Washington, D.C., on Saturday
Hey, did you hear about the White House Correspondents Association dinner last weekend?
Oh, yeah, that cute thing where President Bush parried with a look-alike and poked fun at himself? That was adorable.
No, not that. Did you hear the three or four dozen verbal napalm bombs that Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert laid out for the president at the annual dinner on Saturday night? No?
Well, maybe it's because much of the mainstream media — from CNN to Fox News, from the "Today" show to The New York Times — ignored or largely glossed over reporting on the stinging zingers Colbert lobbed Bush's way in favor of brief mentions of his more innocuous jokes.
Colbert's comments were nothing if not controversial.
During his show-closing roast, Colbert — whose TV program, "The Colbert Report," is built on the premise that he is a flag-waving Bush apologist — looked the president in the eye and let loose a characteristically blistering barrage of invective, which was met with a stunned silence by the crowd and reportedly made the most powerful man in the free world squirm in his seat on the dais.
Colbert said things like, "Most of all, I believe in this president. Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man has a 32 percent approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias. ... Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half-empty, because 32 percent means it's two-thirds empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash."
There was also sarcastic praise for Bush's tendency to stick to his guns. "The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands," Colbert said. "He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will."
Colbert stayed in character during his entire monologue, calling Bush his "hero" and saying, just a minute into his talk, that being at the correspondents' dinner made him feel like he was dreaming. "Somebody pinch me," he said, setting up a sharp left jab to Vice President Dick Cheney. "You know what? I'm a pretty sound sleeper, that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face."
No aspect of the president's troubles over the past year was given a pass: From the NSA spying scandal ("If anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly on into your table numbers and somebody from the NSA will be right over with a cocktail"), to the premature declaration of "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq he made three years ago to the disastrous government response to Hurricane Katrina.
"I stand by this man because he stands for things," Colbert said. "Not only for things, has he stood on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."
One reason for the media's reluctance to report Colbert's comments could be that some were directed at them.
"Here's how it works," he said. "The president makes decisions, he's the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell-check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you've got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction."
He also took some broad slaps at Fox News, saying the news station gives you every side of a story: "the president's side and the vice president's side."
Not surprisingly, Colbert got a chilly reception after the speech from the president and his wife. According to an account in Editor and Publisher, "as Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and first lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling. The president shook his hand and tapped his elbow, and left immediately."
More surprising has been the chilly reception his speech — the sentiment of which was very much in line with any number of editorials that appear in major American periodicals every week — has received from the mainstream media. Some outlets have essentially treated him as they would a heckler; others criticized his failure to observe the decorum of the annual dinner, the jokes of which traditionally stop well short of Colbert's level of intensity.
Writing in a blog on the Web site of the conservative magazine National Review, reporter Stephen Spruiell suggested that the virtual media blackout was not a result of the press protecting Bush, but rather their colleague, Colbert.
"I like Stephen Colbert — as someone who watches cable news every day, I find his pundit-show satire is dead-on," Spruiell wrote. "But his routine at the WHCD was not funny. It was not effective satire, either. It meandered all over the place, ending with the usual leftist critique of the reporters who cover the White House: that, with the exception of Helen Thomas, they are an uncritical bunch of stenographers who rarely challenge the administration's line on anything. ... The jokes bombed because the truth in comedy is what makes it funny.
"The lefty bloggers who are now complaining believe that Colbert's critique of the White House press corps was accurate, but by and large they also believe that the Bush administration is a criminal enterprise and that all reporters should be spouting invective and accusations at press conferences — like Helen Thomas."
Elizabeth Fishman, assistant dean for academic affairs at the Columbia School of Journalism and a former "60 Minutes" producer, had a different explanation for the media's favoring of the skit with Bush and his impersonator. "I thought some of the things he said were more provocative than what I've typically seen," she said. "But from working in television news, the quick hit — whether it's morning or evening news shows — is to have the Bush impersonator standing next to him. It's an easier set up for visual effect."
However, Columbia School of Journalism professor Todd Gitlin begged to differ. "It's too hot to handle," said Gitlin, who teaches journalism and sociology. "He was scathing toward Bush and it was absolutely devastating. They don't know how to handle such a pointed and aggressive criticism." Gitlin said the criticism was so harsh that its omission from most major news outlets made it all the more remarkable.
"I think this is a case of a media who have tiptoed away from the embrace of the administration and are now reluctant to take what would seem to them a deeper plunge into the wilderness of criticism," Gitlin said. "When Bush makes fun of himself, it's within a very narrow and limited framework. But Colbert's digs went to some of [Bush's] fundamental incapacities."
— Gil Kaufman
This second article is again reporting from the US but is it not relevant here ? If this information is around, the mainstream should be dealing with it. As a matter of urgency. To read it here is great but the general pubic debate is not necessarily being fed the full story ... or is it in your view ? If not, what's to do ?
Pentagon's Plan For Dirty War
By Chris Floyd
04/28/06 "Moscow Times" -- --
Imagine growing up in a family where every day, father raped daughter, mother tortured son, brother abused brother, sister stole from sister and the whole family murdered neighbors, friends and passing strangers. Imagine the underlying assumptions about life that you would adopt without question in such an atmosphere, how normal the most hideous depravity would seem. If some outsider chanced to ask you about your family's latest activities, you would spew out perversions as calmly and unthinkingly as a man giving directions to the post office.
This state of unwitting confession to monstrous crime has been the default mode of the U.S. establishment for many years now. Government officials routinely detail policies that in a healthy atmosphere would shake the nation to its core, stand out like a gaping wound, a rank betrayal of every hope, ideal and sacrifice of generations past. Yet in the degraded sensibility of these times, such confessions go unnoticed, their evil unrecognized -- or even lauded as savvy ploys or noble endeavors. Inured to moral horror by half a century of outrages committed by the "National Security" complex, the establishment, along with the media and vast swathes of the population, can no longer discern the poison in the air they breathe. It just seems normal.
And so it was again this week when The Washington Post outlined the Pentagon's plan to put dirty war -- by death squad, snatch squad, secret armies, subversion, torture and terrorism -- at the very heart of America's military philosophy. Not defense against declared enemies, not deterrence of potential foes, but conducting "continuous" covert military operations in countries "where the United States is not at war" is now the Pentagon's "highest priority," according to the new "campaign plan for the global war on terror" issued by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
What's more, the plan makes it clear that Rumsfeld, far from being politically vulnerable, has in fact been exalted above every other institution and official of the U.S. government, with the exception of the twin tyrants in the White House, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. The Pentagon warlord has been given carte blanche to send the 53,000 secret soldiers of the Special Operations Command into any nation he pleases, to undertake any mission he pleases, without congressional approval, legal restraint or the authority of the target nation's U.S. ambassador. Thus America's diplomats, the ostensible representatives of the nation abroad, have been reduced to mere frontmen, pathetic beards for black ops savaging the laws, sovereignty and citizens of their hosts.
The plan is the culmination and codification of an ad hoc array of progams and powers that Bush has doled out to Rumsfeld over the years, including a series of executive orders signed after the 2004 election that essentially turned the world into a "global free-fire zone" for the Pentagon's secret armies and proxy foreign militias, as a top Pentagon official told The New Yorker. "We're going to be riding with the bad boys," another Bush insider said. Yet another courtier compared it to the glory days of the Reagan-Bush years: "Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador? We founded them and we financed them. The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren't going to tell Congress about it." The overriding ethos of the plan is brutally simple: "The rules are, 'Grab whom you must. Do what you want,'" an intelligence official told The New Yorker.
Perhaps most ominously, the plan makes copious preparations for expanding the range of the war on terror even further. The trigger for these new actions is another terrorist strike on U.S. soil. Oddly enough, the Bush faction views such an unspeakable horror as an "opportunity," Pentagon officials told the Post; it would provide a "justification," they said, for hitting already-targeted individuals, groups and states that for various political reasons have not yet been subjected to what Bush likes to call, in his bloodthirsty parlance, "the path of action."
But perhaps this is not so odd. In November 2002, we wrote here of another "opportunistic" endeavor: the Pentagon's plan to foment terrorism by infiltrating terrorist groups and militias and goading them into action -- i.e., committing acts of murder and destruction -- in order to "flush them out" for counterattacks or use them to advance U.S. policy in targeted states, including "justification" for military intervention or occupation. Perhaps some of Rumsfeld's infiltrators were "riding with the bad boys" who struck in Dahab, Egypt, this week. With unrestricted black ops now ascendant, we can never know for sure. But we do know that each act of terror only enhances the power of the ever-expanding national security complex, entwining it in a mutually beneficial embrace with violent extremists everywhere.
Rumsfeld's "campaign plan" is itself a blueprint for state terrorism, an open license to break any and every law on earth and inflict human suffering on a global scale. Yet the only controversial aspect of this sinister program noted by the Post was the potential turf battles it might spark within the national security bureaucracy. Not a single question was raised about the morality or legality of the undertaking; the Pentagon's assertion that only "bad guys" would be hit was simply swallowed whole -- despite the glaring fact that tens of thousands of innocent people have already been killed or falsely imprisoned in the so-called "war on terror."
But this depravity passes without comment, without recognition. It's just normal, you see. It's the way we were raised.
Chris Floyd Is an American Journalist - Visit his website www.chris-floyd.com
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Subject: AP Erases Video of Israeli Soldier Shooting Palestinian Boy
Alison Weir – Counter Punch March 18/19, 2006
"The trend toward secrecy is the greatest threat to democracy."
- Associated Press CEO, in a speech about the importance of openness
"The official response is we decline to respond."
- Associated Press Director of Media Relations, replying to questions about AP
In the midst of journalism's "Sunshine Week"--during which the Associated Press and other news organizations are valiantly proclaiming the public's "right to know"--AP innsists on conducting its own activities in the dark, and refuses to answer even the simplest questions about its system of international news reporting.
Most of all, it refuses to explain why it erased footage of an Israeli soldier intentionally shooting a Palestinian boy.
AP, according to its website, is the world's oldest and largest news organization. It is the behemoth of news reporting, providing what its editors determine is the news to a billion people each day. Through its feeds to thousands of newspapers, radio and television stations, AP is a major determinant in what Americans read, hear and see--and what they don't.
What they don't is profoundly important. I investigated one such omission when I was in the Pallestinian Territories last year working on a documentary with my colleague (and daughter), who was filming our interviews.
On Oct. 17, 2004 Israeli military forces invaded Balata, a dense, poverty-stricken community deep in Palestine's West Bank (Israel frequently invades this area and others). According to witnesses, the vehicles stayed for about twenty minutes, the military asserting its power over the Palestinian population. The witnesses state that there was no Palestinian resistance--no "clash," no "crossfire," not even any stone-throwing. At one point, after most of the vehicles had finally driven away, an Israeli soldier stuck his gun out of his armored vehicle, aimed at a pre-pubescent boy nearby, and pulled the trigger.
We went to the hospital and interviewed the boy, Ahmad, his doctors, family, and others. Ahmad had bandages around his lower abdomen, where surgeons had operated on his bladder. He said he was afraid of Israeli soldiers, and pulled up his pants leg to show where he had been shot previously.
In the hospital there was a second boy, this one with a shattered femur; and a third boy, this one in critical condition with a bullet hole in his lung. A fourth boy, not a patient, was visiting a friend. He showed us a scarred lip and missing teeth from when Israeli soldiers had shot him in the mouth.
This was not an unusual situation. When I had visited Palestinian hospitals on a previous trip, I had seen many such victims; some with worse injuries. Yet, very few Americans know this is going on. AP's actions in regard to Ahmad's shooting may explain why.
We discovered that an AP cameraman had filmed the entire incident. This cameraman had then followed what apparently is the usual routine. He sent his video--an extremely valuable commodity, since it contained documentary evidence of a war crime--to the AP control bureau for the reegion. This bureau is in Israel.
What happened next is unfathomable. Did AP broadcast it? No. Did AP place the video in safe-keeping, available for an investigation of this crime? No.
According to its cameraman, AP erased it.
We were astounded. We traveled to AP's control bureau in Israel. With our own video camera out and running, we asked bureau chief Steve Gutkin about this incident. Was the information we had been told correct, or did he have a different version? Did the bureau have the video, or had they indeed erased it. If so, why?
Gutkin, repeatedly looking at the camera and visibly flustered, told us that AP did not allow its journalists to give interviews. He told us that all questions must go to Corporate Communications, located in New York. He explained that they were on deadline and couldn't talk. I said I understood deadline pressure, and sat down to wait until they were done. When he called Israeli police to arrest us, we left.
Back in the US later, I phoned Corporate Communications and reached Director of Media Relations Jack Stokes, AP's public relations spokesman. I had conversed with Stokes before.
Over the past several years I have noticed disturbing flaws in AP coverage of Israel-Palestine: newsworthy stories not being covered, reports sent to international newspapers but not to American ones, stories omitting or misreporting significant facts, critical sentences being removed from updated reports.
I would phone AP with the appropriate correction or news alert. One time this resulted in a flawed news story being slightly corrected in updates. In a few cases stories were then covered that had been neglected. In many cases, however, I was told that I needed to speak to Corporate Communications. I would phone Corporate Communications, leave a message, and wait for a response. Most often, none came.
Several times, however, I was able to have long conversations with AP spokesman Stokes. None of these conversations, however, ever ended with AP taking any action. Some typical responses:
* The omitted story was "not newsworthy."
* The story deemed by AP editors to be newsworthy to the rest of the world--e.g. Israel's brutal imprisonment of over 300 Palestinian youths--was not newsworthy in the US (Israel's major ally).
* Burying a report of Israeli forces shooting a four-year-old Palestinian girl in the mouth was justified.
* Misreporting an incident in which an Israeli officer riddled a 13-year-old girl at close range with bullets was unimportant.
Despite this unresponsive pattern, when I learned firsthand of an AP bureau erasing footage of an atrocity, I again phoned Corporate Communications. I no longer had much expectation that AP would take any corrective action, but I did expect to receive some information. I gave spokesperson Stokes the numerous details about this incident that we had gathered on the scene and asked him the same questions I had asked Gutkin. He said he would look into this and get back to me.
After several days he had not gotten back to me, so I again phoned him. He said that he had looked into this incident, and that AP had determined that this was "an internal matter" and that they would give no response.
While I should have known better, I was again astounded. AP was blatantly violating fundamental journalistic norms of ethical behavior, and clearly felt it had the power to get away with it.
Journalism, according to the Statement of Principles of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, is a "sacred trust." It is the bulwark of a free society and is so essential to the functioning of a democracy that our forefathers affirmed its primacy in the very first amendment of the Bill of Rights.
According to the Society of Professional Journalists, one of the four major pillars of journalistic ethics is to "Be Accountable." According to SPJ's Code of Ethics:
"Journalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other.
* Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
* Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
* Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
* Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media.
* Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
Finally, this week, on deadline with a chapter about media coverage of Israel-Palestine, I again tried to confirm some of my facts with AP. Certainly, I felt, during "Sunshine Week" AP would respond. As part of the Sunshine campaign, AP's CEO and President Tom Curley is traveling the country giving speeches on the necessity of transparency and accountability (for government) and emphasizing "the openness that effective democracy requires."
"The trend toward secrecy," AP's president has correctly been pointing out, "is the greatest threat to democracy."
I emailed my questions to AP, talked to Stokes by phone, and again was told he would get back to me. Again, I got back to him. Then, in a surreal exchange, he conveyed AP's reply: "The official response is we decline to respond." As I asked question after question, many as simple as a confirmation of the number of bureaus AP has in Israel-Palestine, the response was silence or a repetition of: "The official response is we decline to respond."
The next day I tried phoning AP's President Curley directly. I was unable to reach Curley, since he was on the road giving his Sunshine Week speeches ("Secrecy," Curley says, "is for losers"), but I left a message for him with an assistant. She said someone would respond.
I am still waiting.
It is clearly time to go to AP's superiors. The fact is, AP is a cooperative. It is not owned by Corporate Communications spokespeople or by its CEO or even by its board of directors. It is owned by the thousands of newspapers and broadcast stations around the United States that use AP reports. These newspapers, radio and television stations are the true directors of AP, and bear the responsibility for its coverage.
In the end, it appears, the only way that Americans will receive full, unbiased reporting from AP on Israel-Palestine will be when these member-owners demand such coverage from their employees in the Middle East and in New York. As long as AP's owners remain too busy or too negligent to ensure the quality and accuracy of their Israel-Palestine coverage, the handful of people within AP who are distorting its news reporting on this tragic, life-and-death, globally destabilizing issue will quite likely continue to do so.
In the final analysis, therefore, it is up to us--members of the public--to step in. Everyone who believes that Americans have the right and the need to receive full, undistoorted information on all issues, including Israel-Palestine, must take action. We must require our news media to fulfill their profoundly important obligation, and we must ourselves distribute the critical information our media are leaving out.
If we don't take action, no one else will.
SECOND ARTICLE TO READ:
Peter Hitchens on C4 (Monday 27th February 2006) had composed a documentary essay on the progress the State is making in Britain against open democratic liberty. Under anti-terror laws and increasing surveillance, much is changing. NOW READ THIS -
Two actors in a new documentary film on the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay and two former Guantánamo prisoners were detained and interrogated by the Special Branch on February 16.
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul were part of the “Tipton Three” (the other was Asif Iqbal), British citizens who were held at the base in Cuba for more than two years before they were released in March of 2004. They were never charged by their American jailers with any crime. The young men were all from Tipton in the West Midlands.
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul were returning from the Berlin Film Festival with Rizwan Ahmed and Farhad Harun, two actors who play them in a new documentary The Road to Guantánamo, when they were stopped and questioned for more than an hour at London’s Luton Airport.
The documentary by director Michael Winterbottom had won the prestigious Silver Bear award at the festival.
The detention of the four men was a flagrant violation of democratic rights, underscoring the extent to which Prime Minister Tony Blair’s anti-terror laws are leading in the direction of a police state.
The detaining officer told the actor Rizwan Ahmed that he and the others had been stopped at immigration because anyone with “terror links” had to be questioned. But the two ex-Guantánamo prisoners have never been charged, let alone convicted, of any terrorist-related crime, and must therefore be considered, as a legal matter, to have no more “terror links” than any other person entering the country.
The fact that the actors were also detained is especially chilling, since their only “terror link” was being in the company of the two former Guantánamo prisoners. This indicates that, in the eyes of British immigration and police authorities, anyone in any way associated with those illegally detained as “enemy combatants” by the US are automatically suspect and subject to detention and interrogation—or worse.
Winterbottom’s film shows how the three youths from Tipton set off for Pakistan in September 2001 to attend Iqbal’s wedding and subsequently volunteered for aid work in neighbouring Afghanistan. When the US assault on Afghanistan began, the three were captured by Northern Alliance soldiers, who handed them over to American forces. They ended up at the Guantánamo prison camp.
After they were released they gave interviews detailing their torture and abuse at the hands of their American captors. Rasul explained, for example, that he was not allowed out of his cell for the first six weeks he was at the camp. He said, “There was a hook on the floor and leg irons attached to the hook, and they put your hands between your ankles on the floor and chained you to the hook on the floor as well. They’d keep you there for five hours, six hours—you couldn’t go to the toilet, you’d have to urinate, defecate where you are.”
Clive Stafford Smith, legal director of the human rights organisation Reprieve, denounced the detention of the four at Luton Airport. He said the Special Branch was adding “insult to injury by harassing innocent men who suffered for two long years in Guantánamo Bay before being released without charge.” He added, “As if that were not enough, the Special Branch then detains the actors who portray them in a film.”
According to a press report, on the arrival of the four back in Britain, Shafiq Rasul was stopped at the immigration desk. Shortly afterwards, Rizwan Ahmed (who plays Rasul in the film) was questioned by a Special Branch officer in the baggage claim area. She took notes of his answers and made notations from his passport. When the young actor asked why he was being questioned, he was taken to an interview room.
The officer asked to examine the contents of Rizwan Ahmed’s wallet, whereupon the actor asked to speak to a lawyer. He was told that he had no right to legal advice. The officer showed him a blank form with the heading “Section 7 of the Terrorism Act Detention Form,” which stated that a superintendent could order a person to be detained for up to 48 hours without any outside contact, not even with a lawyer.
The actor asked whether the officer was a superintendent, at which point he was told he was not being held under this form and would be denied access to a lawyer only for the first hour of questioning.
When the officer left the room, Ahmed used his mobile phone to call an academic lawyer friend, Ravinder Thukral. The latter then spoke to the officer directly. It was not clear whether any legal case was being made for refusing to allow Ahmed to make calls, or whether he was simply not being assisted by those holding him. Thukral contacted Reprieve, which has represented many of the Guantánamo detainees.
Before Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve could contact Ahmed, the actor, under the threat of “continued detention,” allowed the officer to go through his wallet. The officer noted down details of his bank card as well as business cards he was carrying.
The officer reportedly asked Ahmed whether he intended to make more films, and if he had become an actor to make films “to publicise the struggles of Muslims.” The actor was also asked about his political views, including his attitude to the Iraq war.
Ahmed said the officer then suggested he become an informant, asking whether he would mind being contacted regularly by officers, in case he overheard people “discussing illegal activities.”
At this point Stafford Smith contacted Ahmed on his mobile telephone. Under instruction, the actor told the officer that a solicitor from the office of human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce (who had represented the Tipton Three) would call in a few minutes. The officer replied that this would not be permitted, and called in a male colleague who took Ahmed’s telephone and proceeded to examine the numbers stored in the phone’s memory.
A third officer then entered the room, and Ahmed was threatened with being taken to a police station. Ahmed said that the officer with his telephone called him a “f**ker” and, when he objected, accused him of “making things up.” Ahmed demanded he be allowed to call Gareth Peirce’s office.
The female officer granted this, but warned Ahmed that if he asked about anything other than his right of legal access, the telephone would be taken away from him. As soon as he got through to the lawyer’s office, those holding him told him he was free to go. The officer said he was prolonging his own detention by insisting on talking to lawyers.
Ahmed was denied both the names of the interviewing officers and copies of any notes from the interview. He was, however, handed a search record sheet, which stated that the purpose of the detention was “intelligence.” The second page of the record sheet, under the heading “Officers Must Also Complete,” was blank.
Afterwards, Ahmed described the incident as “humiliating” and “intimidating,” and expressed concern that “being tagged as some kind of political activist” could jeopardise his employment prospects.
Clive Stafford Smith condemned Ahmed’s detention as “patently illegal when it happened.” He warned that under recent legislation passed by the Blair government against “glorifying” acts of terrorism, an actor involved in a production that put an opposing side of the story to the official government line could well face the threat of detention.
“Who’s next?” he asked. “Is Ken Stott going to be detained because he played... Adolf Hitler?”
The Road to Guantánamo will be shown on British television on March 9.
Win a BlackBerry device from O2 with Yahoo!. Enter now.
"Television across Europe: regulation, policy and independence".
The report, produced by the Open Society Institute, Budapest, covers 20 European countries - EU members, candidates and potential candidates — from the UK to Turkey, and from Romania to France. At 1662 pages, it is the largest ever comparative survey of its kind. The report analyses broadcasting across the continent and addresses policy recommendations to national and international authorities and groups.
Television remains the primary source of information for most people in Europe, despite the dynamic progress of new information technologies. But the pivotal role of television in supporting democracy in Europe is under threat. Public service broadcasters are compromising quality to compete with commercial channels, and many of them depend on Governments or political parties. Meanwhile, ever-larger concentrations are developing in the commercial sector, often with clear political affiliations. These developments jeopardize broadcasting pluralism and diversity, with the new democracies of Central and Eastern Europe most at risk.
While there are nearly 4,000 television channels in Europe, the report reveals that the television market is in reality highly concentrated in terms of both ownership and audience shares. In most countries, a handful of channels attract the vast majority of viewers. Ownership structures are controlled by a few companies and often shrouded in secrecy. Political pressure on regulators and public service broadcasters is widespread.
In Europe, universally available high quality programmes are scarce. Investigative journalism and minority programming are hard to find in both public service and commercial broadcasting. Newscasts are often tabloid, particularly on commercial channels. As a result, viewers often do not receive the information necessary to make informed democratic choices.
Whether the switchover to digital broadcasting will benefit the public remains to be seen. Digitalisation may instead enable leading commercial players to further erode public service broadcasting, undermining pluralism and diversity, as well as high quality content.
Market forces alone must not determine broadcasting policy ...
National media policy should include strategies for the development of local television stations and community media ... (Hurrah ! 1662 pages but it is there in black and white. Importance recognised.)
The EU should introduce legislation to ensure transparency of media ownership ...
Governments and parliaments should ensure the political and operational independence of broadcasting regulators ...
[For what it is worth, I stake my belief on people employing technology for their own purposes, for what some call 'self generated media. Don't we see the internet alive with blogs and streaming media and news groups and voices young and old, all telling us how the world is for them. It's a clamourous world now, but hey - it's fun having your say. Less reliance on mainstream news ain't no bad thing either.
Chris Haydon, CTVT]
TELEVISION ACROSS EUROPE
The full text of the report is available at:
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