Many institutions of the fourth estate often advertise themselves as “trusted” news sources. Trust is the fourth estate’s backbone. Without trust I would venture to say that news organizations would no longer exist. People would no longer view their news programs, nor buy their newspapers and businesses would no longer advertize with them.
But trust is a fleeting thing. Any hint of plagiarism, scandal, fabrication, bias, or omission could irreparably damage a news organization’s credibility and hence its existence. That is why they often go to great lengths to report the news accurately avoiding any threat of libel.
But the established news papers and networks today are rapidly losing their trust with the third estate, the people, not necessarily through libel, plagiarism, or fabrication but with bias and omission.
Bias is becoming quite obvious in today’s news media. In the US the notion that FOX has a conservative bias is common. In Canada the notion that all of the television news networks are pro government is also common. There is, in my opinion, no real bias to either Conservative or Liberal because as I have mentioned before there is no effective or significant difference between the Liberals and Conservatives. The news media panders to government regardless of the party in power. The bias comes from omission.
There are political parties and advocacy groups in Canada who are decidedly opposed to most government action yet these groups get virtually no coverage from the media, are completely ignored, or if they are noticed at all it is to ridicule them.
Any group or Party which opposes the government’s immigration policies, foreign aid programs, official language policies or myriad of socialist programs is a pariah to the news media and shunned. There are rare exceptions and I don’t want you to think that there are no news outlets with journalistic integrity in this country. There are.
The act of ignoring certain groups and their opinions is an easy one for news organizations to commit because if they don’t report on them then the populace doesn’t realize what they are missing and therefore can’t accuse the media of being biased.
Today’s media considers themselves to be unbiased if, when debating an issue, they include a panel consisting of a Conservative, a Liberal and a New Democrat. Each panelist will try to outdo the other in throwing money at the problem in question. Each will have the same opinion as the other except when it comes to degree. Nothing will be resolved and the problem will continue to grow until next year when the same three panelists meet again to discuss the same problem. This time they will discuss how much more money they can throw at the problem. A fair panel should not only consist of members of the three socialist parties but also a member of, for example, the Freedom Party who would explain that throwing money at the problem is not the solution and that the problem exists because the government chose to involve itself in something that it shouldn’t have in the first place. And while members of the Freedom Party do appear on panels it is almost never on the big pro-government networks it is usually on the smaller local or cable networks.
As well as deceiving the public by omitting opinions which don’t agree with theirs the trust we place in the media is being eroded as we are beginning to realize that much of the so-called news stories in the press are, while having a kernel of truth to them, actually manufactured as crises.
Consider the recent green extremist’s incessant campaigns against everything from CO2 to plastic water bottles to idling cars, cigarette smoke, cell phones, windmills, the Alberta oil sands, and on and on. The amount of copy or air time given to these non-issues, these manufactured scandals created to put fear into our hearts vastly outnumbers the amount of time the media take to report on more important things like the Revolution in Egypt or the steady stream of thousands of Canadians crossing the border to get proper and timely health care.
Yesterday, the National Post’s front page carried the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak. The front page of the London Free Press consisted of three articles. The first is entitled “Yeah, but does the hologram recite poetry?” about the Mayor’s first speech since his taking office. The second is about a methadone’s clinic contesting a city by-law prohibiting it from setting up. And the third is four sentences about the Egyptian crisis but is it about Mubarak’s decision to step down? No. It’s entitled “Volunteers fill the breach left by civic, security services” continued on page 9.
Even when faced with defining moments in history this paper chooses to all but ignore it.
What we use as our source of information has drastically changed over the past ten years and the days of the populace “trusting” the established news media is almost over. The internet is taking over the news world and the days of editors and publishers forming our opinions and feeding us pap and manufactured crises is coming to an end.
One of my favorite sources of not only opinion but news on the internet is the video blog of Pat Condell available on you tube. His latest rant has so far been viewed over 82 thousand times. One of his most popular posts has been viewed 5,768,509 times. Lloyd Robertson or Peter Mansbridge could never dream of having that many viewers and yet here we have a very clever man in the UK with nothing but a video camera and a sharp wit gathering an audience of millions. Why? Because he is saying things that the main-stream media will not say. He is reporting on stories that the main-stream media ignore.
As part of my daily dose of news consumption I subscribe to two newspapers but browse online 11 others including The Guardian, The Jerusalem Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Wall Street Journal. I tune in to Facebook every evening not to look at family photos but to follow some of the links friends and others have posted which do not make it through the corporate news filter.
With sites like Digg, Twitter, Facebook, and Google News the world’s news is at your fingertips. Much of it edited and watered down from the main news networks but also much of it raw first-hand accounts of events the main-stream media ignores.
With the internet we now have the capacity in most cases to go straight to the source for information bypassing the usual pundit’s tired views. On issues of climate change which we have covered on this show we did not just read what the press had to say on the subject, we went directly to the United Nation’s reports, we downloaded countless documentaries on the subject and read many of the scientific papers on both sides. We visited sites showing us information that the media usually ignore.
With such a powerful weapon at our disposal it is only a matter of time before the government and other vested interest in ideas and power restrict our use of this remarkable research and entertainment tool.
When Egypt’s President Mubarak realized that part of what made the revolution in Tunisia successful was the instant communication between its people via cell-phone texting and Twitter he moved to shut down the cell-phone communications and internet in his country. But, apparently, it was too late for him.
China routinely restricts the content of the web from its citizens as does many other dictatorial states.
The Canadian government and the old media corporations too have not sat idly by while its citizens eschew the main-stream media for its entertainment and news. They have used the CRTC to control access by fixing prices, maintaining the monopoly that Bell has on the internet’s infrastructure, capped download capacity and even set the speed at which we can access the internet. Contrary to popular belief our nation does not have a free market in the internet. All providers have the packages they sell to the consumer tailored by the CRTC and they are unable to compete fairly due to CRTC rulings on bandwidth, price and speed.
The latest attempt at controlling our access was to begin on March 1st when download capacity would be capped at 25 Gigs with excessive usage being billed a fee that goes directly into the coffers of Bell. Excessive is the term the CRTC has used to describe going over 25 Gigs. Of course I went directly to the CRTC to get a copy of their ruling and bypassed the media in doing so.
After an on-line petition totaling over 350,000 the Minister of Industry last night instructed the CRTC to rescind the unlimited use restriction. His method for the announcement…Twitter.
While this attempt at control has been averted for now it still illustrates that the government, at will, can interfere with the internet and private communications contracts through the bureaucracy of the CRTC.
Content, too is scrutinized for “so-called” hate speech, and for alleged copyright infringement. All intended to exercise control over us.
Before the internet, before cable TV and even before computers, back in the dark times of say the 50s, 60s, and 70s, Canadians got their news from a couple of Television stations and a few newspapers. International news was either through Reuters, the Associated Press or the state-owned CBC. So much power was concentrated in so few organizations. These organizations still exist and are feeling the growing discontent of the consumer, who now has the ability to put their “trust” in other sources for their news. They now have the ability to immediately question the news and opinions they see on TV and read in the paper and post their opinions on the internet where, as in the case of Pat Condell, millions can see it.
The power of the fourth estate is waning and the power of the third estate, you and I, is growing. Do not think for a minute that the media and the government will stand for this much longer.
(Originally aired on Just Right show #186 February 3rd, 2011. To download the show visit http://www.justrightmedia.org)