The Great Debate UK
- Steven Barnett is professor of communications at the University of Westminster, and a writer and commentator on broadcasting issues. He is finishing writing a book “Just Wires and Lights? The Rise and Fall of Television Journalism” that will published by Sage in 2010. The opinions expressed are his own. -
I was in the audience for Murdoch senior’s MacTaggart lecture 20 years ago, and was shocked –- as were many others –- by the ignorance and shallowness of his analysis. It wasn’t just the blatant self-interest of promoting his newly launched Sky channels; it was the sheer incomprehension of British television’s achievements in broadcast journalism compared to its manifest failure in the United States. Murdoch senior pretended it was the other way round, a strange distortion of the empirical evidence.
Son James is clearly a chip off the old block. His MacTaggart lecture was adapted for modern times, but his analysis of what was “wrong” with British broadcasting –- and particularly broadcast journalism –- was as misguided and self-deluded as his father’s.
There was the usual stuff about free enterprise, free choice and freedom in general being undermined by “massive, state-funded intervention”, and the usual claptrap about the TV licence fee penalising the poor (in fact, it provides astonishingly good consumer value and is disproportionately valuable to the poorest who make most use of television).