Has the media made the crisis worse?
Since banks and world financial markets started collapsing over a month ago, politicians, commentators and people in the street have pointed the finger of blame in a variety of directions: at bankers, regulators, hedge fund managers, mortgage lenders, short-sellers and speculators, among others.
Now, it appears, the BBC is also in the firing line.
The broadcaster’s economics correspondent, Robert Peston, has broken several major elements of the unfolding story, from which banks were on the brink of collapse to the details of how the government was going to set about bailing them out. BBC radio interviewer John Humphrys has also been at the forefront of the story, grilling government leaders, especially Chancellor Alistair Darling, about the crisis and how the country, and the rest of the world, ended up in it.
But viewers and listeners to the BBC are now complaining that the broadcaster itself is responsible for fuelling the financial meltdown, with negative stories driving share prices down, and gloomy reporting making the atmosphere ever darker and more ominous.
“If the BBC sent John Humphrys and Robert Peston on holiday for a month, the financial crisis would be over tomorrow,” one listener wrote in to complain to a BBC radio programme on Friday.
The email was the latest in a wave of complaints the BBC has received about their reporting on the story. Until now, the broadcaster’s management has been reluctant to get involved in the debate, but on Friday a senior editor stood by the journalists’ reporting and the tone which the broadcaster has adopted.
“Our journalism is not second-guessing what effect it is having on this or that share price,” he said.
“We have a duty to the audience.. Our reporting has focused on very important areas of public interest.
“It is in the greater public interest for us to report the facts as we have done.”
With millions of people facing an impact from the crisis and looking for someone to blame, there’s little chance the complaining will stop any time soon.
What’s your view? Do you think some of the reporting on the financial crisis, whether by the BBC or by newspapers and other media has somehow made the situation that it otherwise would be?