Saturday 29 August 2015

On partisan media

In the age of digital media it has become relatively easy to listen to radio programmes of other countries and I listen quite a bit to US based radio shows. What strikes me again and again when I listen in to the New York Times Book Reviews or other shows is the incredible partisan character of their contents. Discussing things such as the Supreme Court or the Voting Rights Act and its legacy today, the various positions are often characterised not by the merits of their arguments but by the (alleged) ideological position of their proponents. So any change to the setup of the Supreme Court becomes a Conservative (or Liberal) transformation due to the conservative or liberal leaning of the president appointing the justices, and any change in voting right legislation is a reactionary undermining of the achievements of the civil rights movement by virtue of the progressive nature of the original Act.

This partiality in media broadcasting may simply be a function of the partisan nature of the outlets themselves but I would argue that it has more to do with the quality of journalism. To me, it brings into stark relief the enormously high standards of the BBC, which are accomplished simply by ensuring that every position articulated on its programmes receives a riposte from one of its opponents. The deliberate juxtaposition of ideas and thoughts empowers the recipients, the wider public, who are called upon to make up their mind themselves on the merits of the arguments presented. This simple journalistic practice has better chances to bring about informed decision making than, I would argue, pleasing your audience with things it likes to hear.

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