Posts Tagged ‘press’

I expect there’s going to be a hell of a lot of ink spilled in the next few months about different schemes for “regulating the press”, how the very idea is an abomination and this has nothing to do with my column in some Murdoch rag, how this outrageous behaviour makes it utterly necessary for journalists to have to justify themselves to some sort of horrible post-Hutton BBC quangocracy, yadda yadda.

My position is this. Press regulatory bodies will probably be very much like “regulators” of all the kinds that have sprung up since the privatisation era. That is to say, they’ll either be impossibly bureaucratic or pathetically complicit or both. The problem with regulators, especially the post-80s, all mates together in an orderly market sort, is that they are a weak-sauce compromise.

Once you create a regulator, you’re doing two things: accepting that the forces of the market aren’t going to fix your problem, and withdrawing the forces of democracy in favour of the forces of bureaucracy. Compare the Home Affairs Committee’s vicious and pointed quizzing of Andy Hayman to, well, anything the IPCC ever gets up to. Nye Bevin’s crack about dropped bedpans echoing through the halls of Westminster was very much to the point. Everyone moans about ministerial line management, but when did you last vote for the OFCOM Director-General?

There’s a coda to this – over time, if you leave it to the departmental government, the temptation to fiddle and to indulge in recreational reorganisation will get progressively stronger. My point, however, is that very often regulatory bodies function either as a veiled form of ministerial control or else as a flak-catcher protecting the powerful from public scrutiny.

In this case, I would argue that any regulatory committee will be either complicit or floppy if it has to face up to something like News International. The problem is not one of processing complaints more efficiency, although that would of course be nice. It is one of power and only changing the realities of power will fix it.

The trust must go. We don’t need more quangology. We need a genuinely competitive and diverse media market. We need to break the bastards up and set the rules to prevent them reforming. And the agency to do this is the Competition Commission, one of the oldest regulators and one of the few that has the taste of saying “No”. But it is absolutely necessary to set its terms of reference so that it will have no choice but to break up the trusts. That means changing the law.


Dick Fedorcio is taking a little trip to Westminster to be quizzed. By Keith Vaz’s committee. How times change – Keith Vaz as the standard bearer of public integrity. It’s got to be more convincing to get your second chance after 10 years in the wilderness though.

Meanwhile, has anyone else noticed that the “#AskEdM” hashtag is a shamelessly obvious exercise in trolling? Think about it – how many people who aren’t either political obsessives following up a story or just looking for a fight, or else full-time rightwing howler monkeys, ever hang out in Paul Staines’s comments threads with all the coup fantasies and racebaiting and ZaNuLiebour and EUSSR? Nobody. Really.

So why not lure the torysphere out in the open, somewhere the majority can actually see them behaving in this horrible way? Like Twitter.

And if they notice it, they’ll get angry and look an even more repellent herd of shit-smeared zombies. It’s brilliant. As a side benefit, if Edelmans have managed to rig some network of semiautomated talking-points distribution bots, they’re bound to show up there so they can be identified. And if you were looking for a list of horrible spamming arsewits, Mike Gigglers trying to be hipsters but stuck at the brown-dwarf stage, ZaNuLiebour dittoheads, and other membrane fauna…well, here’s your chance to populate your blacklist. I added dozens. It was a lot of fun.

The only annoying thing is that as far as I know, although Twitter has “lists” that let you group other users and subscribe to their collected output (yeah, like XMPP Collection Nodes) it doesn’t have the inverse operation. So you can’t easily replicate the Team Cymru Bogons BGP feed and automate the process, even if we’ve already got a serviceable darknet.

Elsewhere, I put together a quick network diagram of the top Met-NI interactions. Nothing very surprising except that the commissioner is always sought after, and that John Yates appears to have an independent following with them (surprise!). Of course, your man Dick was probably at all the meetings in this chart.

[hey wordpress! what is your problem with ManyEyes?]

Met commissioners - close to Murdoch Many Eyes

Finally, some music.