Home_____Manufacturing Consent VIII: European Public & Media

Over the years this blog has followed the decline of good information and news analysis on which people can make critical judgments as citizens. It has noted that the major news outlets simply feed to the public what they receive. Various reasons exist for this sorry state of affairs. One is that corporate news organizations are more concerned with the bottom line than with any sense of responsibility to the public for investigative reporting or in-depth news analysis. They are driven by the competition for dollars, which has become increasingly fierce as international behemoths swallow newsrooms to make them part of a cash flow. (One of the biggest jokes is NBC News' "In-Depth" segment, which offers a few minutes to some cheesy topic, giving nothing but a tease and no depth at all.) The sense of corporate civic responsibility is being strangled by the need for survival.

Certain types of blogs have become a feeble but--hopefully--rising voice for the public to learn about the skullduggery that goes on within the corridors of power. Unfortunately, there are so many of these blogs that one must become a news, politics, and policy junkie to keep up with all they provide. I go back decades and miss the era when a few major dailies could give much, if not all, of what an informed citizen should know. True, one can whittle down his reading to the most frequently visited sites, but even their number requires more time than my day offers.

All of that is by way of preface to a growing global phenomenon. The death knell of news analysis and investigation isn't being sounded here in the USA only. We are faced with a frightening prospect--whole populations whose consent is being manufactured--as only one example--to unwittingly endorse wrong-headed policies that fatten the rich while diminishing the people's own income. Recently while traveling I found this news clipping from the St Louis Post-Dispatch. It is dated 11 October 2005:

Associated Press. Europeans have nearly 4,000 television channels to choose from, but less and less quality programming to watch, according to a report by a European watchdog group.

The report by the Open Society Institute said television remained the primary source of information for most Europeans even as programming is becoming less informative and more sensational.

The institute analyzed television ownership content and regulations in 20 European countries, including 12 European Union member states, four EU candidate countries and four potential candidate countries.

It found a drop in quality of news reporting in countries where a few companies often control a country's entire television market and those which have opened up quickly to a flood of commercial broadcasts.

TFI, one of France's three commercial networks, commands almost one-third of the national audience and half of total TV ad revenue.

"Investigative journalism and minority programming are hard to find," the institute said. "Viewers often do not receive the information necessary to make informed democratic choices."

Miklos Haraszti, a media freedom expert, said a deluge of commercial channels in some countries has led to ratings wars with public service broadcasters. Haraszti is with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a regional security organization.

"The inevitable result has been the dumbing down of public service content in many countries," he said.

The Open Society Institute, based in Hungary, said governments and international institutions should not let the market determine broadcasting policy. It recommended that the EU set up an independent agency to monitor media.


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