The Irish Times recently printed a piece detailing the extent to which a concentration of media ownership in the UK enables “power to direct our national conversations and influence the development of national policies.”
However, according to writer Natalie Fenton, that was only part of the story:
Dear Tim Vaughan,
In today’s Editorial ‘Shameful behaviour – Dáil deputies fined‘ you fail to even mention why TD’s Mick Wallace and Clare Daly “entered a restricted area at Shannon Airport”.
If this was anything other than an oversight it implies a conspicuous attempt to misinform readers as to the nature of the crime committed by Wallace and Daly.
An Interview with Gene Kerrigan
The Irish news industry “strive[s] to establish the important facts in the rapidly changing environment“, it “provide[s] vigilance and challenge to assist understanding.” It is “primarily concerned with serious issues for the benefit of the community throughout the whole of Ireland free from any form of…control“. It has “endeavoured to ensure reporting was accurate and reflected the facts…reflect[ing] all shades of opinion“. And it aspires to “reflect the ever-changing panorama which is human life“.
We know this because a conga line of editors, former editors, CEO’s and directors from Ireland’s most prominent news making institutions recently told us so in evidence presented to the Joint Committee of Inquiry into the Banking Crisis. Any suggestion that this is not the case is a “conspiracy”, peddled by “conspiracy theorists” from “a[n unrecognisable] planet“. And of course, the Irish news industry doesn’t waste it’s time reflecting on the ever-changing panorama of life on other planets.
For a press so concerned with reflecting the world accurately and with account for it’s diversity of opinion, the inquiry was surprisingly interested in just one person, Morgan Kelly. To a visitor from another planet it must have appeared a strange state of affairs, that the credibility of such independently minded institutions, with access to a range and breadth of information and expertise, could be so contingent on the insight of one university professor. The very fact that Kelly’s name is as much a part of the crisis lexicon as NAMA, Anglo and the Troika, is a testament to the industry’s failure.
Former Progressive Democrat and current Irish Independent columnist Liz O’Donnell gave a perfect example of ‘the press’ that we discussed in ‘Irish Water has brought us together‘ in today’s paper. It’s got it all:
- ‘Unsavoury violent aggressive element’
- ‘fomenting anarchy and intimidation’
- ‘Loony left’
- ‘Rabble rousing’
- ‘Hardliners stoking up unrest’
- ‘Pandering to populism’
- ‘Jubilant defiance in a scary way’
- ‘Nihilistic populism’
The Irish Times’ Cliff Taylor also has a great example of the press infantilising the public: “Why Government cant deliver on voters’ Santa list“. There’s loads of such commentary in the archives. Here’s another one from the Irish Examiner’s Jim Power: “Keep budget goodies on the shelf until 2016“.
For five years the press has warned the public that since “we all partied”, we must now all make sacrifices. In 2008 the relentless billowing of the property bubble naturally segued into an equally relentless build-up to the next “courageous[ly] masochis[tic]” budget.
But when the post-Tiger ‘we’ is not acquiescing to the next austerity measure, it is largely absent. It is often silent or simply gagged, and sometimes, it is even denied it exists at all.
There is no property or travel supplement for the post-tiger ‘we’. Because ‘we’ do not experience austerity. The effects of public service cuts, regressive taxation and emigration are experienced by ‘them’. And ‘they’ do not own or operate the press.
Sometimes, when we talk about the press, journalists respond by saying:
“you can’t talk about ‘the press’ as if it’s a collective entity, ‘the press’ is made up of thousands of people and hundreds of organisations, with a diversity of politics and agenda”**
So, for the purposes of this article, perhaps it might be less controversial to speak of ‘the press’ simply as shorthand for ‘those media organisations owned by Denis O’Brien and the State’*. Because Ireland’s media landscape is arguably dominated by just one vista, from Leinster House looking out towards Malta.