Thursday, 14 March 2013

Anyone who doubts the desire

of any government to control the media - or at least what the media has to say about them - is, I suspect, living in some sort of fantasy land.
Rumours and speculation are rife at present. "If" and "but" and "maybe" and the usual attempts to bribe the independent MPs whose vote is critical to the success of the legislation are all being waved around. There has even been the suggestion that the government does not want the legislation to succeed because they want to be able to blame some sections of the media and suggest that all the criticism levelled at them is unjustified.  Sorry, that one won't wash. All governments need to be held to account.
Inevitably the topic came up at a meeting yesterday. Disability issues are usually presented as "human interest" stories by the media. It is easier to write a "tug at the heart strings" story and get people to read it than it is to have the general public face unpalatable facts about hardship, lack of support and services, and the real psychological, social and emotional distress faced by many people who live with disabilities or have family members with disabilities. 
Would it, I was asked, make it harder or easier to write such stories if the legislation was passed? My answer was, "I don't know but I think it might be even more difficult to get such stories into the media and you know what the consequences of that could be."
There will be less space for such things because, contrary to what is being stated, there will be less diversity and greater control if the measures succeed and remain there. They will have even less room to be critical of government services - or the lack of them. 
This is sometimes difficult for outsiders to understand. If you are dependent on outside assistance for something as vital as getting up in the morning or getting your child to school then making a complaint is a risky business - even if you are highly articulate. Many people with disabilities are not highly articulate. They often rely on others to speak for them. The efficacy of advocacy varies. It does not always reflect the needs and interests of an individual or even a group - but the interests of the advocate themselves. They may advocate passionately for a cause. They may even hold an honest belief that it is the best thing for everyone. The problem is that this does not take into account the need for a diverse range of solutions for a very diverse group of individuals.  
We already have a lack of diversity in the reporting of disability issues because of such advocacy. The media is also bound by political correctness and the need to abide by "equal opportunity" legislation that often works in unintended and damaging ways. 
The current proposals to reduce media independence will leave less room for stories which criticise government services of any sort. Stories critical of disability services will be even less likely to be heard. 
The end result might well be a further reduction in disability services. It will be an unintended consequence of the proposed legislation. I doubt it is a consequence that will concern the government.

1 comment:

Helen Devries said...

I look at some of the advocacy on behalf of disabled people in the U.K. and shudder at the advocates' own agendas.