Feb 11

In defence of party leaders’ TV debates in elections

Interesting arguments and data last night from Professor Stephen Coleman, giving the first David Butler lecture, supporting the case for continued televised leaders debates in general elections, begun last year. (You have had these already for a long time in other countries? We are a little behind here).

Coleman was taking aim at the grumbling which attested to the success of the debates. Gordon Brown, who was going to lose the election irrespective of what happened in the debates and who did not perform well in them, complained that the televised jousting “clouded” the issues. Jon Snow of Channel 4 News (who was not invited to moderate one of the debates) kvetched that the British system was turning presidential and spoiling the campaign.

These were transparently silly arguments when they were made, but Coleman demolished them with a handful of arguments and figures from some research just out from the Reuters Institute in Oxford. A selection:
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Jul 10

Future of Journalism (part 94)

Some soundbites from a Future of Journalism conference in London yesterday organised by the Axess Foundation’s Media and Democracy programme.

  • The connection between new media and “regime change” in countries with authoritarian governments is much overdone. Mass protests fail much of the time. New media’s effect works at a deeper, slower level to change beliefs and assumptions in society. (Abiye Megenta, Ethiopian political journalist, Oxford University).
  • Citizen journalism doesn’t work as a standalone business. (Turi Munthe, Demotix).
  • News media agenda change: Metro is the most popular paper in Britain and it doesn’t cover cost of what the Daily Mirror covered in,say, 1980. (Professor Stephen Coleman, Leeds University).
  • Internet and new media did a lot in the 2010 election but didn’t change the dynamics of the campaign. (Andrew Sparrow, political blogger for The Guardian).
  • In a world in which more internet news sources go behind paywalls, an increasing proportion of those that remain free will be government-funded, such as Russia Today (rebranded to disguise its origins as the bland “RT”) or China’s new 24-hour channel. (Evgeny Morozov, Georgetown University).
  • American foundation-funded investigative startup ProPublica uses a network of 5000 volunteers to crowdsource. A recent project which dependent on that large number: did your Congressman get given free tickets for the Superbowl? (Paul Steiger, ProPublica).
  • Recall all the technologies which were said to be transformational and which weren’t: facsimile newspapers delivered by wireless (1940s), Citzens Band radio, the CD-ROM, the interactive TV red button. (James Curran, Goldsmiths University).
  • In 2002, only 4 countries censored the internet. Now, 40 states do so. (Peter Barron, Google).