When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gave the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival last month, in which he proposed democratisation of the BBC, along with moves to ensure the Corporation’s independence from Government and other political interference, along with proposing a strengthening of Freedom of Information legislation, removing ministerial vetoes on information release, there was media disquiet.
This came not only from our free and fearless press, but also at least one broadcast pundit. Outside organisations’ cameras are not normally allowed in to such events: instead, the video is made available by the organisers to whoever wants it. This provoked apoplexy among the press pack, with the appallingly downmarket Express shrieking “'Free press essential to democracy': Corbyn set to HAIL media but DENIES news camera ‘ban’”.
Channel 4 News’ Michael Crick, as I noted at the time, was most put out that the organisers should have such a rule. The Mail on Sunday’s not even slightly celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges made a series of low moaning noises in the general direction of anyone prepared to listen to him. And the odious flannelled fool Master Harry Cole invented a characteristic pack of lies about the whole business.
Look Uncle Arthur, I'm in the paper
There could be only one conclusion to be drawn from this episode: excluding cameras from events where senior politicians were to speak was A Very Bad Thing. So it would be An Even Worse Thing to not only exclude cameras, but also decline to release even the text of the speech. That would be beyond the pale.
Except when it’s a Tory doing the speaking, it seems it isn’t: Defence Secretary Gavin “Stupid Boy” Williamson was in Northern Ireland last Friday, and as Rodney Edwards, deputy editor of The Impartial Reporter, announced “Defence Secretary and Conservative MP @GavinWilliamson in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland tonight to address a gala dinner hosted by Democratic Unionist leader Arlene Foster”.
But afterwards, he told “Conservative MP and Defence Secretary @GavinWilliamson addressed DUP event in Enniskillen on Friday night. Journalists were not informed of his visit for ‘security reasons’. There are no copies of his speech available. What he told Arlene Foster's gala dinner remains secret”. No cameras. No copy speech.
So the press was up in arms, wasn’t it? There were reports of the content-suppressed speech at, er, well, the Irish News. “Defence secretary Gavin Williamson attended a DUP gala dinner hosted by party leader Arlene Foster in Fermanagh at the weekend, without informing the public or press about his visit. The senior Tory attended Friday's dinner at the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen, the press were not informed of his visit and details of his speech at the DUP gathering were not made public” told their report.
The BBC Northern Ireland paper review mentions that report, adding that Williamson “is the latest high-profile Tory member to attend a DUP dinner, following in the footsteps of Priti Patel and Michael Gove”. Newsworthy. Concerning. No mention from mainland press.
Nor is anyone in that press establishment so much as raising a peep in protest, unlike their carping about Jezza. Once again, our media reminds us that it is broken.
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