WE REJECT CRITICISM
That could be BBC Scotland’s strapline. It could almost be their mission statement. It certainly reflects the British state broadcaster’s smugly complacent attitude to criticism, as will be testified by anyone who has experienced the corporation’s arrogantly dismissive attitude to complaints.
All of which is reminiscent of the current debate about the accountability of the media and journalists’ insistence that they are not answerable to any external authority, least of all the consumers of their product. Just as the principle of press freedom is used a stick with which to beat any who criticise journalists, so the principle of the independence of public service broadcasting has been fashioned into a shield to deflect criticism of broadcasters.
This is what happens. All institutions created by and for fallible humans are bound to be imperfect. Organisations will tend to evolve to serve their own existence and convenience rather than the purpose for which they were founded. Professional groups will tend to become self-serving elites more concerned with the preservation of their status than with adherence to codes. That’s just the way people are. That’s just human nature.
Against this tendency to corruption are set such things as effective management, state regulation and market forces. We hope and intend that the managers of organisations will keep them focused on their purpose. We hope and intend that state regulation will prevent abuses. We hope and intend that consumer power will serve as a corrective to failures elsewhere.
But what happens when incompetent management is allowed to persist because they have become accountable only to themselves? What happens when a lack of political will saps regulation of its power? What happens when organisations are shielded from both public opinion and consumer power either by corporate wealth or the funding system which is meant to ensure their independence from political and commercial interests?
What happens is that we get the inadequacy and imbalance which characterises the media in Scotland today. We get a public service broadcaster which is woefully unfit for Scotland’s purpose. We get newspapers that simply don’t relate to Scotland.
We get media which are impervious to criticism and incapable of change.
We get British media lurking in Scotland like an alien force.
It is impossible to neglect the parallel with the British political parties squatting in the Scottish Parliament like a cuckoo in the nest of our democracy.
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