A Free Press Revisited

First, I would like to apologise to anyone who might have wished to comment on my posts so far for my failure to include a comments form with each post. This blog started because I found myself going over and over some the arguments relating to independence, effectively composing possible articles in my head, while out walking with my dog. I thought I might as well get them out of my head by turning them into actual blog posts; if anyone found them interesting or in any way useful, that would be a bonus. There was never any intention of competing with any of the well-established pro-independence blogs, or even of being witty or entertaining. That is why I have not tried to customise my blog or introduce graphics; I would rather keep it simple. Unfortunately, that means I have not really put much effort into understanding how WordPress works.

A reader called Brenda tried to post a comment on the last post, “How would you define a free press? I don’t think a multinationally owned tabloid or an entirely capitalist owned press fulfills that term.”

I agree entirely with the second sentence, and so perhaps I would define a free press as something which should ideally exist, but which is in practice well-nigh impossible, except possibly for small-scale, community publications. If the press is not regulated by the state, then the press will almost certainly be used to advance the views of its owners, who are likely to be right wing capitalists. As long as they do this in a reasonably honest way, then this is not a threat to democracy. If the press deceive the public in order to promote their owners’ political agenda, then there is a case to be made for the state intervention, at least in the most blatant cases. But there is a fine line between the state preventing the press from lying on behalf of its owners, and the state controlling the press for its own purposes.

There is a particular difficulty in the case of a state broadcaster such as the BBC which may be coerced into slanting news in a way that suits the government. Who could regulate them?

There is also a question as to how important the press is going to be in the future. Increasingly, the future of printed newspapers and magazines is threatened by the Internet, but some kind of news-gathering organisations will have continue, and what they report will still influence the opinions of the people and hence how they vote. The Internet can expose lies, but it is part of the problem as well, given that there are many sites which are even less trustworthy than a tabloid newspaper. My guess is that any attempted regulation of the Internet will be either completely ineffective (largely because the Internet is not confined by national borders) or something quite totalitarian; I do not think that there is any intermediate option.

As I said in the previous post, this is a topic where I have questions but do not claim to have good answers.


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