24 February 2010

Paths of Glory

Geoff Meeker does a bang-up job, as always documenting an episode in the local media world, in this case, the bizarro blacklisting of CBC locally for something an on-air guest said.

A few quibbles/observations:

Pull the other one, Geoff:  If Liz Matthews actually had any say over government comms policy or if she actually disagreed with anything asinine the government has done since 2003 – like blackballing reporters -  then she wouldn’t be carrying out the policy so regularly on behalf of the person who really directs government comms policy.

Politically correct?  Try Politically Safe.  The Premier’s martial status was covered first by mainland media and then repeated by only a couple of locals.  There are certain types of stories that will only get covered by mainlanders first. As with the MUN presidential fiasco, someone on the mainland had to run that one first. it still hasn’t been touched by any locals and never will be.  There are some other stories in the same category, ones that fly against the current official narrative.

Reality?  What a concept!    What makes the CBC blackballing in this case so bizarre is that CBC  - collectively or individually - hasn’t really done anything to deserve it.  If you look at the totality of CBC political coverage it has been fair, accurate and generally along the lines of other local outlets. It should be as trusted an outlet for fair and accurate coverage – and certainly not for any sort of anti-government bias – as all the other local media outlets. 

Mind you, CBC cannot hope to match the shameless sycophancy of Danny-vision, d.b.a. “Out of the Fog” where one suspects they ship questions over to Danny for approval before they interview either government or opposition members.  Nor could CBC ever hope to compete with a radio station run by a guy who gets a patronage appointment to the Premier’s pet offshore oil company.  That fellow even calls his own station on air to run down the media in exactly the fashion of a planted partisan caller. 

But not being able to press ones nose to the political nether-cheeks with that sort of Olympian enthusiasm doesn’t mean that Ryan’s been slipping subversive messages into the nightly weather hits.

The best theory to explain the current spat with CBC seems to be that they are being shot pour encourager les autres, as the French generals used to say.

If nothing else, blackballing the entire corporation might play on any internal policy divisions within the Corp’s local crowd.  In the process, the potential might be there so that any future bits of CBC coverage that resembled the Ceeb of Wakeham’s day might be finally eliminated.

So while NTV actually did the dirty deed a couple of weeks ago, they have the one thing that no other media outlet has in Newfoundland and Labrador:  the biggest audience.  The Premier’s Office can’t afford to blackball them.

But overall, the relationship between the media and the current Premier is fundamentally different from the one Meeker describes at the end of his post.  There used to be a balance.  There used to be the potential that the media would resume its job of revealing government “mishaps and mistakes.” 

These days when one outlet is set upon as irrationally and incomprehensibly as in this case, there’s more likely to be talk of hair styles and how there was never much of anything to talk about anyway.