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Politics has got Polarised. Why?

Summary:
The media is full of journalists saying that politics has become polarised.  The coverage of the US election has even involved extensive coverage of the possibility that one side or the other might refuse to accept the result, that there might be demonstrations, violence and even a coup. How exciting!How did the orderly and slightly boring process of elections become exciting?  The answer is simple, the elections are much as they have always been but 24 hour News has appeared and this needs to grow its ratings every year.  As early as 1999, right at the beginning of 24 hour News, people were noticing that the press was replacing the traditional values of verification, proportion, relevance, depth and quality of interpretation with sensationalism, entertainment and opinion. (See for

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The media is full of journalists saying that politics has become polarised.  The coverage of the US election has even involved extensive coverage of the possibility that one side or the other might refuse to accept the result, that there might be demonstrations, violence and even a coup. How exciting!

How did the orderly and slightly boring process of elections become exciting?  The answer is simple, the elections are much as they have always been but 24 hour News has appeared and this needs to grow its ratings every year.  As early as 1999, right at the beginning of 24 hour News, people were noticing that the press was replacing the traditional values of verification, proportion, relevance, depth and quality of interpretation with sensationalism, entertainment and opinion. (See for instance Kovach and Rosenstiel 1999, Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media).

The ultimate objective of 24 hour News is to immerse the audience so that they are watching the News all day long and become extras in an all absorbing fiction about the world. 

The worst offender in the UK is the BBC.  Under the leadership of figures such as Sopel, Maitliss, Robinson and Kuenssberg the presentation of News has become a "speech and drama" event in which the presenters vie with each other to squeeze every ounce of despair and pathos out of any report.  They have become performers in the global tragedy that they are producing.  As part of this performance they turn every story into a battle, pitting young against old, north against south, black against white.

The mainstream News Media are obviously becoming extremely bad for the stability and democracy in a country.  It should always have been the role of government to regulate the Media so that this did not happen.  The Media has resisted this regulation because although in many ways it is just another industry it carries the publicity for politicians and this gives the Media power.

What can we do?  The BBC is the worst offender and easiest to control.  The BBC Charter should be amended to prevent polarisation, whether this polarisation is accomplished by suppressing facts, selecting extreme interviewees, selecting extremists to sit on political panels or simply reporting events as a battle of extremes.


3/11/2020


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