Working the refs

Interesting forum tonight at the BUEI by the Human Rights Commission on the Free Press and Responsible Journalism.

Pretty high turnout, around 100 people at its peak and it went until about 8:45 with a long interaction between the panel and the audience.

Rick Richardson moderated well and prevented it deteriorating, which it looked poised to do early on. He was having none of that.

There was a lot of venting, some explanations but not much pandering which was refreshing. The hard news to come out of it was that the Human Rights Commission sought and received a legal opinion from the UN and a constitutional lawyer (as I recall) that the Premier's directive to reduce contact with the Gazette was unconstitutional and against the UN's declaration on freedom of the press.

Otherwise there was a pretty good interaction.

I must admit that the continual comparison of the Premier's war on the Royal Gazette with that of Fox News and the Obama administration in the US makes me chuckle, although Gazette editor Bill Zuill teed it up.

The more appropriate comparison would be the Bush administrations strategic fight with the New York Times, which involved screaming liberal bias while getting very compliant pro-Iraq war coverage.

The whole idea was quite simply to work the refs, which the New York Times as the paper of record is.

That's what is going on with Dr. Brown's ramping up of his adversarial approach to the Royal Gazette, our only daily and the paper of record. He's working the refs.

As I said at the end of the meeting, picking the fight with the Gazette is not a principled argument but a political tactic to play the underdog, even though he is the Premier of the Government, the most powerful institution on the island with a large PR apparatus.

Now, on the idea that the RG is the equivalent of Fox News which I wanted to address but it was late and the meeting was wrapping up.

The appropriate analogy is of course Fox News and Hott 107.5.

Fox News is strongly aligned with the Republican party, to the point of being caught circulating Republican talking points to their on-air talent. Their prime time lineup is heavy on conservative opinion and has blurred the line between news and opinion. Staged conflict between Fox News and the Democrats and other 'liberal media' energises the Republican base and increases ratings.

Hott 107.5 is owned by a PLP Cabinet Minister, run by an appointed PLP Senator, and receives substantial Government support through advertising. Their drive-time lineup is news embedded in opinion, delivered by that same Government Senator. If you want a politically biased media outlet that's it.

If that isn't enough to convince you, then consider this: Dick Cheney will only be interviewed on Fox News by their conservative hosts, while Dr. Brown's long-time exclusive interviewer was radio host Thaao Dill, his Senate appointee on, yes, you got it, Hott 107.5, the radio station owned by a PLP Cabinet Minister.

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