Friday, May 25, 2007

Big Business Is Not Your Friend. If It Was a Flavour It Would Be Pralines And Graft

Short story in today's Media Guardian looking at the BBC's coverage of business stories. Turns out that in the race to make business stories relevant to the dwindling audience for news, stories have been subjected to a sustained pro-consumer bias.

I''ve been spending a few weeks now having long, pointless, cosmic conversations with myself about the role of business in society. Most of these discussions, as you can tell, tend to degenerate into anguished howls about how poor business is in explaining its workings.

Still, I don't really think that slanting stories in favour of the consumer does much to redress the balance, because it keeps the focus on products rather than the workings of business, which should be spending much more time explaining its role in society, but doesn't have to because the terms of discussion of its role are much too limited.

Then there's the impulse to humanise business stories, a trait to which both UK and US outlets are apt to succumb. Well in the US it's almost an industry. This is just an impression of mine, but I''m fairly certain that TV journalists mete out much less tough treatment to business figures than to politicians (please refrain from saying that that is the politicians' fault):

However, an interview with Bill Gates on the 10 O'Clock News on January 30 this year was criticised for being "at times sycophantic in tone".

"We also agreed with witnesses that a number of BBC interviews with Stuart Rose, chief executive of Marks & Spencer, in January 2007 were too uncritical."

At this point I could say that more widespread stock market participation would be helpful. But I won't. I spent yesterday reading about how the quite astonishing and unsettling surge in Chinese stock markets is the result of small-time investors following their faith in lucky numbers.

Have a delightful holiday weekend. I'll leave you with one small piece of intelligence on our ghastly Borough president. The arch-publicity-chaser appears to have forgotten that with great visibility comes great scrutiny, and this cheery little tourist officer will need to fend off insinuations that he's being "treated" by corporate interests.


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