Thursday, 7 February 2019

Just in Time media

It is a matter of historic significance that almost all the national institutions have failed over Brexit. Perhaps the greatest failure of all, after Westminster, is that of our media. It was never going to cope with something like Brexit. This is where Tim Stanley, possibly for the first time in his life, serves a function in neatly encapsulating the problem.

What we are looking at here is a Just In Time supply chain. The core premise of JIT is that warehousing is inefficient and stock is an overhead. In this case, the stock product is knowledge. The media retains none of its own. It is simply a processor, where current affairs producers are little more than casting agents.

I've had more or less the same experience as Tim Stanley. I had BBC Radio Nottingham ring me up asking me to go on as a leaver to defend the no deal option. I patiently explained that The Leave Alliance did not advocate no deal and it should be avoided if at all possible. This was not in the script so the young lady actually had the nerve to ask me if I knew any leavers who did want to leave without a deal.

This is fairly typical. I remember about ten years ago when Channel 4 wanted to do an immigration documentary in Bradford. They drove up from London and I stood talking to camera for a good twenty minutes on a freezing hillside. In the end they used only about twenty seconds of it - telling the audience that I was moving away from Bradford basically because of immigration - which wasn't at all true, and the basic reason they didn't use what I told them was because it didn't fit the script of a grunting northerner moaning about the pakis.

What strikes me about this dynamic is that these producers are nearly always young twenty something attractive females. There must be something about the type that is good for networking which is why all the think tanks have generic telegenic females to go on the telly. They are the must have accessory for any organisation seeking airtime.

The problem with them is that they do not retain knowledge. The media sees its role as simply to present opinions with no analysis of its own and and virtually no vetting which means just about any crank will do just so long as they fill airtime. The interviewers will generally have a stock set of questions but it seems to be that they they do not listen to answers or at all process what they are told.

This is partly why the debate goes round in circles. Every time the matter of customs is brought up we have the same churn on Twitter once again pointing out that Switzerland does indeed have customs controls. Nothing is ever settled or resolved and and we go round in ever decreasing circles. This is partly why the nation is catatonic with boredom.

It doesn't help that the media is now desperate to fill airtime with anything new. It could, if it had a stock of knowledge, do something that would add value, exploring the issues in greater depth but that takes time and costs money so instead they go off in search of novelty which is why Femi, "EU supergirl" and any passing crank on College Green attracts hacks like flies to bullshit. The media is generally attracted to primary colours and content that comes for free.

This has not gone unnoticed by viewers. Leavers and remainers alike, if they are remotely serious people, can agree that the media has completely lost it. MPs can utter just about any untruth without challenge, particularly the ERG MPs where anything remotely technical in respect of trade is way above the paygrade of your average television hack.

I saw this first hand while on Sky News where I could just as easily have been interviewed by an AOL chatbot for all that she actually understood what I was saying. Don't get me wrong, these people are not stupid. They have a particular skill set which probably suffices for light entertainment, but the media wants to keep the answers simple and snappy while covering a subject which is neither.

So the media has to make a choice. Either it treats viewers like adults or it makes the base assumption that viewers know as much or less than they do. The latter usually applies. They assume that because they themselves do not accumulate knowledge and have no institutional memory that the same applies to the audience. The more depressing apart of it is they are probably right if BBC Question Time audiences are anything to go by.

Another part of the problem is that the sort of self-promoting narcissists who crave media attention pretty much always get it if they are in London and available at the drop of a hat. Consequently "EU Supergirl" has become the default yoof voice on the media's Rolodex and they'll still be using her in that role even when she's a frail old lady.

As it happens, our Tim Stanley is a large part of that dynamic being that he's a generic talking head with a willingness to opine on things he knows nothing about. The media generally doesn't do any vetting of its own. Virtually any warm body will do when there's a rapidly approaching deadline. Vetted expertise simply doesn't happen. If you get a genuine expert then it's entirely by accident. What matters is that guest have institutional prestige which is why any girlie from a London think tanks is given endless air time.

So well established is this dynamic that savvy campaign groups are becoming adept at exploiting it. All you need do is find some fresh faced brat to set up a sock puppet yoof group and so long as it has branding and a London address you have an instant talking head for the circuit until the media gets bored and moves on to something else.

Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that the media has no concept of how fatuous it is. Lacking all self-awareness, it believes itself to be at the centre of events and the fount of all public knowledge. It therefore does not see itself as part of the problem and takes no responsibility for its own failures. They cycle through the same collection of errors to the point where no amount of debunking can eve dislodge a recurrent canard. Slowly the media reinforces its own parallel universe which bears no resemblance to the real world.

Having lost any gravitas or authority the media is now part of the Westminster three ring circus, oblivious to anything happening outside their shrinking little world chasing after itself, with hacks now interviewing other hacks interspersed with library footage or vox pops from a street in Derbyshire. A well worn routine that costs next to nothing save for the grossly offensive salaries of celeb presenters.

This, of course, is nothing new under the sun. The media has been like this for as long as I can remember. The advent of twenty four hour news made it immeasurably worse and cameras in parliament have probably not improved anything. Neither does it help that media's made mission is to generate click revenue thus focuses entirely on generating conflict between the far extremes of a debate. Measured informative content doesn't have legs.

As with our politics, our media can just about manage to handle the day to day routine to a level of tolerable mediocrity, but where Brexit is concerned we find that neither institution is intellectually nor morally equipped for such an undertaking. We are just as much the victim of our media as our politicians. Sadly, though, our media is the one Just in Time supply chain that won't be destroyed by Brexit.

No comments:

Post a Comment