Thursday, January 7, 2010

Le grand froid

*The Board stumbles forward and reaches for his desk, like a beached whale clawing for the sweet gravy of sea water. He trips, clatters into a stack of papers and carrot hand cream, and falls face first into the picture on his wall of Erica Salmon, Miss Limerick 2007*

Happy New Year, Indeed.

Who among you has resolved to better yourselves in 2010? Get fit, maybe? Or stop swearing? Maybe there's an exotic brand of oyster sauce you've always wanted to try, but could never work up the courage to do so?

Well then, this is the time for you. 2010 is the year of the tiger, and tigers take chances. (Some more than others, pnarf - Leader Ed)

But that won't be the case for The Board. 2010 will probably slip by unbeknownst as he stays put, dreaming of a job in The Guardian, hurling abuse at that vagrant On The Beat, complaining about his myriad rugby injuries.

No, just give me some popular culture and media a-happenings to rant about and I'll be fine.

For example, there's been a lot said about how TV3 dropped Da Bomb on St Stephen's Day that the Minister for Finance has cancer.

TV3 aren't very popular in media circles at the moment for the display of tabloid garishness that was their 'exclusive' bulletin. To say the man is sick is one thing, to start referring to him in the past tense and air a montage of his life's achievements is another.

To paraphrase Richard Pryor, the Sultan of comedy, he ain't dead yet, motherf*cker.

TV3's defence has been that the Minister for Finance is the Minister for Finance, and more than any other arm of government his policies, attitudes and well being directly and immediately impact on Ireland's place in the world.

Just look at the fact that shares in Bank of Ireland and AIB jumped by 15 and 12.5 per cent the day after Brian Lenihan announced that he was going to continue in office.

TV3 will argue, therefore, that it was in the public interest for people to know about his cancer. It is a defence that may end up working.

But it shouldn't.

The Irish media have had to fight tooth and nail over the past three years to prevent Michael McDowell's draconian privacy legislation coming into effect. Without getting into semantics, the bill would limit forever the ability of journalists in this country to investigate and publish material which would hold power to account.

So far, it hasn't seen the light of day, due to trade offs by the media industry including new defamation law and formation of the Press Council.

But as long as TV3 work like wolves and air a story that may have been heartbreaking for a man and his family simply so they can pre-empt their rivals by a week; as long as the Sunday Independent write that Liam Lawlor died in the company of prostitutes; as long as the Daily Mail and the rest of the gutter press undermine what journalism is and what journalists do, the Government will have enough juice to push through a privacy law that will chain the duty of Irish reporters to injunctions and super injunctions, much like the recent Guardian-Trafigura debacle.

Brian Lenihan has shown tremendous dignity in being open, frank and not at all bitter about how his illness was thrust into the public domain. He will fight his disease and he will have the good wishes of a nation with him as he does.

But the impact of the how the likes of TV3 continue to confuse 'of interest to the public' with 'the public interest' may become the real legacy of all this.

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