Diversity over objectivism every time…

Busy day, so I’m a bit late in checking in. Local Democracy is a new group blog that I’ll be contributing some thoughts on politics, democracy and the media from time to time. Paul Evans picks up an piece by Jim Gibney when he complained about the lack of Sinn Fein voices in the BBC when his party is one of the two most predominant voices in politics in Northern Ireland. But Paul uses this (legitimate) gripe to pose a more interesting set of questions:

Is it possible for journalists to really mask their preferences? Should we be asking public broadcasters to go for a ‘diversity’ model of impartiality instead? Would we not be better served by lots of named correspondents with fairly well-known prejudices calling things as they really see them – rather than attempting the charade of even-handedness?

Contrary to the thoughts of some of our commenters views, one of the most exciting aspects of the Cameron Direct event was not the political appeal, the charisma, or even the nuanced messaging. But the fact that we began to in more interesting way what we achieved at times on the US election day: a distributed network of correspondents, all sharing their views via Twitter and the CoverItLive software, in one space.

In effect people were not just able to listen to and report on the speech but talk about it out loud; share judgement and reactions ‘out loud’ as though we were there. For me it was the multiplicity of perspectives that made it work.

De facto, the online distribution systems on the net are diverse and diversifying… As Dan Conover notes:

The great gray battleships of 20th century media are sinking, and the social web is adapting rapidly to fill the spaces they’ll vacate.

Not only should public service broadcasting have more Sinn Fein (and DUP) voices it should seek out a range of voices (from most representative to ‘I’m only representing me’) that bring a diversity of opinion to bare on range of issues and problems.

  • ggn


    I think we do need both and sometimes we need to ensure some sort of expertise.

    I personally have complained that the Talkback bring on Malachi O’Doherty everytime they cover anything to do with the Irish language despite the fact that his only quailifcation to speak on the subject is complete ignorance, with a propensity to offend, which wouldnt be so bad if there was someone to balance the thing out.

    This hoever makes complaining very easily and well worth it as everytime I have done it they wheeled out someone a few days later, normally Janey Muller of Pobal.

    The thing is is that the BBC has a political agenda, one which is poorly disguised in my view.

    Having said that I feel that David Dunseth is admirably fair but I get the impression that many unionist listerners would disagree.

  • BBCbiased

    Hearts and Minds’ “If you ask me…” slot is clearly unrepresentative. It seems to me that any Catholic will do for the BBC rather than ensuring that there is proper political representation. But we couldn’t have a republican commentator now could we? Bring back Morrison!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    “But the fact that we began to in more interesting way what we achieved at times on the US election day: a distributed network of correspondents, all sharing their views via Twitter and the CoverItLive software, in one space. ”

    Technology is only use when it adds value – one notable example where this does not happen is video-confenrencing seems to tick all the boxes but nobody wants to use it.

    In what way do you think that “Twitter and the CoverItLive” added value? Surely people have to listen first and then analyse. Was it just coiniceidence that there was no link ot the telly when PoshBoyDavidCmaeron(PBDC) was speaking or really an attempt to get ‘users’ involved with the new technical approach?

    Perhaps the ‘new techolnogy’ was appropriate for the first bit which we couldnt see but then surely the telly was the best medium.

    Dont want to be negative or Luddite just expressing my opinion.

  • Fact is SF still get disproportionately good press in NI. This was proved by a media market survey last year which showed the enjoyed a massive share of voice, way in excess of their mandate. Me thinks Mr Gibney does protesteth too much.

  • jone

    You’ll find it difficult to ‘Bring back Morrison!’ – he’s now a a man of the arts and is very, very reluctant to do political shows,

  • Mick Fealty


    There was a problem with the embedded code on the CamDirect… Not sure quite what went wrong. I think it played okay on Internet Explorer and Chrome.

    There was a kind of scrambled effect to it all as well. The American experience was a curate’s egg; but what did we get right was some excellent local reporting from American readers on the Ground.

    It is something with a bit of forethought we can build on. I want to cover all the party conference big moments this way; and maybe set up a permanent feed to the Twitter stories arising.

    Twitter makes it incredibly easy to ‘report’ from inside a conference hall. And the co-option of readers into the main CIT stream broadens the amount of information to can bring to bare on an event.

    For just listening to the speech, TV is fine. But for me the excitement is being able to chew the cud with different folk at the same time.

    The problem is not the technology but finding useful and engaging ways to utilise it. I think we scored a half success this time. To do better next time, I want to be ready much further in advance of the next one. And to have the core of each Twitter team ready and willing when the balloon goes up…

    Which means being a little better at anticipating the timing of the conferences. Spring will see the balance of the southern parties meet ahead of the the Europeans and locals. I don’t propose to go over board on those, but if we can get reader tweets in on the blogs; it could be great fun and may be help shed some new light.

    Slugger readers we can co-opt into the live blog as temp bloggers; those on the ground or simply avid Twitterers can add in their own insights and share stuff from elsewhere (something Twitter is very efficient at)…

    My enjoyment on Saturday was partly in the eclectic mix of people watching, listening and disagreeing about stuff. We need to make sure not that the teams are balanced, but varied and plural.

  • I have always felt that the BBC in NI was institutionally biased to support the status quo and the ‘British’ way of life in the north, such as it is. And of course Jim Gibney has a point. Yet I think it’s likely we will see him, or his likes, on the Hearts and Mind ‘If You Ask Me’ slot before too long…after all Sinn Féin is now part of the status quo.

    I temper this thought with my belief that Sinn Féin is its own worst enemy in terms of its manipulation of the media. Too much of the spinning you see.

    On top of that, the party has shown a vindictive and censorious streak of late. After Lá Nua, during my tenure as editor, criticised trenchantly the party’s ineffective advocacy on behalf of Irish at the NI Executive, on the issues of the Irish Language Act – which appears as far away as ever – and the Irish language Broadcast Fund, which was axed by Edwin Poots and only rescued by Sinn Féin after the matter had been brought to their attention.

    The following September the Sinn Féin representatives on the Foras na Gaeilge board all voted against renewing the Lá Nua contract for publishing a daily newspaper as Gaeilge. They claimed the market wasn’t there for a daily paper as Gaeilge – yet the sales for the weekly paper Foinse, which haven’t been audited in ages, were little more than Lá Nua’s figures.

    To cut a long story short, Sinn Féin deserve to be heard in the media – but to allow them any form of control, as they have in the case of the Irish language media through their substantial representation on the board of Foras na Gaeilge, the unaccountable cross border body responsible for the Irish language which has yet to publish an annual report or accounts for the years 2004-7.

    It seems to me ironic that the party that railed against Section 31 has now become a censor itself. A bit too much like Animal Farm….

  • cut the bull

    BRING ON THE SQUINTER and put no leash or fetters upon him,let him speak and educate to liberate.

  • eranu

    you cant have a shinner on BBC NI simply because of their behaviour and attitude to all those well known british and NI related things. their silly phrases and refusal to use proper terms etc would make any programme into a laughing stock. imagine a shinner presenter turning to the camera after a serious discussion and asking the audience to call in to BBC six counties statelet. thats why they can never be in a serious position on TV.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it


    we have a problem with non Shinners prefixing some place names with London (which although you might suggest is technically correct) is unwanted and insulting to the majority of its inhabitants. You also have the silly situation of non shinners on the airvwaves trying to pretend that Norn Iron is a normal part of the UK.