NI Media will have serious questions to answer in reporting of RHI…

I suspect had someone like John Lloyd been invited to speak he would have highlighted some glaring faults in the reporting of this story.

I’d cite two major issues: lack of engagement with specialist knowledge and the egregious use of single sources to generate sustained controversy, which in turn created a dangerous form of demagogic simplification.

The media in Northern Ireland, like much of the political class they report on, tend to see themselves and their work as being above critical analysis. This is in part a function of everyone’s knowing everyone else as much as anything more sinister. However, I suspect the public inquiry report will challenge their material if not their role scaling the crisis, implicitly if not explicitly.

Huge assumptions were taken as read in the early stages of this story which we already know to be utterly false. In larger terms, that maybe because it is generally axiomatically assumed that the DUP are guilty until proven innocent. In this case there is ZERO evidence DUP had anything to do with the spike in demand.

But more importantly, there’s very little journalistic premium granted to anyone who genuinely tries to understand and communicate politics via often not terribly complex policy issues (and RHI is really not that complex) to the public.

Result: high calorific values coupled with sustained public ignorance of the core facts at the centre of the story.


  • The worm!

    So are you saying that Nolan is full of hot air, and his hard-core followers are too ignorant to notice?

    Probably a fair analysis actually!

  • David McCann

    From 9:20 in, some of those issues were actually debated and raised

  • mickfealty

    I won’t comment directly on that exchange other than to say that it’s sound in terms of what we already know. I’m not certain how much of it will withstand the impact of the Public Inquiry report.

    Nor does it mention the sub thread of the spads being in some unspoken and poorly articulated way being responsible for the spike in applications in autumn 2015 (the core reason the scheme was closed).

    That erroneous story took the career of one DUP spad and put another senior advisors personal life under extreme scrutiny with no real justification. Nor is the story about mass abuse been substantiated other than in one or two cases.

    Then there’s the figure of overspend. It goes in the space of weeks from 490k to 600k according to the then Finance Minister with only the flimsiest of challenges. Now when the PI reports, just watch what happens to those numbers.

    I’ve not seen one single authoritative account for how even the audit office figures were compiled. Which is probably why Mairtin was able to scale them without fear of let or hinderance.

    You can be very sure that the enquiry will bring a thoroughness to those figures that’s been sorely lacking hitherto. In the meantime who has adequately explained the quiet abolition of power sharing?

  • Nor was the knowledge of SF in events and understanding the issues. SF knew about RHI et al for around a year, at least, before bringing the house down, and yet the whole issue has barely featured in discussions over recent months except as a final red line which makes the rest of the discussion pointless.

  • mickfealty

    It really makes you wonder. Perhaps there’s an instrumental reason over and above the usual conspiracy theory view that it’s merely ingrained bias. In this case at least.

  • Mister_Joe

    Test new

  • mickfealty

    By which I mean, what if some of the ‘stories’ (like the 24 hour boilers) were given to journalists by the DUP’s erstwhile partners in government. You’re not inclined then to turn on your sources.