More consumption and more fun

Medialens, November 1:

The Guardian this week published an article by the readers’ editor, Siobhain Butterworth, discussing “the contradiction between what the Guardian has to say about environmental issues and what it advertises”. (Butterworth, ”˜Open door – The readers’ editor on… the contradiction between what we say and the ads we run,’ The Guardian, October 29, 2007)

Butterworth cited comments made by Guardian columnist George Monbiot following a discussion with Media Lens (See here):

“Newspaper editors make decisions every day about which stories to run and which angles to take. Why can they not also make decisions about the ads they carry? While it is true that readers can make up their own minds, advertising helps to generate behavioural norms. These advertisements make the destruction of the biosphere seem socially acceptable.”

Monbiot asked: “why could the newspapers not ban ads for cars which produce more than 150g of CO2 per kilometre? Why could they not drop all direct advertisements for flights?”

These were very sane and courageous questions from Monbiot – he deserves every credit for raising them. Butterworth supplied Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger’s comments in response:

“It is always useful to ask your critics what economic model they would choose for running an independent organisation that can cover the world as widely and fully with the kind of journalism we offer.”

It can of course be useful to discuss solutions in this way. However, we have noticed that the question, ”˜Well, what’s your alternative?’, is often a fallback position after sheer weight of evidence has forced the abandonment of denials of the existence of a problem. So, for example, debaters – let’s call them the ”˜Free Press’ Faithful – may tirelessly insist that, in the UK, we have “a press which has a relatively wide range of views – there is a pretty small ”˜c’ conservative majority but there are left-wing papers, and there is a pretty large offering of views running from the far right to the far left…”. (Andrew Marr, The Big Idea – Interview with Noam Chomsky, BBC 2, 1996)

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