Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life

The Gentleman’s Agreement and other controls

December 29th, 2009 · 14 Comments · Irish Media, Irish Politics

A slumber inspired rambling tangent on recent events.

We now know that TV3 didn’t believe in it or stick by whatever the press office in the Department of Finance or Government Press Office asked for before Christmas.

Some people, myself included, have difficulty in these agreements and the culture that surrounds them – ie.when a party requests another party to not say or do something or one offers something else instead to stop something else being reported or acted upon. I’ve no doubt that many journalists are asked to keep something quiet or are given something else instead to stop something being reported. There have been accusations of cosiness between political correspondents and politicians and their handlers but no real analysis of whether this is actually the case. Press offices also refuse to co-operate with journalists and attempt to kill stories in a variety of ways.

Where do these agreements lie now? Are the gloves off and a ruthless media unleashed? Is the condemnation of TV3 by many other media groups because they don’t want these agreements challenged, are genuinely outraged and have a moral compass or are people in other media organisations happy that the story is out? Looking at Andrew Lynch’s op-ed piece in the Evening Herald yesterday one could be very confused. He condemns TV3 before launching into speculation on reshuffles to come.

What other issues are not reported on due to agreements, nods and winks? And what now for TV3 correspondents in terms of their treatment by press handlers and politicians in the weeks ahead?

I’m not mentioning this because I have a problem with someone asking for personal information such as that which TV3 reported on being kept from the public. I thought the manner of the reporting by TV3 was really crass and I do think that some right to privacy should remain for people. I don’t go by the public interest angle that many are citing in the disclosure of Minister Lenihan’s health especially during a Christmas holiday and when he’s not had the time to tell family members. The contribution to the report by oncologist John Crown was also new low for Irish media.

Maybe we should be more worried about editorial influences on the way in which news is reported than the control that politicians and decision makers seek to have on the ‘news’ itself. The lack of news reporting at all is also something increasingly of concern both by those consuming and working in the sector. There’s far too much opinion and commentary and far too little news and investigative reporting (says she expressing an opinion!) The role of the licence fee and veiled and not too veiled threats made to RTE funding if they get too near the bone are always in the background when thinking about this topic.

All the above is without ever being near a journalism ethics class – it’s the views of a consumer. I expect lectures.

Eoin O’Dell nudges us towards thinking on whether the recent incident will prompt the introduction of a privacy bill much liked in some quarters of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. Freelancer and author Gerard Cunningham looks at the mistakes TV3 made. Another freelancer and editor of Forth Magazine, Jason Walsh, also thinks TV3 was right but wrong and launches a defence of journalism and there’s a lot of interesting toing and froing in the comments. Deirdre O’Shaughnessy from the Cork Independent (but blogging on her own blog) writes about the dilemma’s involved and wonders on the impact on TV3.

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