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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lunatics in charge of regulating the asylum

If I were a rational person then I would simply despair for our future and/or leave the country.

"The internet as a whole is an excellent source of casual opinion," he said. "TV is where people often look for expert or authoritative opinion."

[From Government plans to tighten up online regulation, says culture secretary Andy Burnham | Media |]

God help us. What the Kultur Kommissar actually means by this comment is that TV can still be regulated after a fashion whereas the Internet cannot. I remember reading a book about the history of TV in America -- I can't remember what it was called, this was a few years ago -- which made a penetrating observation about this phenomenon, saying essentially that the guiding principle of government regulation of TV was that the government was regulating because... it could. It couldn't regulate print media any more so it transferred both its cultural nightmares of the mob and its content to the new medium of television. Now that television is beginning to matter less and the fractured multi-channel, trans-national business is harder to regulate, it has become the establishment friend of power and the great unwashed have got their hands on blogs to the dismay of the aristocrats.

Incidentally, so far as the relationship between TV and the Internet goes, I see that Channel 4 has thrown in the towel on behalf of the broadcasters and started broadcasting a programme made up from -- as far as the briefest of glances could tell -- nothing more than YouTube clips. While this is certainly an improvement on the usual Celebrity Chefs on Ice rubbish (particularly because no celebrities or chefs are getting paid because of it) it's not at all clear why you wouldn't just watch YouTube.

Anyway, back to that well-known source of authoritative and expert opinion, TV. As far as I know, the majority of the population never watch documentaries, news, current affairs or anything else aspiring to the Reithian vision. I doubt that 1 in 20 people know who Andy Burnham is. I only know who he is because he made a very, very dumb statement when he was the minister in charge of ID cards, saying that

"I take the view that it is part of being a good citizen, proving who you are, day in day out," said Mr Burnham.

[From Fifth defeat for ID card scheme | Politics |]

There's a pattern here: he's wrong about everything. But why is he so wrong about the Net? The Net gives me access to authoritative opinion: it's TV that is the source of casual opinion. If I want to know about the impact of some health care reform, I'll go and reader a doctor's blog. If I want to know what's going on in the police force, I'll read a policeman's blog. And so on. Why on Earth would I care what Fiona Phillips or Jeremy Paxman thinks about things?

Sure it's early days, and the structure and etiquette have yet to settle down, but it's already clear that having direct access to first hand experience, well-informed opinion and up-to-date expertise make the Net far more valuable that almost all opinion from television.

In the future, everyone will be famous to fifteen people.
[posted with ecto]

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