Nicholas Jones - Blog and Archive Website

Broadcasters – and especially those at the BBC – are being urged by the campaigner Gina Miller to refrain from harking back to the Leave and Remain arguments of two years ago and to focus instead on the process of the UK exiting the European Union.

In her view, there was still much too much reporting of a sterile Brexit debate that was still dominated by lies and untruths and too little reporting of the facts and figures surrounding the UK’s departure.

Ms Miller delivered a passionate plea for more analysis on future UK-EU arrangements in a speech after the presentation of the annual Charles Wheeler award to the Channel 4 News presenter Michael Crick at the University of Westminster.  (19.6.2018) where she was the guest of the British Journalism Review.

“This harking back to the arguments of two years ago is not helpful. We need to be hearing about the position today, hearing from the experts, and the broadcasters should be asking questions to see what is happening, to see if we are we are exiting the EU in a way without hurting this country.

When Theresa May finally acknowledged in the House of Commons that the UK would be worse off economically after Brexit, she posed questions the British news media should attempt to answer:

“How many jobs are being threatened by Brexit?”

“And, more importantly, how many have been lost already?”

No answers are likely from Brexit-supporting newspapers that command 70 per cent of national sales and readership.

Not only will there be no attempt to explain or justify the loss of output and employment, but the Brextremist press will carry on their cover-up, continuing to totally ignore news stories that point to halted investments, declining job opportunities and a damaging exodus of talented staff.

Unrelenting pro-Brexit propaganda – exaggerating positive forecasts but ignoring harsh facts – represents a massive challenge to the multiplicity of groups and factions fighting to reverse the UK’s departure from the EU single market and customs union.

The only way to counter the Brexiteers’ falsehoods is to fight them with factual data and analysis, but what is so lacking is a co-ordinated media strategy to counter misrepresentation.

When the news broke in June that the Greek public broadcaster ERT had been closed down, taken off the air, I found the justification of the Greek government provided an uncanny throwback to events in Britain.

Throughout the run-up to the 2010 general election, David Cameron, as leader of the Conservative Party, had been at the forefront of the demands to freeze the BBC licence fee.

Within three months of taking office, the coalition government formed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats had imposed a 20 per cent reduction in the BBC’s spending.

The Greek’s government’s official spokesman accused ERT of being “a haven of waste”.  He said it had displayed “an exceptional lack of transparency” and had done nothing to end “incredible extravagance”.

Conservative politicians promoted a similar line when the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne justified his October 2010 spending review which included a six-year freeze on the BBC’s licence fee, cutting the the BBC’s income by £1 billion a year by 2015.

Like other powerful but controversial institutions the European Parliament is stepping up its investment in what amounts to paid-for journalism. Contracts are about to be awarded for funding programmes to be broadcast by local and international television channels. But, with editorial budgets for investigative and analytical journalism in steep decline, are the European Parliament -- and also the European Commission -- faced with no alternative but to buy news coverage in the media market place in the hope of gaining some favourable exposure? If the initial reports are correct, and if the contracts likely to be awarded for programmes on CNN and ITV are to be controlled by script and even post-production approval, the European Parliament could be in danger of repeating the worst examples of embedded journalism during the Iraq War and might well end up financing nothing more than blatant propaganda. Nicholas Jones examines an initiative which is already producing some agonised soul searching among Europe’s journalists.

Speech to MPs in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus 1.4.2008 

If the talks to re-unite the island of Cyprus begin making progress, there could soon be an enhanced role for the fifty-seat parliament of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. Determined efforts have already begun to re-engage the interest of both the public and the news media in the long-stalled programme to end the isolation of Turkish Cypriots. A priotity for action will be the establishment of a select committee to consider what will have to be done to ensure the institutions and services of the north are able to harmonise with the requirements of the European Union. An equally pressing task is the appointment of a public accounts committee to follow through the work which has already been accomplished by the recently-formed court of audit which has been monitoring public expenditure in North Cyprus. At a seminar in Nicosia (1.4.2008) Nicholas Jones gave a presentation to North Cyprus MPs and parliamentary staff on the importance of the select committee system and explained how strengthening parliament would win new respect for its members.