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THE MEDIA

Dialogue:______read aloud in pairs

A: Do you think the Government should act to curb the power of media barons

who own a lot of national newspapers and satellite channels?

 

B: Yes, but no Government would risk too much confrontation. Good or bad

publicity decides election results.

 

A: But that's terrible! Are you saying that foreign-based multinationals decide

who is going to be British Prime Minister.

 

B: Yes and no. There's no doubt that these large monopolies have a great deal of

power. If we let them finance important new developments such as digital television,

you can be sure that they'll market technical devices which can only receive their

own TV broadcasts unless the Government intervenes. On the other hand, Britain is

fortunate to have public corporations such as the BBC which get their income from the

licence payer rather than advertisers.

 

A: Why do you say we're fortunate when we have to pay nearly 100 per year for

only two TV channels and a handful of radio stations?

 

B: Because this money can be used to make programmes which people really

want to watch or listen to. The BBC isn't owned by anybody and doesn't have to bow

to the wishes of large advertising agencies.

 

A: Well, it may not be owned, but it is controlled by a Board of Governors

appointed by the Prime Minister. Don't you think that there's a danger of self-

censorship?

 

B: What do you mean by that?

 

A: I mean that people who want to get on in the BBC may be tempted to choose

programme content which pleases the Director General and the Government. If the

Director General allows too much criticism of the Government, then the Home Office

could retaliate by reducing the licence fee.

 

B: I doubt that this would ever happen. The BBC prides itself on its

independence, and Government interference of this kind would be too obvious.

Journalists and politicians of integrity would find a way of publicizing the truth.

Electorates can usually tell when censorship and corruption have reached a certain

level.

 

A: You mean, you can't fool all of the people all of the time?

 

B: Exactly. Even the media barons have to switch their allegiance when they find

they're backing the wrong horse. People just won't continue to accept editorial lines,

for example on schools or the health service, which don't match up with their

experience. A fall in viewing figures or readership would damage the pockets of our

masters!