Ian Reeves, former editor of Press Gazette, argued that developments such as online video-sharing, blogs and podcasting mean that the public is becoming the press, speaking at a PPA-sponsored House of Commons debate last Friday.
Reeves, editor until last Friday when the 41 year old title closed down, said: “The one-to-many era is being replaced by the many-to-many era: mass broadband access has put power in the hands of the people.”
Arguing for the motion: 'The press are more in touch with public opinion than politicians', Reeves identified a “shut-down in information from official channels,” which he said was becoming “the plague of British journalism".
He praised journalists for a history of exposing wrong-doing in public life, but warned that the press has to spend an increasing amount of time fighting secrecy. He blamed difficulties in making applications under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, and said the problem was getting worse: “Many, many journalists are banging their heads against the wall trying to get information under the Act. It is becoming hard for journalists to do their jobs properly.”
The motion was opposed by controversial Respect MP George Galloway.
Opposing the motion, Galloway admitted he didn’t “have a particular dog in this fight” due to the failure of MPs to hold the Government to account over Iraq. He said when he looked at the Government benches he saw: “a shiver looking for a spine to run up.” But although MPs had let the country down, he argued that the National press had let it down even more. Said Galloway: “Journalists are no longer inclined to ferret around in the dark undergrowth of public life. They will consume a bun and a cup of tea in the corridors of power and are given the news that the Government wants to report.”
The Respect MP described the proper relationship between the press and politicians as that “between a dog and a lamp post.” He said that while he was responsible to his constituents, journalists working in the national press were likely to be answerable to "a foreign billionaire.”
Also opposing the motion was Peter Bottomley MP, who argued that not only were politicians more in touch but they knew which media to access to reach different communities.
For only the second time in the Debating Group’s history the vote was tied.
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