Governments losing the media war?

I’ve been at the Frontline Club to listen to a World Press Freedom Day Debate: Are Governments at War Winning the Battle of Controlling the International Media?

Tim Unwin has done a good job of accurately reporting the proceedings. I think the debate will be online too.

My feeling is that the truth of the motion depends on what we include as “international media”. If we are talking just about established, authoratitive news outlets, then maybe the “ayes” have it. However, if we include bloggers and citizen journalists in the definition, then maybe the “noes” are closer to the truth.

There is also the distinction between “combat operations”, when real time reporting seems to go in favour of governments at war, and after the event reporting, when more facts and viewpoints emerge. The established news organisations have the edge in the heat of battle, and alternative, dissenting voices emerge only over time.

At the end, Joe Cullen from the Tavistock Institute urged caution regarding social networking and web 2.0 technologies. They are not changing the political landscape, he says, and most people’s experience of these new sources of information is filtered through the mainstream media, and whatever narrative it is currently perpetuating.

The question is, as always, in what direction are we travelling? I remain optimistic that as more people adopt new methods of communication and news sources, the credibility gap will close and the spectrum of opinion, and information available, will increase.

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