Greg Dyke: We must not return to being deferential to politicians

From the James Cameron lecture by the former director general of the BBC, given at City University, London
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The Independent Online

The numbers voting in general elections is in decline across Europe and the hostility towards politicians is widespread. Never have politicians been held in such low esteem. How much is the media responsible for that?

The numbers voting in general elections is in decline across Europe and the hostility towards politicians is widespread. Never have politicians been held in such low esteem. How much is the media responsible for that?

The hostility between journalists and politicians has worsened in the years I have been involved in broadcasting. Who is to blame for that - journalists, politicians, both, or neither?

In the modern world, politicians know how to use and play the media; in the 21st century, they have become arch exponents of spin. That is why broadcast journalism must never go back to the period when it was deferential to politicians. The world has changed; politics has changed; politicians have changed. All are very different from the world we were dealing with 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Whilst journalists must take some of the responsibility, much more of it should be attributed to the culture of spin which now dominates British politics.

Both politicians and journalists are needed in modern day society. The rules of war between them probably need to be agreed better than they are, and both probably need to respect each other more than they do. But a thriving democracy needs both.

Remember Grace Wyndham Goldie: "Nowhere more than in broadcasting is the price of freedom eternal vigilance; resistance to political pressures has to be constant and continuous. But... such pressures are inevitable, for the aims of political parties and those of broadcasting organisations are not the same."

That's the point. The aims of political parties and broadcasting organisations are not the same. As such, conflict is inevitable. Let's hope not too much, not too often and not too many casualties.

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