Letter: If it doesn't move don't cover it

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NIK GOWING'S analysis of television's influence on government foreign policy ('Instant pictures, instant policies?', 3 July) was welcome for its intelligence and depth of research.

But television is only one of several mass communication media, and its real power is the extent to which it sets the news agenda. As an agent for photojournalists, I can testify to a long list of international issues that have been ignored by the international print media - until highlighted by television.

Newspapers and magazines follow the whims of television producers, and the consequent positions taken by newspapers do influence governments. Although newspapers are just as fickle as television, there is a curious assumption that papers represent public opinion (presumably because people are seen to buy them) - and government is very susceptible to pressure from print. There are many examples of this, perhaps the most ridiculous being the ill-conceived legislation concerning Pit Bull terriers.

Although the influence may be indirect, television coverage feeds a louder echo chamber which would otherwise be very quiet. The crucial factor in all this is the image. It should be a matter of great concern that it is the moving image rather than the issue which guides the roving news 'searchlight', even for newspapers. This is television's unseen hand.

Stephen Mayes

Network Photographers

London EC1

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