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Switch Off TV

Just yesterday, Alan Rusbridger, who served as the Guardian’s editor from 1995 to 2015, penned a column with the title, “This is a key moment in the public’s view of mainstream news” . here’s no denying that quality journalism is, and always will be, essential.

Rusbridger pointed out that during the initial phase of World War II, it became strikingly evident how heavily British citizens relied on newspaper astrologers, basing their daily decisions on their advice.

This situation became so concerning that the Home Office (Intelligence Branch) conducted research, discovering that 40% of the populace trusted in astrology enough to alter their actions during air raids. Consequently, the financial secretary to the Treasury demanded “strong action to put a stop to this form of journalism.” And folks, yes, we’re discussing an event that transpired 80 years ago.

But the question remains: 80 years on, have we made any progress? Is the press freedom we pride ourselves on truly free or merely an illusion?

It appears that no good news lies ahead.

Amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, numerous developments have occurred. In Spain, for instance, during the early days of the lockdown, the government issued a €15 million grant as supplemental economic measures for mainstream media to counteract the financial impact of the pandemic on the media sector. This action was possible under the Royal Decree-Law, which allowed it to proceed without debate due to the Alarm State.

This raises the question: Can we rely on media and press for unbiased information when they depend on government financial assistance? Is it plausible for any of them to provide independent information to citizens?

I think not.

Currently, in Spain, media coverage of the COVID-19 crisis is saturated with content. Everything appears so well-managed that we can take pride in it, with no one questioning the data. The only criticism emerges on Twitter, where extreme right- and left-wing groups, supported by hordes of bots, spew and sow anger everywhere.

On the other hand, we venture outside (if you catch my drift) and applaud at 8 pm, even as our healthcare workers are drained and observe the unfolding events with disbelief. But hey, we’ve nearly got things under control, right? That’s what they’re telling us.

I can’t help but wonder: if the media isn’t fulfilling its independent role, what purpose do they serve?

What quality of coverage are they delivering, and why aren’t they facing repercussions for not acting as gatekeepers?

They must be held accountable for their actions and face the consequences. In the United States, for example, Fox News is embroiled in a lawsuit for labeling COVID-19 a “hoax.” The nonprofit group, Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics (WASHLITE), accused the network of violating Washington State’s Consumer Protection Act by falsely claiming in February and March broadcasts that the virus was a hoax, downplaying the crisis in a way that potentially hindered efforts to slow the disease’s spread.

The lawsuit followed an open letter to Fox News, signed by 74 journalism professors, which warned that its coverage was “a danger to public health.” They urged the network to “help protect the lives of all Americans—including your elderly viewers—by ensuring that the information you deliver is based on scientific facts. Here the full Washington Superior Court Washlite v. Fox News

The case is scheduled for trial on March 29, 2021, in the King County Superior Court. It remains to be seen what will transpire, but the battle promises to be fierce—Fox has already retained the services of Donald Trump’s favored law firm, Jones Day.

For now, I’ve chosen to switch off the TV.

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