BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
As we’ve found for ourselves during these first two months here at Country Squire Magazine, the public read what takes their fancy. They don’t read any old thing thrust in their faces. The process of knowing what tickles one’s readers is a process of trial and error. Success emanates from dexterously riding waves of public interest and by reflecting their will, as opposed to Pravda in days of old; imposing regulated stories on a captive audience banned from reading anything else.
The audience is the chisel. The publication is merely the wood that the chisel shapes.
It must be galling for those last thousands who acquired daily copies of The Independent to acknowledge that their favourite read has been reduced to a click-bait blog offering such enticement as These dogs are having a better time than you. Just as it must make those remaining (in both senses of the word) Guardian readers shudder seeing their favourite broadsheet fast-approaching a financial firestorm.
In their heart of hearts, readers know the truth. For centuries it’s been thus. The public – the market – dictates. What sells is what the public wants. What the public don’t want to buy goes bust. Contrary to what Leftists claim, if the public don’t want to buy The Sun or The Mail they will not pick them from the newsstand – there’s no dictator, or conspiratorial force, obligating them to buy these particular papers.
Regulating newspapers (and, to a lesser degree, TV Channels and film production) is a fool’s errand in an age when a tweet in its 140 characters explodes like a hand grenade in the scooper’s newsroom. It could be sent by a Twitter user from a shack in Zamboanga – on the worldwide web that tweet is beyond control and certainly far from the grips of any regulatory body. Yet it can fire round social media gaining audience quicker than the highly educated, well-paid journalist at the traditional paper can type away at his keyboard.
After phone hacking, of course there needs to be some kind of a reaction. And there has been. Existing legislation to uphold human decency – human to human law rather than newspaper regulatory to human law – could still be polished and it should widely be seen to be enforced against transgressors.
But let’s get real, shall we?
The idea of newspapers setting public opinion is as nonsensical as Jehovah’s Witnesses proselytising door-to-door in Alum Rock or having Eddie Izzard as part of your political election campaign. Making money from newspapers is an act of genius these days – akin to flying and landing a bath tub.
The idea that some ragtag figures – either busted for sexual high-jinks or wielding a distaste for the political persuasions of the successful newspapers – should think they can dictate to the Press what and how British press freedom should look like is as absurd as the British Public accepting the jackboot ranting of Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists (BUF) in the 1940’s.
So very un-British. Surely a prompt for another Areopagitica.
The idea that these tiny moneyed minorities – laughed at by British society – think that they can somehow change Britain into their mindset by going after the successful newspapers is nothing more than windmill-tilting. Mistaking the wood for the chisel and the chisel for the wood.
It must be painful to be exposed in the press in your underpants, as a tinfoil conspiracy theorist, or for some other embarrassing quirk or fancy. But the British public have always lapped up a good, juicy scandal and have enjoyed many a pint or cuppa chuckling about so-and-so with his peculiar views; how perhaps he was dropped as a baby. Just as Italians stop their cars on the autostrade to stare down crevasses at the wrecked cars and burning corpses of their fellow countrymen, so we British enjoy a bit of blood and banter in our daily newspapers. Taking that away from us would make us restless and less free to know, learn and choose. Our newspapers reflect who we are. Such regulation will kill our beloved newspapers (those we happily, freely choose to buy to read) for good.
IMPRESS – the press regulator bankrolled by Max Mosley’s millions – has gained recognition as a state-backed watchdog, even though no national newspapers are among its members. It now wants to force newspapers which do not join up to it to face legal penalties. And this has rightly been exposed by many as a farce. Fraser Nelson, the Editor of The Spectator, was characteristically passionate and silver-tongued in his arguments here.
The Mosley of our day does not yet merit internment like his father – although some of his Britain-hating pals at Hacked-Off could do with a rest in other types of institutions at the state’s disposal. For sure, Mosley’s regulator IMPRESS, for its blatant attack on British freedom, could do with meeting an end like Sir Oswald’s BUF.
The only silver lining for freedom lovers in the whole process is that Mosley has spent in the region of £3.8M on IMPRESS. That’s around a quarter of his estimated £13 Million 2012 net worth.
Regulators are not financially viable entities. IMPRESS is set up as a non-profit. By the Tory Government dragging Mosley and his tinfoil chums along the path to nowhere for as long as possible, these chancers will soon get drained of their resources and, like the once potent Sir Oswald, become justly reduced to nowt. A win-win for the British people and their beloved free press.