Douglas Carswell

06 MAY 2016

Is this news .... or just a journalist's script?

When we watch the news, we are being shown what's going on, right? The journalist is giving us a report on how things are. Actually, no.

Since I became an MP, I've discovered that many "news" stories have actually been scripted by a producer. Sure, they want to tell a story. But their story does not always entail reporting the way things are.

First, a producer decides what story they want to tell. Then they cast around for people to say what they want said to camera. Again and again, producers will phone me to see if I'm willing to say something that tallies with the narrative.

They are not phoning round to establish and then report opinion. They have decided what needs to be said. Then pitch for folk to say it.

These efforts at casting are often comically absurd.

In the past 24 hours I had one TV journalist ask if I would come on to discuss the Conservative party's response to yesterday's elections. When I pointed out that I was a UKIP MP they paused, before saying they'd ring back. Presumably they'd forgotten to up date their list of disgruntled Tory backbenchers.

Next, a radio producer invited me to go on air to talk about Lord Dubs "as one of his well-known opponents".

Come again? I've never met Lord Dubs. Nor was I aware of my "well-known opposition" to him.

Of course, what the Guardianista producer meant is that they wanted someone to go on air and sound frightfully right wing and say lots of beastly things about the noble Lord. But they couldn't put it quite like that....

When filming in Poland recently, a deputy mayor waxed lyrically to me on camera about the need for his town to team up with a city in China. Far from disagreeing with the Brexit point of view, he said things that reinforced the idea that we should look to the wider world. Curiously his off script comments never made it through the editing process.

One of the reasons people are so disaffected with politics is because they regard politicians as bogus. But part of the reason politics looks bogus is the way the establishment media presents it.

The trouble is the public increasingly see through it. In America, the mainstream media are mistrusted just as much as the political class. The same thing has started to happen in Britain.

So here's an idea for the media moguls: why not report events as they are, not how your producers want to script them?

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