The question currently obsessing our media, whether or not they should be regulated, and if so by whom, reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my sons about twenty five years ago. Went something like this.
Son: C’mon, Dad. Let me have the car tonight.
Me: Why should I trust you?
Son: But I’ve got something really important on.
Me: And that has to do with trust, what? I’m just remembering the last six times…
Son: But I’ve learned my lesson. From now on, I’ll be responsible.
So, I gave in. Sure enough, next morning, I go downstairs to find son asleep on the lounge. Turned out he came in too wasted to find his way to his room.
I checked the car, which, miraculously, was in good shape. More than could be said for the offspring.
And that’s pretty much mainstream media’s argument, “What I have to do is too important for me to be restricted, and, yes, I’ve been irresponsible in the past, but trust me, I’ll do the right thing.”
The problem with taking the industry’s protestations seriously is simple. They can’t be trusted because at no time in history has self regulation worked. For any industry. Ever. Period.
Regardez vous – I put that in because I’m writing this from Nice in the south of France, a singularly cool town mid way between Cannes and Monaco. Not a half bad location – anyway, let’s look back at previous self regulation attempts.
From Big Tobacco we have the ever popular five decades of hiding the smoking and cancer link.
From Retailing we have twelve year old girls turned into advertising sex objects.
The Beef industry gave us cattle stuffed with concrete powder and antibiotics. Of course, they were only trying to compete with the chicken industry’s battery hens also stuffed with antibiotic. Oh, and bits of other chickens.
Meanwhile, Fast Food executives push fat laden hamburgers during kids TV programs.
Given the consequences of a screw up, you’d think the airline industry would do the right thing. But would you fly if there was no aviation authority keeping tabs? Me neither.
No industry can be trusted to self regulate, because when it comes to profit, we human won’t let terribly much get between us and a buck.
So, should the media be regulated?
Just ask Rupert Murdoch.
Or my son.