Blog: The Hot Air Balloon Game

Posted: 26 September 2011, in Blog

The hot air balloon game

This game is all about who would be thrown out of a hot air balloon in order to keep it from crashing to the ground and killing you and everyone in it. The dilemma is that you are the only social entrepreneur in the balloon and the rest of the passengers are tabloid hacks, bent coppers, dodgy politicians and media tycoons. The bankers and estate agents have already been chucked. Everyone has one vote.

Only a fool would believe that journalists write nothing but the truth. From a post-modern perspective, what is (objective) truth and what does this scandal and our appetite for tabloid ordure say about our values? Should we not just have a world where anyone can offer their opinion as their truth and support the notion that it is their human right to think and express it – is that not what the internet is leading us to anyway? How though do we protect the weak, poor and innocent from “hurt”?

During this watershed moment for our democracy we must beware of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. What this debate should not be about includes the following: taste, decency, gossip, scandal, crime, sexual shenanigans, slander and libel. The market and the law can deal with these.

What the debate should focus on is a more ethical and applied form of journalistic practice and the ethics of and an applied form of practice for our politicians and police.

Defenders of the free press often like to cite their campaigning and investigative successes as a bulwark of democracy and a defence for their colleagues who peddle muck, hate and bile. Basically, the tabloid ordure is the price we apparently have to pay for having a free press. This is of course a load of old cobblers. Muck, bile and hate sells – simple as that.

What we should demand is the tearing up of the current journalistic code of ethics (sic) and the cosy “regime” of self regulation. This code and the PCC amount to nothing more than propaganda about how our media like to be perceived. It is crap of course. We should replace this with a 10 Commandments type list (we might have to make it 20 Commandments) placed above the front door or web page of every media outlet describing what is and isn’t permitted in being a journalist. Breaking the Commandments would be permitted in the public interest but journalists, editors and tycoons would have to take the risk that a court or new media regulation panel would rule against them. Of interest to the public is not the same at all.

We should also consider a “fit and proper persons test” for journalists to be allowed to practice. I’d insist on the sexuality, tax returns, health and criminal records and “domestic circumstances” of journalists, editors and media tycoons being made available to the public – transparency and all that. I’d want the same for all senior cops and any politician in an executive or ministerial role. We obviously can’t trust the buggers to regulate themselves so we need to keep a watch on them.

In addition, the PCC should be disbanded and replaced by a new media panel made up of social entrepreneurs. Think of the fun (and influence) to be had if folk like us could adjudicate on media misdemeanours and crimes (even crimes against good taste). The available penalties would be prominent front page apologies and potentially significant fines to be used for charitable and social enterprise development. Victims would be limited in their personal financial settlements to up to 10 times the salary and bonuses of the offending editor.

Ultimately though, what we really need is a social enterprise media outlet that talks to wider society, not just those of us in the know. The Guardian and the BBC do not meet these needs and nor do our sectoral magazines and websites etc. This new paper, website or TV show needs to be tabloid in nature and design but with higher levels of ethics and practice than those of the bottom feeders of the Street of Shame.

Corporate Governance and the editorship would be on an elected basis (the readers would elect) with limited terms of office. I would create practical barriers preventing those folk (our elites) who always seem to sit on each other’s boards getting their hands on this. No politicians or cops would be allowed for obvious reasons.

Any social entrepreneur interested in investing in this?


NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition or endorse any political position.