If I were John and John were Me,
Then he’d be six and I’d be three.
If John were Me and I were John,
I shouldn’t have these trousers on.
Two weekends, two weeks apart.
In each children spent hours preparing their own personal tributes to the focus of the weekend. Parents arranged accommodation. Face paints were in profusion. Cardboard constructions abounded. There were placards and banners and flags.
One got minute by minute coverage in hushed tones, with talking heads running out of things to say after 6 hours or so and then needing to start projecting what various people, having their every movement and facial tic filmed, might be betraying in a momentary expression. The other one was almost totally ignored, despite both events occupying almost exactly the same space in central London.
Imagine if the media priorities had been reversed:
“And, as the man with the giant mosquito on his head, slowly makes his way around Parliament Square, we reflect on how many hours must have gone into constructing that mighty insect. And now we see the scientists, garbed in their traditional white coats, making the point that no nature means no future. What a riot of colour it is and so many volunteers have given up their time, not only today but in the months of preparation for the Big One. So, Sir David, are you surprised by the number of children in the procession today?” “Not really, Huw…”
“Meanwhile in other news, police arrested a Mr Charles Windsor and his wife Camilla at their home. Police seized several crowns, an orb, sceptres, rings, some very large chairs and other paraphernalia which could be involved in coronation activity. Royalists claimed that the police had been ridiculously heavy-handed. The police said that their actions had been entirely proportionate.”
In Christopher Clark’s new book about the revolutions throughout Europe in 1848, Revolutionary Spring, he talks about the origins of radicals and liberals in opposition to the establishments of the day, divisions which still seem to be with us today. But it is our Government which is radical, prepared to do great violence to the status quo, the opposition which seems to be liberal, bogged down in endless arguments about tiny differences, and the BBC which appears to be left on its own representing what it sees as the current Establishment.
Now there will be many who say that journalists should not be involved in defending any status quo, and I can understand that. However it can also be argued that a state broadcaster like the BBC does have some responsibilities in this respect. But which status quo do you defend?
The Government’s agenda is problematic – it’s not just about the lying and the corruption, but the constant changing of position, the most obvious being the Kwarteng fiscal event in the autumn. Climate protesters are remarkably consistent by comparison, not surprisingly really as the limits imposed by physics are not changing with each quarter. And their focus of sustainability is surely the most critical part of any status quo which needs defending, ie the ability of the planet to support life in all of its forms.
Television is extremely good at focusing our attention on something, and away from something else. This is why companies spend so much on television advertising and why our televised sports halls and pitches and the combatants within them are festooned with logos and messages from a myriad of sponsors. However, the Communications Act 2003 prohibits political advertising, which includes campaigning for the purposes of influencing legislation or executive action by local or national (including foreign) governments. The BBC have interpreted this as not allowing any form of protest to be visible during televised sporting events (most recent example being the Just Stop Oil protest with the orange powder at the World Snooker Championship), an event for which the title sponsor is Cazoo, Europe’s leading online car retailer. Similarly, the police have said that one of the considerations in their level of policing response to the Republic demonstrations this weekend, including pre-arrests before the procession or any protest had taken place, had been the wall-to-wall television coverage of the event.
46% of the UK population are very or extremely worried about climate change, but the biggest demonstration in the UK in the climate movements’s history was not covered on television at all. 62% of the UK population support the monarchy and we get all the main channels turned over to coronation coverage. I think what I am calling for is a bit more balance here, something we used to think, with some pride, was a national characteristic.