This is the fourth issue of the weekly CHACR Take Away newsletter. In these newsletters, you will find links to the latest products by the CHACR, but also links to key reports and studies by external experts and institutions which we think you should pay attention to.
A Word from the Director To get through this crisis, and, importantly, to emerge strong at the other side of it, every element of British society needs to pull together. In normal times the British news and public information media has, with a long and honourable history, rightly seen part of its role as being to hold the sitting Government to account. (Of course, it has also seen part of its role as holding Her Majesty’s Opposition to account over how they exercise their official function of holding the Government to account!). There is no doubt that a world-respected ‘free press’ has long been a cornerstone of what makes British society strong. But at what stage does a natural inclination towards the Custodes role become unhelpful towards the national management of a crisis? Is COVID providing a wake-up call to the ‘Establishment’ and the ‘Media’ to re-find their mutual respect and trust?
A couple of short weeks ago a television news programme ran two opening stories as their leading articles. The first questioned, quite robustly, whether the Government was issuing the correct advice. The second, quite robustly, offered a judgemental report on those who were failing to follow Government advice. Neither the anchor for the programme, nor, presumably, the editor, saw irony in the possible influence of the approach of the first item of news upon people’s behaviour in the second. This morning, on the radio, I heard a journalist questioning a minister so aggressively (interrupting answers and posing her own interpretations for comment, rather than asking questions and allowing full and informative answers) that I was moved to switch the radio off – thus, perhaps, missing some useful information from the Minister. I wonder, when this is all over and we have time to reflect, whether the Establishment (parliamentarians, civil servants, police, military, NHS, et al) and the Media (Television, radio and print media at least) might not find time to rethink and re-discuss their relationship and move a bit further away from suspicion and confrontation and a bit closer towards trust and cooperation. Just a thought…….
Maj Gen (Ret) Dr Andrew Sharpe