The results of the HST referendum will give politicians, corporate executives and government advisers a whole lot to think about over the coming months and even years: the public have spoken and sent a message and warning … don’t take us for granted or treat us like idiots.
And, with my own media background, having watched how the “reporting” and “commentaries” on the HST debate unfolded over the past two years, I believe the media itself will also be tarred for years … unless it does a serious review of how it covered this major issue, and changes.
Too many reporters and too many commentators … pretending to be unbiased or feigning that they had not yet made up their mind … acted as outright propagandists and messengers for the government and big business on the HST.
They should be ashamed of themselves.
Let me explain.
I have no quarrel with any politician, business person or even media pundit who felt the HST was good (or bad) … and said so openly and forthrightly. I was against the HST and clearly said so; and some others, pro or con, did the same.
But there were far too many who failed to declare their support or anti-HST bias, but propagandized almost every time they reported or commented, with puff ball questions or puff ball stories supporting “their” side, reserving true journalistic cynicism and questionning for only those with whom they disagreed.
For example, I was bothered to no end to see reporters doing stories with, say, film industry officials who said the industry would save millions of dollars from the HST … and then instead of reporting “the film industry SAYS (or alleges or claims) it will save millions” under the HST, they reported instead “the film industry WILL save millions” …. reporting as fact totally unproved claims, unsubstantiated by any facts or statistics … just media parrots repeating the propaganda.
And this happened quite a lot.
Too many reporters …and their bosses … just accepted, and reported as FACT, not as claims or allegations, almost everything and anything government officials, politicians and business spokespeople said in support of the HST. So during the past two years, readers, listeners and viewers were swarmed with all kinds of unproven statements by the pro-HST forces reported as FACT, without question or even cautionery wording that these were predictions by sources coming from a particular bias.
That’s why for many, many months we saw a lot of “reporters” and media “pundits” saying: “the tax IS revenue neutral” rather than the government CLAIMS it is revenue neutral”; the “tax will create 100,000 jobs” ; “the tax savings will be passed on in lower prices” …. all of which was subsequently proved WRONG. There was also, more recently: the defeat of the tax “will cost BC billions”; there will a loss of “thousands of jobs”; and, turning down the HST “will make BC uncompetitive” (no mention that Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan …whose growth puts BC’s to shame … have no HST and seem to be doing fine.)
Even today, I heard a seasoned pundit say the revenue impact on the government from loss of the HST will be “HUGE” … this from someone who had initially said, with a fair degree of certainty when it was introduced it would be revenue-neutral (after the government said it would be revenue-neutral) , then later (when the government admitted it wasn’t) said it would generate some additional income but not a lot in provincial budget terms …to now its loss will have a “HUGE” impact.
Too many media types repeated as FACT whatever the government or business community said. If they were honest to their craft, they should have known better. .. and written, reported or spoken of it for what it really was: unproven claims and speculation.
Or registered as lobbyists.
Far too many pundits also pretended to be neutral when it sure looked to me … by their unbalanced invitation numbers to guests, advocates and analysts … and their soft questionning that their minds WERE made up. As I said, there is nothing wrong about taking a stand, but to pretend to be neutral, yet polish the government or corporate apple almost daily is indefensible.
The most satisfying thing, for me, is that it did not work.
The public saw through the propaganda … whether it was in the form of news articles, guest interviews, or propaganda commentaries dished out almost daily for TWO years … and the people sent the HST packing.
And the media had better learn the lesson of this …and start reporting as ALLEGED or CLAIMED all kinds of unsubstantiated information, especially from government … not just pass it all on as FACT.
Or the public will send the media packing.
(Reminder: Anyone who wants free alerts to new postings on my blog, just follow me on Twitter.)