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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Media balance

Balance: it's a lovely thing. It stops us falling over and inspires manufacturers of essential executive toys, and without it Disney-based ice spectaculars would be only a longed-for dream. Balance in the media? More problematic.
TV balancing meant I recently spent an afternoon in New York watching a "scientist" explain that dinosaur eggs are really small. All dinosaur eggs. Which means dinosaurs must have started out being really small. Even the big ones. So Noah could have fitted them into the Ark. Media balance dictates that if one wingnut thinks gravity is caused by a rota of subterranean angels sucking, then he'll get as much air time as all those dull, arrogant physicists.
Media balance leaves apparently helpless reporters reciting conflicting statistics as if they were beyond interpretation. It provides the pseudo-factual white noise between surgical dating makeovers and the soaps. It sets extensive coverage of Condoleezza Rice's vacuous bleatings against non-specific mumbles about protest. It means demonstrations against the occupation of Iraq aren't covered by the BBC, leading to more demonstrations outside BBC premises, which aren't covered. This is the most common form of media balance - balancing reality with silence.


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