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Monday, December 08, 2008

Laying the blame with politicians

The Irish Independent on Sunday carried a comment piece from Dublin Professor Colum Kenny, which criticised Irish politicians who have sought to lay the blame for the failure of the referendum on the Lisbon Treaty at the feet of the media, rather than accept their own failures to engage the public in a dialogue.

He writes, “The Committee on the Constitution seems to be angling to find a way to discourage broadcasters from giving equal time to both sides during referendum campaigns.”

But, as he points out, the media debate can be outweighed by symbolic messages, such as, “When the Taoiseach and the Irish EU commissioner both indicated that they had not fully read the Lisbon Treaty, they sent a symbolic signal of immense force to the electorate… voters were immediately freed to reject the document when even two highly-paid and highly-placed public figures -- who have access to highly qualified advisors -- appeared to find it incomprehensible.”

“The extent to which the legislative agenda of national parliaments is now largely set by EU initiatives and directives is not generally acknowledged by politicians. Voters might treat EU proposals with greater interest and respect if it were.”

He goes on to argue, “What is crucial from a communications perspective is a commitment by elected representatives to earn their considerable incomes and perks by working harder to convince the public of the benefits of Lisbon and the relevance of the EU. Don't blame the media, please, for a political failure.”

How refreshing to hear an argument for apportioning blame where it belongs, rather than attempt to scapegoat the media for failing to fall in line with a political agenda.

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