One of the most remarkable things about the Covid crisis has been the failure of the legacy media to hold the government – and the Opposition – to account.
Instead of demanding a cost-benefit analysis of the likely harm, as well as the potential necessity, of lockdowns – or calling for heads to roll because of the disgraceful neglect, and subsequent deaths, of our elderly in nursing homes – for the most part the media have acted as nodding heads to the message from the political establishment.
For 20 long months, most of the investigative work or the sharp criticism journalists like to think is the mark of their trade, has been curiously absent. Instead we’re treated to daily doses of doom, terrifying the country and demoralising everyone.
In fact, it often appears that the media is openly hostile to anybody critical of never-ending lockdown, and reserves its harshest criticism for those who – rightly or wrongly – criticise Nphet policy.
All that makes the figures released yesterday on government spending on Covid-19 messaging all the more significant. It’s no secret that media platforms have been struggling for a decade or more, and the sums given to media outfits for Covid advertising is eye-watering.
Michael McNamara TD tweeted some of those numbers yesterday. “The HSE has spent €11.75 million on Covid-related advertising in addition to a €0.53m spend by the Department of Health,” he said.
The HSE has spent €11.75 million on Covid-related advertising in addition to a €0.53m spend by the Department of Health. pic.twitter.com/iDkZNdk1NB
— Michael McNamara TD (@MlMcNamaraTD) December 3, 2021
A whopping €4.6 million went to TV. And another €3.7 went to radio. No wonder the finances at RTÉ have improved so dramatically during the lockdown, with the station turning a profit for the first time in three years. Newspapers, of course, benefitted handsomely too.
The social media giants – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and others – were also beneficiaries of government spending on Covid-19 messaging. Carol Nolan TD received the following information in response to a parliamentary question.
Might this lavish spend, and the promise of more to come, impact on the tone, direction and focus of the media’s reporting on Covid-19 – and on the heaving policing of any criticism of government policy by the social media platforms? That might be something readers would like to consider for themselves.
The same legacy media are now pressing for permanent and substantial taxpayer funding. This would be a significant departure and it’s difficult to see how the media can be expected to bite the hands that feeds it.
Happily, it is very unlikely that Gript would be on the approved list of media platforms for government funding. Only those who toe the line can be expected to be thus elevated.