The United Kingdom operates as a liberal democracy; thus certain rights and freedom of individuals are guaranteed. Just like in any other democracy, this cannot be done so entirely through the means of the government. Instead, we need the media. Without the media, true democracy cannot be experienced; as only when the freedom of speech is not suppressed can the public be informed and the government be scrutinised.
This country has one of the highest newspaper readerships in the world. Indeed, they are one of the main forms of media and readers can choose from a variety of newspapers broadly covering a wide spectrum of political opinions. The roles of the newspapers are clear – they must inform the public, hold politicians accountable to their actions and scrutinise the government. However, what has been disputed is the responsibility of the media; increasingly, the public are worried about how accurate and how true the newspapers are.
But what is the truth? It seems as if it is too subjective of a word for it to be used as a standard to judge the newspapers on! Especially in politics, it is all about opinions – there are little facts. Of cause, all newspapers have a bias. It is only natural for them to want to convince you their argument is the truest.
The Sun, a populist tabloid newspaper that ranks highest in terms of readership in the UK. Renowned for its highly bias and somewhat controversial nature, it is the most popular newspaper in the UK. On Sept 2009, The Sun made an endorsement on the Conservative Party for the upcoming election. They stated that “Labour has lost it”. Surely, this can no way be proven right or wrong. First, it is too complicated of an issue. Secondly, it is simply a matter of opinion which the voters will in turn decide.
During the Copenhagen submit, the Daily Express, a right-wing British newspaper have criticised Brown for being a “Climate nut” whom will “ruin Britain”. They criticised Brown’s signing of the Copenhagen agreeing to pay millions of pounds in aid of third world countries to fight climate change. Now how can one judge if this was the truth? Surely, everyone has their own opinion on the matter of global warming. One can be a climate change sceptic, who would hold the position similar to the Daily Express doubting that human beings can do much and that the threat of climate change is minimal. Others will be more worried about climate change seeing it as a real environmental hazard. Again, there is no truth when it comes to newspapers. It’s all a matter of opinions.
From the two above examples, it is clear the newspaper cannot tell the truth. However, perhaps they can expose the truth? Indeed, one of the key features of the media is to hold politicians accountable for their actions and scrutinise the executive. This is, without doubt, one of the positive features for the existence of media. In May 2009 marked one of the glorious moments of the British media. The Daily Telegraph, a respectable right-wing newspaper obtained a full copy of the MP’s expenses. Following their publication of the first issue on the MPs expense, it has emerged into a high profile, nation wide political scandal. Numerous of MPs were dismissed due to the scandal whilst millions of voters were ever so convinced that the political elite have not interest in them. From the spending of tax papers money on a duck house, toilet seats, second homes, most obscurely, pornography. The government was immediately forced into action and since then, regulations have been imposed to ensure MPs’ expenses are more transparent.
As seen, the newspapers can play a key role in exposing the truth even though it may be incapable of telling the truth due to the nature of politics. We must understand that it is really in our best interest that there is no truth when it comes to newspapers. The truth would imply an arbitrary view meaning we just get one side of the story. The existence of a diverse range of media covers all political opinions meaning no specific parties can “benefit” from the media. Daily Telegraph and Daily Express are examples of right-leaning newspapers whilst The Times Guardian are more left wing. Essentially, it is the individual’s responsibility to take an interest in understanding politics and deciding what the truth to them is.