the most subtle form of censorship

Today [actually it was yesterday] our intrepid columnist asks the question: Why is the BBC generally regarded here, in Britain and around the world as a critical and impartial source of news, while the American media is considered a flag-waving cheering section for a regime?

A funny thing happened during the Iraq war: many Americans turned to the BBC for their TV news. They were looking for an alternative point of view — something they couldn't find on domestic networks, which, in the words of the BBC's director general, "wrapped themselves in the American flag and substituted patriotism for impartiality."

Leave aside the rights and wrongs of the war itself, and consider the paradox. The BBC is owned by the British government, and one might have expected it to support that government's policies. In fact, however, it tried hard — too hard, its critics say — to stay impartial. America's TV networks are privately owned, yet they behaved like state-run media.

After discussing the paradox, Paul Krugman concludes his column with a warning.
We don't have censorship in this country; it's still possible to find different points of view. But we do have a system in which the major media companies have strong incentives to present the news in a way that pleases the party in power, and no incentive not to.

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Published on May 14, 2003 7:07 PM.

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