Local news doesn’t have a ‘fake news’ issue so it was surprising to go to a Points West filming news anniversary and see them invite along someone from Cardiff University (they have an excellent media department) and Kerry-Anne Mendoza from the Canary to talk about the fake news issue.

Fake news is usually associated with fake websites or memes being spread across social media in the same way other news article are and, therefore, people believe them. [add definition]

In local news, there aren’t that many other news sources — certainly not enough to be populated by people spreading false messages. There is the Bristolian, which has been running and published for years — the writers are generally (always?) unaccredited and they attack power, which is the council and corporations in the city. They are often forceful in their language (euphemism for ‘swear a lot’) and their targets and topics are quite different to the mainstream local media (MSLM).

While the MSLM often report on stories by and about politicians, they report on senior officers less often. [Data on this would be useful]. The conflicts of interest or the story have to be quite dramatic — such as Colin Molton, the executive director of regeneration and growth being paid £1500 a day for an interim position. Even when the position was filled by a full-time employee, he is still on the payroll.

The first story, about his daily pay, was newsworthy — It may have made the front page. The second story about his continued presence, and continued excessive pay, has not made as prominent news. Issues to do with SEND payments and education, often need to be linked to something like a failed judicial review or a letter of complaint from a meeting against other officers.

On their own, these issues of highly paid senior officers and their failings are not deemed ‘newsworthy’. They are seen as too complicated to be covered easily and some local papers have no budget, others have reduced numbers of staff, and for others it just doesn’t come up.

Back to fake news, it was astonishing to have a program that finally had a chance to look at local news, giving so much of its time to issues that weren’t really part of the many problems that local media are facing.

Mendoza, the editor of the Canary was there seemingly as a way to be made an example of. One of the Canary journalists quite rightly at the time had pointed out the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg’s links with the Conservative party. His censure for not getting a quote from her really was a way of saying don’t raise issues about the establishment. The chair of the session, when introducing Mendoza, referred to her media channel’s ‘inaccuracies’. Instead of disputing it, she confirmed it and said we have dealt with it, apologised — or similar. Kuenssberg’s own inaccuracies in one of the most widely read media sources in the world — the BBC, never came up.

In the News at Six report, Kuenssberg said she had asked Mr Corbyn “if he were the resident here at Number 10 whether or not he would be happy for British officers to pull the trigger in the event of a Paris-style attack”.

He was seen to reply: “I am not happy with a shoot to kill policy in general. I think that is quite dangerous and I think can often be counter-productive.”

The BBC report faked an answer to a question from Kuenssberg, which had been given to a different question. This is quite clearly fake news but would never be labelled as such.

Fake news in local media often comes from the administration itself. For example, In replies [purportedly] by the mayor in public or member forum or in the chamber itself, inaccurate figures seem to be repeated with no censure.

In a question about local democracy, the mayor refers to the arena project he cancelled as “a situation that would have exposed BCC to £160m worth of debt.”

The Value for Money report that the council and tax payers payed £100,000 for, states the following about the arena costs:

“We note there is no ongoing revenue cost for the Council:

There is “a total estimated cost (excluding land contribution and car parking) to develop the Arena of £156.3m”

£53m of that cost come from south west LEP as a grant. £65.6m would come from the public works loan board.

“After BCC’s own capital contributions of £38.4m, including land of £12.5m and the borrowing costs associated with the PWLB lending are factored in the Arena delivers a small nominal terms surplus of £1.3m in BCC’s own financial projections.”

The figures to justify the mayor’s claim of being ‘exposed to’ £160m debt do not seem to be in the VFM report that Bristol tax payers paid for.

What has come up is the next project for which the administration has lined up the land at what would have been the arena. The contract with L&G guarantees 40 years of office rents and a 250 year lease of the land. There has also been no procurement process.

Next: fake news about streelights

See about MPs campaign for media literacy: [link]

Published by Joanna

A collection of fleeting thoughts that tend to focus around Bristol, food, movies, music and photography.

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