For those who follow the British media, it's tough to disagree with Prime Minister Tony Blair's characterization of it as a "feral beast," baying for the blood of politicians and celebrities. This is, I think, generally a positive thing. But Blair thinks the Fourth Estate hyenas need to be tamed—with more regulation:
British newspapers will and should be subject to some form of new external regulation, the outgoing prime minister, Tony Blair, said yesterday in a broadside that attacked the media for behaving like feral beasts and eschewing balance or proportion.
Oh dear. Add this to Britain's already outrageous libel laws, the BBFC, Ofcom and the Official Secrets Act. The British news consumer, Blair says, has no way of distinguishing between what's is "objectively" true and political propaganda. Therefore, the poor saps need their government protectors to pitch in:
Moving on to the regulation of newspapers, Mr Blair said changes were inevitable: "As the technology blurs the distinction between papers and television, it becomes increasingly irrational to have different systems of accountability based on technology that no longer can be differentiated in the old way."
He also questioned whether papers needed some system of accountability that went beyond sales. He said: "The reality is that the viewers or readers have no objective yardstick to measure what they are being told. In every other walk of life in our society that exercises power, there are external forms of accountability, not least through the media itself.
Incidentally, Al Gore makes an almost identical argument in The Assault on Reason, which I wrote about here.