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Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Role of the Media 3: Concerns for the future

One of the most unfortunate areas of the recent elections in Jersey was the lack of debate in the electoral process, this combined with a lack of qualitative analysis by the Jersey media combined to limit the ability of the Jersey electorate to make an informed vote and to effectively analyse how each candidate, if elected was likely to proceed.

The American system is substantially different; in this format the candidates take part in debates. Questions are asked of an individual candidate with any other candidate free to counter any point raised with a right of reply. This format does not allow candidates to simply say what they think the people want to hear but requires the candidate to be sufficiently informed as to counter any argument which might seek to expose weakness in their position.

You may have seen the CTV coverage in which Sir Phillip Bailhache noted that he had not even read the States Budget when asked to comment upon it.

An American Political Debate

Through the hustings process the coverage given by the Jersey Evening Post was minimal particularly for the candidates that they had not anointed as 'credible', their favourites were allowed to make the most ludicrous assertions without any challenge. The majority of the candidates replies to the one question which was reported upon was given in two lines of one column, which can never accurately convey an entire minute's answer.

I have previously looked at the role of the media in elections in the United States and in Jersey. In the United States there is an acceptance that there is a bias in the coverage humorously examined by John Stewart -

And latterly the realisation that the Liberatarian ideals do have genuine support in the nation is coming to be accepted and reported on -

At what point does a candidate become credible? Without the millions of dollars that Ron Paul has spent over the course of the campaign in paid advertising, his message would not have been heard at all.

That raises a second problem in Jersey candidates are severely limited in their spending; it is well known that in 2005 both Jim Perchard and Freddie Cohen spent far in excess of the £9,300 that was allowed to candidates in the 2011 elections.

This problem is compounded as sitting candidates can use the ongoing States meetings, (there is the question as to whether the States of Jersey should not be dissolved prior to the nomination meetings in order to comply with ECHR rights) to garner free publicity, bring propositions etc. whilst non-sitting candidates are extremely limited in what they can achieve.

There can be no doubt that elections in Jersey, at least in regard to media coverage, are neither free nor fair.