Sir Ian Blair and the Media (Supplementary) [3]

Session date: 
February 21, 2006
Question By: 
Damian Hockney
One London Party
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Damian Hockney (AM): That is an extreme version of what the Mail would say, surely?

The Mayor: I have read it.

Damian Hockney (AM): But it is not racism.

The Mayor: I have opened the Daily Mail ' or the Mail on Sunday ' and, in the first 10 pages, seen eight devoted to the issue of asylum.

Damian Hockney (AM): That is because their readers are interested in the subject, but it is not a racist thing. Similarly, highlighting one or two articles by certain individuals does not mean that the media, surely, is institutionally racist. By saying that, you tar the entire media, and also you then, effectively, call for state intervention in the media.

The Mayor: I am not calling for state intervention.

Damian Hockney (AM): When the Met was accused of institutional racism, and when it came to that point, the first thing that happened was that targets and quotas were set to deal with the matter, and it was a state-led thing. Describing the press as an institution and accusing it of racism ' simply, what do you do about it, if you are saying that is the case?

The Mayor: I regret that rich individuals are able to buy newspapers and create television channels and peddle their own politics and distort the balanced news that people should be able to get. I can remember a time when, in this country, you had to read the Times because it is a paper of record. As you turned page after page, you received the news from around the world. You never found the opinion of the reporter or the editor or the owner there, in the news coverage.

Damian Hockney (AM): But that does not make it racist, Mayor, surely.

The Mayor: No, but it does mean that the media is increasingly in the hands of a small group of people, many of whom do have a racist agenda. That does not mean to say that they themselves are personally racist, but it serves their short-term political interests. I believe that the editors of the Daily Mail, over my lifetime, have been systematically racist and have created a climate of fear and hostility towards anyone who is different in our society.

Damian Hockney (AM): But, Mayor, frankly, it was the Mail ' and I am not holding up a torch for any newspaper - which did so much on the Stephen Lawrence affair for murder.

The Mayor: I do not believe they themselves are racist ' most of them are far too clever to be that ' but it panders to a political agenda that allows parties they support to come to power. We all remember the Tory election campaign last year: `Are you thinking what we're thinking?' We see the codes that are used. These days, `asylum seeker' has become the safe way to be racist; this fear that we are to be swamped by asylum seekers .

Damian Hockney (AM): But people do have that fear, and that needs to be dispelled, if it needs to be, by facts, and those facts can be put in the public arena. However, to accuse a whole section ' a very important group of people, and people who are, ultimately, journalists, newspapers, magazines ' of being institutionally racist is very dangerous because, while you personally may not be calling ' or Sir Ian may not be actually calling ' for state control or state targets and quotas on murders, which ultimately leads to state control of the media ' and, heavens, it is bad enough already ' the fact of the matter is that, if you say that, what you put into people's minds is that something needs to be done by the state.

The Mayor: If something needs to be done, I would rather it was done by the profession of journalism and the media themselves.

Damian Hockney (AM): If it is not done by the media themselves, in your view, then, what could be done?

Supplementary To: 


Answer for Sir Ian Blair and the Media (Supplementary) [3]

Answer for Sir Ian Blair and the Media (Supplementary) [3]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

I do think, abhorrent though it is that a billionaire can buy and own our newspapers and peddle their line, the cure is not to put that, therefore, into the hands of Government. The best way is not to buy them. I buy the Guardian, which I find does not pander to racism and challenges it. That would be my advice to people: buy a non-racist paper. If you want something else, you could go for the Morning Star ' I am sure everybody's favourite reading around here. I have something of a column by myself. Look at Fox News. There are so many studies now about Fox News, which has become a real power in America. Basically, for every Democrat interview, there are about 10 Republicans, always pushing the same line. I like to think that what we had after the war, in terms of real political balance in radio and television, should be the norm.