George Walford: Leading the Leader

In the effort to support their claim to represent the working class, or the poor, or the people, the left find themselves driven to promote a number of other misconceptions. They claim, for example, that the contents of the newspapers, television and radio programmes are selected by, or under the influence of, the capitalist class in order to deceive readers, viewers or listeners about the social realities. In fact it is less the media which manipulate the audiences than the audiences who manipulate the media. They do it simply by not reading, watching or listening to material which does not interest them.

The left emphasise that under capitalism a business has to make a profit to survive, but they do not speak so loudly about the equally solid fact that in order to make a profit the product has to be sold. Those operating the television stations (and what applies to these applies also to newspapers and radio) have this made painfully clear to them each time they put out an unsuccessful programme. Audiences drop off, and with them the advertising revenues and the government grants. The firms engaged compete desperately with each other in finding out what the the potential audiences want in order to supply them with it. Employees as well as employers have a stake in the enterprise, for if’ their efforts fail they risk having their firm put out of business by its competitors, and that means at a minimum the worry and effort of finding another job.

from Ideological Commentary 33, May 1988.