By Tony Attwood
I see that the current President of the United States has accused the former President of the United States of tapping his telephone. It has also been suggested that President Obama is attempting a coup against President Trump. Some media outlets report this as serious news, others are highly sceptical.
If you have read my regular ramblings on Untold you may have picked up that I have a certain interest in the way that the media reports matters, most specifically in relation to football but also in a wider context.. And I do think there are lessons to be learned from what goes on beyond our national sport.
Research in the US shows that many people, particularly young people, are very sceptical about news reporting and as a result turn to a wide range of news sources to try and work out what is going on.
The young people questioned used Twitter, Facebook and the like as much if not more than any formal news source often encountering news by accident, but they rarely take any of it at face value because they perceived biases and inaccuracies. They have been fooled too often and realise that a lot of what they read is just made up.
Indeed trust in mainstream media in the US has sunk to an all time low – but with this comes an awareness of the fact that different outlets can have different emphases – being left or right or fast, or indeed detached from US-centric visions.
Now when we come to compare this with news in the UK, we have a similar situation in terms of national and international news. But with football news there is something quite different to behold, for almost all of the outlets follow the same agenda. There is no desire (that I can perceive) to get a balance, or to deviate from a “now” agenda without any time perspective. In short they go after an immediate audience in any way possible.
What this means is that the opportunity for anyone interested in in-depth commentary about football in England is pretty much going to view it from a single perspective.
Let me just take one example. It is a small example, but I think representative of the picture as a whole: time wasting by goal keepers in games. All of the outlets ignore it totally: Sky, BT, BBC – they simply have their cameras cut away to show anything else possible – a replay, a player trotting back to the line, absolutely anything, but not what is getting the crowd in the ground engaged – the time wasting. Here the media follows the instructions of the people selling the product, and given the dominance of TV, the rest follow.
Likewise there is an agenda in radio debates on football which reflects what gets the biggest audience. We know that those who follow the fan based aaa approach are very vocal and will phone in whenever possible, so the media follows the audience on this point and pumps up the debate that will bring in the most complainants. If anyone does get on air and moderately and reasonably puts up an alternative viewpoint, they are told, “well, it is a point of view but I don’t think many will agree with you,” and back they go to what brings in an audience.
Then there is the issue of refereeing incompetence or bias. Again there is a unity of approach: it doesn’t happen, it can’t be commented upon. True, this unified approach has slipped a little of late, not least, I think, because of the efforts of the team on this site who have upped the game considerably by providing video evidence this season.
But still the fact is that it can be argued that the organisation running referees is unnecessarily secretive in its affairs, and this is ignored. Likewise the analysis showing that on occasion refereeing decisions are little better than the results you would get from giving out major decisions at random, is never contemplated.
In such analysis as there is now seems increasingly outmoded and outdated. But above all it is utterly simplistic – and there is no alternative media to turn to. All the main outlets follow the standard line.
Likewise you don’t have to do much analysis to see that the issues that are put forward in football to correcting the problems (real or imagined) of a team deemed to be failing simply don’t work most of the time.
Most transfers don’t make a huge difference to a team – at least in the first year – and if you really do think you can prove anything with statistics and that this view is wrong, look at players such as Henry, Bergkamp and Pires in their first year at the club.
In fact, most managerial changes fail to deliver what is wanted – at least in their first year or two, and very few are given much longer than that. Same with the players.
And above all, the reality is that football clubs are complex institutions and single solutions to their problems don’t work.
Meanwhile we live in a footballing world that is utterly insane but no one wants to mention it. If you want proof just look at the transfer rumours that are still cited and requoted and yet never come to pass, the managerial moves that fail, the fact that governments give money to FA’s to squander on the works of the openly corrupt Fifa, the extremely odd way in which refereeing is run in the Premier League….
This is not a world of problems that are resolved by one simple change encouraged by the media that has everything to gain by keeping the agenda under its control. That is a fantasy world created by the media to keep up the audience.
The simple fact is that football fans are being manipulated by media organisations and their hangers on. And it is hard to know what to do about it.