Speak for yourself
An extract from an article entitled
By Maxie Allen
Monday December 5, 2005
There is often no relationship between the group's size and the extent of its exposure. Sir Andrew Green, of MigrationWatch UK, a thinktank with no formal membership, has been interviewed 400 times in the past three years. But, he argues, research endorses his claim to be putting popularly-held concerns on the news agenda. "Viewers can see someone making an argument they agree with, but are afraid to voice themselves. Our view represents 70% of the public who support, according to opinion polls, tighter restrictions on immigration."
Nick Pollard, head of Sky News, says such figures have an important role in airing widely held views that would not otherwise have been heard. " The pro-welfare for asylum seekers lobby is very vocal, but there is not much of a vocal lobby from the other side. These people do serve a purpose. I don't think we imbue them with any great mystical qualities but they articulate an opinion shared by a lot of people." He also cites the credible research which underpins the authority of some of them: "There's a lot of documentation that the government takes [Green's] views seriously, and there have been occasions when the MigrationWatch figures have been more reliable than the official ones."
Peter Horrocks, head of BBC TV news, denies broadcasters are responsible for turning talking heads into figureheads. "Many organisations had respectability and authority before the advent of 24-hour news. They represent a single clear point of view, and often know more about it than politicians, especially backbenchers. And they can explore the guts of an argument more clearly than a politician."
© Copyright of Maxie Allen
Media Guardian, 5 December, 2005