In George Orwell's celebrated novel 1984 the news is whatever the authoritarian rulers decide is the news. It's an obvious, jackbooted form of censorship, enforced by the power of the state.
We might be inclined, in the brand new millennium, to view Orwell's vision of the future - influenced as it was by the rise of Stalinism - as patently incorrect. But we shouldn't draw too much comfort form this because in 2007 censorship is alive and well. It's just more subtle.
A new invisible censorship has gradually developed and its most evident on our television screens.
The more you watch TV, the less you know.
TVNZ and TV3 have little current affairs and what there is often sensationalist.
In his book On Television Journalism, French professor Pierre Bourdeiu (who died in 2002), explains that a new invisible censorship has emerged which he defines as a 'vicious information circle' of 'repetitive, trivial and establishment-approved information which shunts aside 'all relevant ideas that all citizens ought to have in order to exercise their democratic rights'. News has become surreal, absurd even, 'with an earthquake in Turkey turning up against proposed budget cuts, and sport alongside a murder trail..events are reduced to the level of the absurd, cut off from their precedents and consequences.'
What is also evident is that 'the news' is dominated by the same old faces saying the same old things. Bourdeiu comments that conformity is guaranteed by journalists feeding off each other so that in the end 'everyone thinks in cliches, in the received ideas of the banal and the conventional.'
Not that many journalists will admit to such a cosy relationship with the status quo. Instead they retreat into what Bourdieu calls 'narcissistic complacency' and are all inclined to pseudo criticism while protesting that they are merely giving people what they want. Indeed in recent years TVNZ executives have regularly described the demands for more current affairs as 'elitist'. This highly paid TVNZ elite are simply promoting their own brand of populism which rejects anything that is remotely thought-provoking.
The reality is that the New Zealand media has acted as - and remains - a cheerleader for free market politics and ideology.
The noted journalist John Pilger once recounted the story of American reporter Edwin P. Bayly who wrote in his memoirs that he and the majority of his colleagues became the tools of McCarthyism by 'going along with propaganda and seldom challenging its assumptions or identifying the power that lay behind it - while all the time thinking they were 'independent' and 'objective'.
Modern McCarthyism isn't based on the authoritarian and paranoid state but originates from business propaganda. Since 1984 its targets have been the achievements and values of the social democratic consensus established by the first Labour government in 1935. It has attacked the concept of the common good behind rhetoric about 'individual responsibility' and 'personal choice'.
The real issues that affect our society are not being examined or being discussed in any meaningful on relevant form on TV, the most powerful of all media.
ADDITIONAL COMMENT: More jingoistic nonsense from TV3 News - it is now referring to the All Blacks as 'our boys in black'. Is it little wonder that more and more people are no longer watching the six o'clock news (on both TVNZ and TV3) when they are served up with this sort of peurile rubbish?