Reporter 463, 12 March 2001

Bragg’s democracy warning

University Chancellor Melvyn Bragg spoke before a packed Great Hall when he delivered the Edward Boyle Memorial Lecture.

His subject was ‘The media and the message’, and Lord Bragg didn’t shirk the more controversial aspects of the issue. He questioned whether the cynicism of media treatment of politicians was undermining our democracy, which he called a ‘fragile and rare growth’.

He likened the situation of politics to science, also often distorted and misinterpreted by the media. Lured by that ‘irresistible headline’ their actions threaten to make ‘an enemy of the disciplines most developed to help us’.

Lord Bragg questioned the way politicians were treated by a media which always expected a quick yes or no answer – and always assumed the politician was on the make. "If the portrait of a democratically elected person is constantly, unremittingly presented as a person of no real integrity, no real significance, then the idea of democracy itself will be corroded," he said.

Lord Bragg also looked at the medium by which the message is transmitted, most notably television, which he called ‘our real National Theatre’ and which he believes challenges radically what has the right to be called ‘Art’.

Extracts of the Edward Boyle lecture webcast can be seen at

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