DOES much happen in the world outside the UK and the USA? With the exception of end-of-time weather events, immigration tragedies and other occasional calamities, our main television and radio broadcasters seem to think not. Too often it is only a few major conflict hotspots that merit coverage.
Currently, Kashmir and Hong Kong fall into that category and as former British colonies both have been presented, in part, by most of our TV and radio news outlets in the usual self-flagellating British way. Who is to blame for the crisis in Kashmir, if not the Brits? In the case of Hong Kong, why is Britain not confronting the Chinese government and doing more to support the will of the people?
The will of many in Hong Kong is, in fact, to restore British rule. Whilst reporting this demand has been unavoidable, its rationale and roots have been regarded as less newsworthy. It no more fits today’s fashionable narrative of Britain’s colonial wickedness than did a strong preference amongst most Jamaicans for a return to being part of the Empire. A few years ago a poll showed that only 17 per cent of Jamaicans prefer independence to British rule.
But what about closer to home? Aside from the presidential election a while ago, a flying skateboard and, once upon a time, the yellow vests (are they still around?) does anything ever happen in France?
And what is going on Germany at the moment? True, Angela Merkel’s shaking bouts have made the news and there has been a vague hint that all might not be wunderbar with the German economy, but not much else about the Bundesrepublik is encroaching on to our mainstream TV and radio news bulletins.
As for the remainder of the EU, the best we can usually hope for is occasional coverage of the annual chaos surrounding the Brits on foreign holidays. The falling exchange rate for our under-valued sterling provides a desired and doom-laden backdrop.
But are things so much better elsewhere in the EU? How many Brits are up to speed with what is going on in Slovakia or Greece, Hungary or Sweden, Romania or Bulgaria and so on? And why do many migrants regard much of EU territory as no more than a transit route into the UK? Why is this country so desirable to so many from within and from outside the EU?
News reports about other countries would help present a fuller picture. True, some newspapers do make an effort but on TV and radio a partial news blackout appears to operate on the world beyond Brexit and Trump.
Is this due to laziness or to design? Since the blackout serves a clear political purpose – the Remain agenda – it is clearly deliberate. It allows for a focus on fault-finding here and in the US. British and American government failings, and there are many, look far worse when presented out of context.
The only beneficiary of the ignorance about what is going on in EU countries is the EU project itself.
Focus on the bad, ignore the good and cut off comparison with that majority of people around the world who are far, far worse off than the average Brit or American. Self-denigration and the closing down of information is the stuff that foments social and political revolution.
Will the current turmoil in Italy break through the EU news blackout barrier? Its coalition government has fallen apart and another general election is likely. For Europhile media outlets, Italy is a gloom-laden scenario, and in TV and radio coverage in the UK at the time of writing has been fleeting or non-existent. As far as Brussels is concerned, the less the rest of EU, especially Britain, knows about Italy the better.
The turmoil, though, is too big to contain and will have to be allocated time even on our TV and radio news broadcasts. Expect these media outlets to focus on so-called Right-wing anti-immigration extremist elements within and around the League. Under the leadership of Matteo Salvini the League has replaced the 5-Star Movement, with whom it shares power, as Italy’s most popular political party. Do not expect much in-depth reporting on why Italy is a country living in fear of the future and how this is a consequence, in large part, of its EU membership.
Put simply, the Italian economy cannot grow with the euro. The currency works well, of course, as a soft Deutsche Mark for German exports but its relative strength has crippled Italian exports. The collapsed coalition government sees a Keynesian spending spree as the way forward. This will break EU rules on budget restraint and has already brought about an inconclusive budget clash between Rome and Brussels. Major confrontation lies ahead if, as is likely, Salvini consolidates his mandate in a general election.
One of Salvini’s vociferous opponents is Emilio Mola, a journalist from the southern city of Brindisi. He is amongst the most-followed Italian political commentators on Facebook. A recent blog is intended as an attack on Salvini but it, also, represents an insightful, if unintentional, analysis of the abyss into which Italy has been plunged by its EU membership.
So here, in translation, is some important news from Italy, from a pro-EU perspective, that is unlikely to be brought to us by our TV and radio news outlets:
In September the [Italian] government will have to find 5.6billion euros to re-finance ‘Quota 100’ [the new and more generous pension scheme], another 8billion to re-finance the citizens’ income [guaranteed wage for the many unemployed], 30 to 40billion to finance a [new] flat tax, 23billion to avoid raising VAT to 25.6 per cent, another 10billion to cover the hole due to lack of economic growth. And these are only the headline spending figures.
This is Italy’s Catch-22 dilemma. As a founding member its governments have consistently lauded the EU as the pathway to prosperity for Italy. The current ‘government’, however, and its likely successor, see salvation for the country only through the obliteration of EU spending rules. In other words the only way for Italy to make a success of its EU membership is to pull down the whole Brussels edifice.
Italy has been living beyond its means for years. Reality is now beginning to intrude. The books do not balance. The banking system is in crisis. The good times are over. Exiting the single currency is no longer a choice, it is a necessity for the survival of the economy. Breaking point is around the corner for Italy, and for the EU, too, the clock is ticking.
This is only part of the Italian news that is largely blacked out on UK television and radio. If the British public could only get the full news stories from around the EU, we would never have had this almighty row over Brexit in the first place.
If you are a resident in Britain, count your blessings! It is time for our news channels to report that no matter how bad things are in the EU, for the UK, at least, there is an escape route.