Friday, 15 September 2006

Booster Seats, Bad Reporting and the EU

by Charles Pooter

Following a report on a poll of which professions the British find most untrustworthy (a clichéd story that pops up every now and again), the ITV evening news just proved that reporters deserve their place near the top of that list.

On Monday, parents must ensure that children under 12 years of age and under 135cm tall (4'5" in real money) use a child car seat when traveling in their car. According to the ITV report this is due to a "new law". Here's a similar story on their web site. "A new law"? Is it really as simple as that? Did the New Labour regime really think that this was such a pressing safety issue that they had to make parliamentary time for it? The answer is no. This is an EU directive that requires the UK Government to change the law. You can find the details in this UK Government document, which makes it clear that the only reason for the amendment is EU directive 2003/20/EC. This wasn't mentioned in ITV's report at all, so all their viewers will assume that this was something decided by parliament, not by the unaccountable European Commision. I'm only picking on ITV because their report was the first one I caught on TV. The EU origin isn't mentioned in any of these stories either:

Yes, yes, I know: how very Daily Mail of me complaining about E.U. directives. I'll be going on about straight bananas next. But that's not my point. My point is that, surely when a new law is introduced, the origin of that law is a basic piece of information that should be included in any news report about its introduction. If the origin isn't mentioned, are we to assume the laws have been handed down directly from God? Imagine ITV reporting to the Israelites in the wilderness:

"New regulations, to come into force on Monday, will mean that the public will have to refrain from murder, adultery and coveting their neighbour's ox. The regulations also create a further seven new offences, which if broken will incur a 30 shekel on-the-spot fine."

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