Monday, February 20, 2006

R Feal-Martinez Says

During the last four or five years I have actively engaged in the issues concerning, and sometimes threatening The Hospitality Industry, and the one thing that has really become apparent to me is the power of The Media, whether television or newspapers, regional, national, or trade. This power can be positive or negative, being influenced by political considerations, corporate interests, or the particular personal views of Editors, and Web Editors.

It is truly amazing how comments on online media sites will reflect the view of the medium concerned. Take for example the horror stories from The Mail, about crime and disorder, their online comments sections re-enforced their views. Mind you I have to be honest and say that they did rather have a free run at it. The confusion from Government and the trade organisations helped to create a climate of unrest within the public, which now has led to a call for greater powers than the Licensing Act 2003 ever envisaged for Local Authorities. The confusion sadly still has not gone away with many LA’s and Police ‘doing there own thing’ with the Department of Culture Media and Sport, sitting on their hands which is what we have come to expect. The current review of Licensing shows that lessons haven’t been learnt.

But perhaps the clearest indication of the ‘Power’, has been the Smoking Ban issue. There has been widespread anxiety and frankly disgust at the way the views of ordinary Licensees have been ignored and usurped by frequent quoting and misquoting. Quoting the views of trade organisations, as though they are representative of the front line licensee. Government will always take solace from this, which they frankly have done. They manoeuvred these organisations like ‘leading a horse to water’, and sadly they drank to their fill. What better way of ensuring getting what you want (HMG) than to make only one of the available choices acceptable to all sides of the argument. Mis-quoting and repeating the lies about Passive Smoking and the effectiveness of filtration/ventilation in removing environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The views of experts in the field have been ignored by government and the media in favour of uninformed propaganda and at times stretching the truth until it screeches, from organisations such as ASH.

Attempts have been made to highlight how this whole issue has been about social engineering, deceit, and dare I use the word corruption. The media has consistently refused to print even in online forums the facts surrounding how we got into the mess of a complete ban. Verifiable truths are deleted, why? should the public not know that the Chairman of the Scientific Committee on Tobacco Health (SCOTH) is a Director and Trustee of ASH? A matter of Public Record. Why should they not know that, together with a number of colleagues on the committee, he has been paid to promote smoking cessation products, by the major drug companies? It’s shown in the Committee’s profile list. A matter of Public Record. Why should the public not be told that HMG has given ASH £620’000 of tax payers money in the last two years? A matter of Public Record, in ASH’s audited accounts.

In my view the why is a simple one. The public at large may just conclude that all these things amount to, at best a major conflict of interest, at worst corrupt practice. How can SCOTH independently advise HMG in the circumstances outlined above? Would the public have accepted the Government acting on the advice of the Tobacco companies, as they did in the past, of course not? There would be a public outcry. So why then is advice sponsored by the Pharmaceutical giants acceptable? We know that these companies make billions from Smoking Cessation and there is a wide body of opinion that says these have just a placebo affect.

I believe however all is not lost in the fight to save thousands of pubs. The House of Lords can add an amendment asking HMG to re-visit ventilation/filtration as a fourth way. Afterall ask yourselves how can ETS which is air borne particulates defy the laws of Particle Science, as members of the public we can see the sense in this, why can’t politicians. This is not about promoting smoking this is about maintaining choice, freedom and upholding the democratic rights of eleven million people who contribute 15 times more to the exchequer than us non smokers.

The public should ponder this, what will be next, alcohol, food, transport, air travel etc ? Couldn't happen?. It's already started, the only thing remains is for a bunch of zealots backed by a vested interest, and ably assisted by the media and hey presto freedoms will fall like playing card houses. Democracy, Freedom, and Choice have never been more at threat than they are under this Government. The Public needs to wake up. Here in lies the question, will you get to read this letter? That is the POWER of the media.

Posted by R Real-Martinez a Publican