Saturday, August 26, 2006

Festival of Politics

Went to a couple of events on the Festival of Politics on Thursday. The first, the Royal Society of Arts lecture on the impact of technology on society and politics, was interesting but didn't enthrall me. The second event was billed as a discussion on Scottish culture, media and politics. Essentially, it was three journalists bemoaning the direction of newspaper and broadcast media management and its impact on the quality of journalism in Scotland and the UK. An informative if somewhat depressing session, it benefited from having the Scotsman critic and columnist Joyce McMillan as one of the panelists. She is a passionate, articulate and intelligent speaker and was the only panelist to discuss arts and culture.
McMillan's main bone of contention was the poverty of coverage for the arts in Scotland, even by Scottish media. As a Scottish theatre critic of long standing, she's well placed to comment. She pointed out that the appetite for arts and culture has burgeoned over the past decade or so but the space and resources given over to serious arts journalism have shrunk. Newspapers, she said, are edited on the macho assumption that sport (specifically, football) will sell copies, but nobody has tested whether good, extensive coverage of arts and culture could have the same effect. She didn't mention books, however, and the advent of the Scottish Review of Books, which is distributed free as an insert into the Sunday Herald. Okay, so one magazine does not a renaissance make, but it's a significant improvement on the previous situation.

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