Posted by: Colin Wiles05/10/2012
This is a brief article about the power of images and the distortions of the media.
On the 12th September I wrote a blog for Inside Housing about the politics of the green belt and pointed out that papers like The Mail and The Telegraph, along with their allies in the countryside lobby, repeatedly use misleading images of ancient woodland and rolling countryside when they campaign against housing development, even though these landscapes are not at risk of being “concreted over”.
I made reference to the photograph in this Daily Mail article and wrote “I very much doubt that is Green Belt.” Study the photograph closely before you read on. Now have a look at this article in the Daily Telegraph. It is the same photograph but this time it is Tuscany, apparently. So is The Mail photograph Tuscany or not? On the balance of probabilities, I think it is. It is certainly not an English landscape so far as I can judge. Thanks to Alasdair Rae for spotting this, via Twitter. Private Eye covered this mistake in its latest edition, and the Mail has been advised of the error but they have not removed the photograph. So an average reader of the article will imagine a) that this image is of the green belt and b) that this landscape is under threat. Both untrue. It’s either deliberate propaganda or very lazy journalism.
The CPRE was at it again more recently. Their latest press campaign carried this image, supposedly of the green belt. Again, it is extremely unlikely that this landscape would ever be at risk. The National Planning Policy Framework is very explicit that landscape of poorer quality should be developed first. Yet the CPRE and their allies continue to propaganise in this way. I tweeted them to say that it would be more truthful and honest if they used images like this when they campaign about the threat to the green belt. No response.
Why is this important? Because a picture tells a thousand words, and if opponents of housebuilding continue to propagandise and manipulate images in this way the drip, drip effect will be immense. The public will be led to believe that the best landscapes are at risk, when they are not, and the prospects for a sensible planning and housing policy will be harmed. These media outlets and their NIMBY allies need to be challenged at every opportunity. As I’ve repeatedly argued in these blogs, we could build more than 3 million new homes on less than 1 percent of the English countryside. That means not one inch of the landscapes portrayed by the CPRE, The Mail and others would be at risk. I can’t speak for Tuscany!
From Inside out
An independent look at the housing sector and beyond from Colin Wiles