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Will Britain get its ‘Perot moment’ tomorrow night?

May 5th, 2010 · Posted by Skuds in Politics/Technology · No Comments · Politics, Technology

I think it was back in 1996 that  I was watching the US election results on TV and early in the evening the amazing news came in that one state had gone to Ross Perot.  The studio pundits were practically exploding and saying how this might affect the outcome and how the face of American politics could be changd forever.  And then somebody realised it was a mistake and it was quickly forgotten.

There is every chance of the same thing happening here tomorrow.There are two reasons for this.  One is the cut-throat competition between TV news channels.  Sky News already has a bit of a reputation to broadcast anything, without checking.  I guess they calculate that if it is wrong they can issue a correction later (or, more likely, just ignore it) but if it is right they can claim to be first with breaking news.  Add that to the way all the news studios will have half an eye on each other and a wrong piece of information can easily get replicated.

The other factor is the huge leap in communications in recent years.  All TV stations have channels open for text messages, emails, mobile phone video clips and everything else to be sent in to them, and they keep an eye on Twitter feeds, RSS feeds and other sources of rubbish news.

Earlier this year, though it seems like a lot longer ago, a trainee journalist sent a tweet about Sarkozy and Carla Bruni’s marriage that, within hours, was being reported as news.  It turned out to be an experiment to see how quickly an unsubstantiated report could get onto news bulletins as fact.

Add into the mix the sheer mischief of many technology users and I reckon there is a fair chance of false rumours filling the election coverage, by exploiting the trigger-happy approach of Sky News in particular  All it will take is for a few people to tweet from a count that there is a recount in a supposedly safe seat and the experts in the studio will start extrapolating, explaining how the political balance has shifted, and then frantically backpeddling as the truth sneaks out.

Of course, being in the count myself I will miss all that fun.  And if you see reports of the Peace party demanding a recount in Horsham take it with a pinch of salt and remember where you heard it first 🙂

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