TV and democracy : the odd couple

French TV5 Monde, the equivalent of BBC World, or CNN was the victim of a cyber attack on Thursday losing control of the 11 channels in French and English.   Its screens went dark for a day and its social media outlets and website were also taken over by Islamist pirates. Though no claim was made, the perpetrator was the Islamist group ISIS, which broadcast their logos, markings, and produced some messages glorifying Sharia law. Then the French Secrets Service revealed that some 1500 similar cyber attacks have been launched since January 7th.

The TV network went back to normal.   While the failure in the security system could not be identified,  it seems that some secret password for social media was visible on pieces of paper in the background of the television news... This sounds very amateur to have such crucial and sensitive pieces of information so easily available, but it was also very revealing.

When I was a journalist a long time ago in Eastern countries, TV was always the first target of revolutions. I remember TV being held hostage in Romania, some 25 years ago.    More recently the Ukrainian state TV chief was violently beaten up in August 2014.    I cannot prevent myself also connecting this news to the Peruvian protest TV programming in Lima on March 15th. The demonstrations were aimed at companies representing 79% of TV advertisers as well as the studios of the private channels. Demonstrators demanded that advertisers pull their publicity from shows that are morbid, gossip oriented, and sexually explicit. They also protested against the government which awarded the companies involved some TV licenses at no cost. That is very interesting...

Of course TV5 Monde is respectable TV, though not to the level of BBC World. But it looks as though western countries have undermined, the power of TV by thinking of it in term of commercial potential - circuses for the masses? - whereas what used to be propaganda tools – the old one and the new one - are perfectly mastered by potential terrorists.

May be it is about time, for the western citizens to guard more strictly the frontier between commercial activities and public service? reinvest the sphere of politics that we sacrificed in the face of economics - and not to give it up to those ready to undermine the essence of democracy.

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