Ian Birrell, commenting last night on The Guardian’s website, asked why the BBC dedicates so much airtime to Red Nose Day, given that it promotes ‘an increasingly controversial and outdated worldview’, ie that aid is good.

People will have their own views on international development work; Birrell has made his known many times.

What interests us about the debate his comments have sparked is that once again it highlights the relationship between charities and the media.

He claims that those responsible for telling the international charity’s story do not present a true picture. And reporters, when giving the stories space and time, don’t probe or challenge. And thus, we all still (wrongly) think aid is good.

The former Deputy Editor of The Independent and speechwriter for David Cameron goes so far as to say that charities are ‘manipulating the media’, with journalists and charities forming ‘an unholy alliance’.

There are two assumptions in these sweeping comments. One: international charities’ comms teams are prone to exaggeration and lies. Two: journalists believe and regurgitate everything they’re told.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Red Nose Day formula, the causes it promotes and the work that it funds, let’s hope we aren’t truly living in a world where Malcolm Tucker has moved into the voluntary sector, and all the reporters are too dumb to realise.

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