Property, Property, Property!

“Nothing exciting – or dangerous – is in prospect for the (property) market    over the next two or three years”  –  Marc Coleman (Economics Editor); The Irish Times, March 1st 2007

The current economic crisis in Ireland, though deeply rooted in Ireland’s role as a dependent economy in the European periphery, is primarily a crisis caused by the property bubble and subsequent crash. The Irish mass media, most notably the press, played an important role in the lead up to the crisis both as cheerleaders and beneficiaries of the property bubble.  All major Irish newspapers include lucrative property supplements, and both the Irish Times and Independent News and Media made substantial investments in property listing websites. Unsuprisingly, the mass media and especially the press were uncritical of the hyperinflation of housing cost. In fact in the journalistic frame of housing as a speculative commodity (rather than social nessesity) price inflation was reported as a positive.  Irish Journalism, blinded by market ideology, against all historical evidence, seemed convinced that the market would slowly deflate into the much vanted ‘soft landing’.

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The Role of Communications and the Mass Media in the Crisis of Overproduction- Information, Reflexivity and Ideology: The Case of the Irish Housing Crash – Henry Silke DCU

There is a growing symbiotic relationship between business, communication networks and the mass media. Business depends on communication networks and the mass media in numerous ways; in the actual conduct of business, in the need for market information, for advertising and market creation, and as ideological apparatii which act to naturalise market economies and defend class interests. In fact it is argued that the contemporary mass media rather than simply reporting on economic issues have become an integral part of economic processes (Chakravartty, Schiller 2010). Moreover mass media companies are increasingly multi-national businesses with vested interests within the various markets and societies they report on. This research explores the role of the mass media and communication networks in the crisis of overproduction and specifically the Irish economic crisis. The Irish crisis has deep roots in the country’s semi-peripheral dependent nature and its weak domestic economy, however, the current crisis is fundamentally a crisis of overproduction in property driven by speculation and encouraged by an approving media and pro cyclical government policy.

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The Elephant in between the property ads – Mediabite/Village Magazine 2009

“Few will dispute that “the Irish media for the last 10-15 years have had a crucial economic stake in a rising property market.” It is no secret for instance that in July 2006 the Irish Times bought the property website for EUR50 million or that three months earlier Independent News & Media acquired…”.

“However, this relationship between media and business is not a simple one. It is inconceivable that the media, a wildly disparate group of individuals working in a variety of organisations, all with differing codes of practice and economic and ideological objectives, conceived a plan to inflate the property bubble. So if we discount collusion and mere chance, there must be something else.”

“One element of this relationship that could be considered unhealthy is the seeming interdependence of journalism, government and big business. This is no more evident than in the property sector. Estate agents and developers are not only consulted as experts, they themselves file copy.”

See the complete article here:

Now is a Good Time to Buy – Conor McCabe Jan 2012

Marain Finnegan, chief economist with Sherry Fitzgerald, in today’s (19/01/2012) Irish Times:

Marian Finnegan, chief economist at Sherry FitzGerald, says people who can get a mortgage are in a much better position than people who bought a few years ago. “At the height of the market couples spent 45 per cent of their collective net salary on their mortgage repayments. Now they’re spending 22 per cent, which means it has gotten significantly more affordable to buy than to rent, if you can afford the deposit.”

Ok! Sounds like 2012 is a good time to buy!

But wait, this was Marian Finnegan in the Irish Times on 29 December 2005 (i.e. a few years ago):

“All in all, the evidence appears to point in one direction – strong steady demand for the forseeable future. Our young population growth and strong economic performance will mean that demand for homes and the value of those homes will be sustained for many years to come.”

Ok! sounds like 2005 was ALSO a good time to buy!

But wait, this was Marian Finnegan in the Irish Times on 22 January 2010:

“Well, at the risk of oversimplifying, the worst appears to be over, provided the Government delivers another responsible and tough budget next December.

Affordability [in the housing market] has been significantly enhanced by the low interest rate environment and falling prices. Our own affordability index shows that many first-time buyers are now paying 50 per cent less of their net income on their new home than they would have done at the height of the market.

Furthermore, in key urban areas, supply is tightening. Listed second-hand stock for sale in Dublin has fallen by more than 60 per cent from its peak in the first half of 2007.

In my view the market is bottoming out. This is not to suggest a remarkable recovery, rather a stabilisation and a return to a property market serving society, rather than society serving the property market. The indications to this effect outlined above are augmented by anecdotal evidence on the ground.

Ireland is well poised for a recovery. We have faced our worst day and taken the necessary corrective action. The days of the Celtic Tiger may be behind us but valuable lessons have been learnt. We can anticipate a more mature, resilient housing market.”

Ok! Sounds like 2010 was ALSO a good time to buy! It being the year when the worst was finally over and all that.

All these good times, and no-one left to buy.

More from Conor McCabe and the press treatment of property here:

An interesting take on free speech from the Sunday Independent as pointed out on one of CMR’s favourite blogs.

The Cedar Lounge Revolution

Fewer stories than normal on the Sindo website today. Thankfully. And a shorter stupid statement is the result. Anne Harris fears for the future of the freedom of the press. The threat, however, does not come from overbearing government but from the internet.

Yes, freedom of speech is under threat from the great arbiter of freedom, the internet. And it all boils down to commercial realities. It was the great Joseph Pulitzer who pointed out that commercial success is the best guarantee of freedom of speech. Circulation drives advertising, he pointed out. Advertising drives revenue (profit) and revenue guarantees freedom. Freedom from all vested interest groups — celebrities, judges, the establishment. And even — ironically — freedom from the pressure of advertisers.

I think she’s mistaking free speech for profit.

Marc Coleman is back quoting The Best is Yet to Come. Except this time, the way to create a…

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Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A….Feminist Film Critic, Or; Why I Am That Asshole At The Cinema – Laura Canning DCU

“Being a feminist and a film critic (or indeed a feminist and anyone who interrogates almost anything in contemporary culture) involves a curious process of mental ball-hopping that many of you may be familiar with. Essentially, when I see a film I have two choices. I can stop being a feminist for the duration of the film, and accept that I’m just going to enter a world in which feminism has no meaning or relevance. This involves deliberately marginalising myself, and my fellow 52% of the population, and leaving aside my own very deeply-held political and moral views. It also involves pretending that feminism is actually a marginal politics, a casual set of fringe positions taken Just To Be Awkward, When It Suits You rather than what it is, among other things: a daily practice, a structure of political principle, and most importantly of all, a rigorous stripping-away of culturally-determined assumptions about what it means to be a woman, or indeed a man.”

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The Billy Trilogy – Helena Sheehan DCU

The BBC are re-broadcasting the ‘Billy Plays’ by Graham Reed and starring Kenneth Branagh, 30 years after their first network broadcast. The triology focuses on the story of the conflict between a father and son set during the troubles in Belfast.  Prof. Helena Sheehan of DCU has kindly given critical media review permission to post an excerpt from her book Irish Television Drama: A Society and Its Stories  (Dublin 1987) on the trilogy.

Readers in the UK can view the trilogy on the BBC player here:

Kenneth Branagh – James Ellis – Reminisce about Billy plays:

The Billy Plays – Helena Sheehan

The really outstanding drama foregrounding the trials and tribulations of contemporary domestic life, against the background of the political turmoil of Northern Ireland, was Graham Reid’s Billy trilogy. The first play Too Late to Talk to Billy, set in 1977 in the Donegall Road area of Belfast, where the author grew up, introduced the Martin family. Continue reading

Squeeze my Middle – Richard McAleavey

Richard McAleavey on the Irish Times series ‘the squeezed middle’; the series concentrates on the effects of the crises on Ireland’s ‘middle’ class. Richard’s excellent critique concentrates on the ideological assumptions and politics underlying the articles.

CMR can’t help but wonder if this series is an example how for the Irish Times it is acceptable for the poor or working class to suffer in a recession; but that it is not acceptable that the the mythical ‘middle class’ should suffer. The middle class as articulated by the Irish Times  (by ‘normal’ Irish petite bourgeois standards) should be happily insulated from government cutbacks by private education and health systems and speculative property portfolios. The truth of the matter of course is very different (and quite shocking to the morals of the  Irish Times opinion pages) as more and more of the so called ‘middle’ class are finding out for themselves that the title  ‘middle class’ is little more than a cheap re-branding of their true class status.

In his critique Richard McAleavey notes:

“If one descended from outer space, one might expect a newspaper interested in a fuller and healthier democracy to address some of the threats to democracy of the day: such as the concentration of immense decisive power in the hands of financial elites, the confiscation of prosperity and imposition of misery by institutions such as the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund, which are not accountable to any popular powe. These are questions of immense importance, which demand collective discussion and the development of collective solutions. In their stead, we get the cheery voluntarism of the unitary and isolated bourgeois subject, in which exploitation is of no importance and solidarity is unheard of…”

And he draws the conclusion the the squeezed middle series shows:

“The function of the Irish Times, along with that of other Irish newspapers, is to present a political programme, the imposition of mass unemployment and the destruction of the welfare state, which is being conducted in the interests of the wealthiest groups in Irish society, as a moral imperative, divinely ordained.


“For its successful execution, every traditional petty bourgeois prejudice must be mobilised, and questions of class conflict have to be extinguished – whether by denying they exist (‘we’re all middle class now’ – O’Brien); by displacing them – through mobilising resentment against grotesques like Sean Fitzpatrick or faceless mandarins in the civil service and presenting the public sector as a whole as a ruling class; and by fostering a common identity by creating common enemies: welfare recipients, migrants…”

For the entire article:

The ‘squeezed middle’ series can be found here:

Review: ‘The Iron Lady’ – Sheamus Sweeney DCU

Critical Media Review’s second entry is fitting in this age of neo-liberal austerity. Sheamus Sweeney of Dublin City University reviews the biopic of that great warrior of neo-liberalism Margaret Thatcher. In ‘The Iron Lady’ the reviewer finds a film decontextualised of both politics and outcome and a recasting of Thatcher as a plain ‘grocers daughter’ and a feminist struggling in a man’s world.

The Iron Lady – Sheamus Sweeney DCU

Do you remember that episode of The Simpsons where Marge painted a portrait of Mr Burns as a frail and naked old man? One person looked at the painting and said, “he’s bad, but he’ll die. So I like it“. This is the best perspective from which to approach a film that displays as much historical and political insight into Thatcher’s life as any semi-attentive person would have picked up over the past thirty years. As the story is told from the perspective of an increasingly frail and confused old woman this could account for some of the more self-serving memories and omissions. On the other hand, Phyllida Lloyd (director) and Abi Morgan (writer) have suggested that one of the motivations behind the film was to explore the deterioration of somebody suffering  from dementia. This is a little like suggesting that Downfall is an exploration of the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. Continue reading

Facebook as a Digital Public Sphere: Processes of Colonization and Emancipation – Bjarki Valtysson

The first entry to Critical Media Review is somewhat fitting, in that the very idea for this blog was first discussed on a facebook page.  The entry links to an article in the latest issue of the journal ‘triple C’, entitled ‘Facebook as a Digital Public Sphere: Processes of Coloniszation and Emancipation’ by Bjarki Valtysson. The article discusses facebook in terms of Habermas’ public sphere as a process both of colonisation and a potential tool of emancipation. Colonisation as the private thoughts and lives of facebook users are constantly commoditised and sold onto third parties, and at the same time as a potential ‘emancipative media environment’ for rational critical debate.