Recently, I’ve started to wonder if money really is what makes the world go round? Money, sex and violence seem to be all the media’s interested in when it comes to what should be on the front page. Which is understandable up to a point, but it is disheartening that so often opportunities to discuss the less facile aspects of a news story are overlooked by mainstream media, with the back-story left to bloggers and tweeters who have less clout. At least that’s how it seems, given some of the recently mooted schemes that have reached the headlines.
A recent case in point was the discussion sparked by the suggestion posted on Twitter by Sgt David Hamilton , secretary of the Tayside branch of the Scottish Police Federation, that perhaps 999 should become a premium service. His idea was that by charging 50p per emergency call, prank callers would be put off targeting overstretched emergency services. Evidently using a financial deterrent for the few people who do make prank calls could result in potentially fatal consequences for the majority who do not. Sgt Hamilton himself recognised in a blog post that it wouldn’t be feasible for charges to be rolled out, not least because it could deter victims of crime from reporting incidents.
But the media latched onto the idea that Sgt Hamilton was calling for a charge (which he claims he wasn’t) and then dropped the story once the first couple of days of January had passed and real news had started to happen. Here the media seems to have missed the main point, which is that prank callers clearly do not understand why prank calling 999 is a potentially lethal thing to do. Surely this should have been an opportunity to call for better education on the wider implications of abusing the 999 number? Restorative justice seems to be very fashionable amongst policy makers at the moment, so perhaps they could link the two?