I was framed!

Framing, it’s not just for houses and pictures, though it serves the same purpose, sets parameters and presents the ‘picture’ in a specific way. Television works the same way. You may think what you see is unedited and almost raw footage when watching a live broadcast but it’s not. They may not be able to control the direction a discussion takes but there is too much at risk to leave everything to chance. Professional broadcasters ‘frame’ discussions, they present an argument using specific words and images, they choose the panellists and they can chose the audience. Both the ones who are asked to give an opinion and the rest, the silent seat fillers. They chose the vocabulary of the presenter and the words that get used. This is the editorial position and it creates an impression on the viewer at home, an impression the producers intend. Framing is the mood music. The screeching violins that make you jump in a horror movie.

So what’s all this about you ask? Clair Byrne Live is what, https://www.rte.ie/news/2019/0913/1075711-vaping/ and last Mondays segment on vaping. Specifically should we ban flavors. Following Donald Trumps call for a ban on flavoured vapes the show lost not a minute in suggesting we do the same here. They promoted this on twitter and the shows website. I responded to a tweet and got asked would I like to come on the show. Well yes, quite eager to contribute to this discussion. I was called back and we discussed what I might contribute and the issue in general. So roll on Monday night.

“You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”

To be honest I was very nervous, never having had to speak on live TV before but as I am part of the New Nicotine Alliance Ireland and no one else was available….Now I know how some backbencher feels when he has to turn up if some controversy is too hot for the Minister.

I need not have worried, as time ran out before they came to me . I never got to speak, arriving and being set up with a microphone was wasted on this face made for radio. I did however get to observe and as the segment progressed I started thinking about the ‘framing’ being used.

An Audience filled with teenage girls. One of whom spoke very well and her observations were on point. It’s a pity her question “we want to know are these (e-cigs) actually safer than smoking?” went as good as unanswered. Instead professor John Crown took the opportunity to imply they were not, 50 years to discover smoking caused cancer, chemicals, lifetime of addiction,etc. John might be a good oncologist but when it comes to current research on vaping he is hopelessly out of date. He also has a preference for research from America and doesn’t seem to realise that the regulation in the US is not anything like here in the EU. In fact their is close to zero regulation in the US, some states have some, some states have others and most are waiting to see what the federal gov will do. He’s wasn’t the only one, both the concerned mammy’s talked about the US situation.

Anyway back to the framing. OK, we have a primed audience to create the impression in a casual viewer that this is a kid centred issue. Fair enough if we actually discussed a ban on non-cigarette flavors but we didn’t. Instead we got a moral panic based on anecdotes of addiction, crime, satiating craving, that old chestnut; gateway to smoking and, clutch your pearls, ladies, DRUGS! Using and repeating words like this is classic framing.

Two ladies in a moral panic about vaping because they heard some stories of kids vaping and suffering withdrawal from nicotine. Prof Crown, a cancer specialist (more clever framing) did nothing to allay fears. Instead John added to them, citing the deaths in the US. Though he did qualify that by mentioning the cannabis carts but undid that by qualifying his qualification.

On the pro vaping side, notice how this is framing is working, not pro and anti flavor bans, but pro and anti vaping, on the panel we had Vincent Jennings of Vape Business Ireland and from the audience Declan Connolly of ezSmoke.ie , an independent retailer. Both did well. Vincent gave as good as he got and Declan saved the day by bringing it all back to the real issue, the prevalence of smoking.

However with 2 to 1 on the panel and 1 to 1 in the audience, the pro vaping side were a man down. Not an accident of who was available but a deliberate choice on the part of the producers. I was in the audience mike’ed up and ready to go but never asked. I had raised my hand several times but still no. I guess my view didn’t fit the framing.

From where I was sat, it looked subtle enough but reading the twitter and Facebook reaction I wasn’t the only one to notice the framing. “Hatchet job” and “Russian State TV level propaganda” were among the terms used to describe the segment. Maybe not so subtle.

Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This framing is annoying not just because we are being manipulated, but because it cost us consumer representation . Never once have consumers had a chance to contribution to any discussion other than in a vox-pop and on this occasion the producers had a chance to give them that, instead they chose to give experts, industry reps, and talking heads the air time. Again the ones most adversely affected by these framed discussions were kept out. Public service or government propaganda?

Well I hope I ‘framed’ this blog well enough to leave you with at least the suspicion it was propaganda.

One funny thing at the start. Clair held up two containers of vape juices in so called teen friendly flavors, she told us the juices did not contain nicotine and that you add them to the device to get your nicotine hit. This folks, is what happens when regulations demand that battery’s carry this warning.


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