Bad Dairy Products and Faulty Electrics. Or Parmalat and Enron- not that there’s anything wrong with the actual substances they both deal/dealt in, especially Parmalat, whose dairy products are allegedly yum-yummy. No, the question I have is whether the Beeb really enjoys talking more about the Enron scandal than the Parmalat one. You see, 404 articles versus 48 might be said to tell a story. That story might be that one scandal’s been around longer than the other, or that one scandal is much bigger than the other- and that latter point one of the BBC’s own articles makes:
‘Parallels with Enron should not be taken too far…Enron was notionally 11 times larger than the Italian firm’.
Fair enough. Then why does another article say that
‘It is becoming clear that a vast fraud, probably the biggest in corporate history, has been perpetrated at Parmalat’
Why, too, are the figures given by the BBC for the companies’ respective debts 14.3bn Euros and $15bn? In today’s currency climate that would make Parmalat’s debts significantly bigger than Enron’s.
Not only these anomalies worry me. There’s also some hyped up anti-capitalist language, and contradiction as well. In one article we find in quick succession ‘disgraced.. giant Enron … byword… corporate misgovernance.. greed’ . In another article (the first one highlighted) we hear that
‘Enron was so shocking because it epitomised everything that American capitalism had been taught to admire- glamour, nerve, rapid growth and revolutionary thinking. It’s failure was- perhaps rightly- seen as a failure of corporate America, and so shook the very foundations’
Yet, in the same article, we are are introduced to the problems of ‘Parmalat, Italy’s iconic food and dairy company’. What’s the difference here between an ‘epitome’ and an ‘icon’- both indicate a brand that is looked up to? So even on that front, Parmalat would appear to have claims to rival Enron- but the rhetorical gulf completely undermines that reasonable conclusion. That’s not to mention the question of employees, and potential unemployment, where again Parmalat (36,000 vs 21, 000) may be seen to outstrip Enron (a fact not surprising when you consider their businesses). The judgement that Enron ‘perhaps rightly’ symbolised the failure of ‘American capitalism’ should at least be extended to ‘European social capitalism’ through the Parmalat scandal in Europe, or it should be retracted. The coverage on the BBC’s part appears to be quite deliberately unequal. The really sad thing is they can’t even maintain a consistent line on the matter in their own articles: hence their coverage draws attention to itself with the whiff of hypocrisy and self-contradiction. Friday Update: I’ve altered the above post- mostly about synchronising quotes with links, but also some changes of tone. Sorry for any confusion.