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Eat more lard, say lard makers

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Sooner or later, when considering decisions about money, you will come across the Vested Interest. In fact it’s almost impossible to avoid them. A Vested Interest (VI for short) is a person, company or organisation that wants to get its views across in order to somehow influence the people who are reading, watching or listening to them. ‘VI’ may be used to decribe the entity itself or his/her/its viewpoint.

Some VIs are obvious, some less so. I have a VI in writing this article. I’m hoping that if I make it interesting enough, and the information contained within it useful enough, more people will read it and so the traffic to this site will increase and hopefully at some point we’ll be millionnaires. Actually, it would be nice if we could make enough money for a cup of tea once a week, or perhaps cover the hosting fees. So my VI is quite transparent and, I hope, harmless.

But that is rarely the case once you get into the mainstream media. As Piers Morgan and his tipster colleagues at the Daily Mirror proved a few years ago, the temptation to use a position of public influence to push your own agenda can be overwhelming. And it’s not always illegal, either, though one might argue that it should be.

For example, of all the possible investments, the property market is not regulated by the FSA. Any idiot can call themselves a ‘property expert’ and give what is basically unregulated financial advice. And many of them have. Media people are among the most likely to be amateur landlords, so it’s not particularly surprising that the television schedules have been riddled with programmes extolling the virtues of ever-increasing property prices over the last decade. Nor are newspapers immune. The Times, for example, has carried a lot of property advertising, and has columnists who seem to believe that ‘house prices only go up’ – coincidence? Maybe.

Identifying Vested Interests will help you to decide for yourself whether a particular article is truly impartial – or as impartial as it can be – or whether you should treat it as wishful-thinking fiction. The following selections reflect my personal experiences with the media outlets concerned and are opinions only. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

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