Who should own our media?

In this campaign we draw attention to the problems and abuses connected with the media, which  inevitably tends to concentrate on the negative.  Today’s blog, however, is more positive, and looking to the future.

DemocracyFail argues for fundamental change, but what sort of change?  Recognizing that the system is very complex and constantly evolving, we do not claim to have the answers ourselves.  We do, however, follow expert opinion and, hence, advocate the appointment of a media commission to review all our current practices and regulations and to change the rules on ownership.  

But what sort of ownership is appropriate and fairest in a democracy?  Thanks to the behaviour of News International et al, there is now more reason to hope that the idea of change is not quite as remote as it once was.  Now is perhaps the time to start engaging more deeply in the direction we need to go. 

We were prompted to pursue this theme by a letter in today’s Guardian on media ethics by Professor Robert Wade of the London School of Economics.  The Professor stated an important truism:

“As long as media are owned by profit-maximising corporations, editors and journalists will be under intense pressure to invade privacy in order to run gossip and scandal, under a banner which fudges the distinction between what the mass public is interested in and what is in the public interest”

The same reasoning is true, of course, for political bias.  Leaving aside their general economic role in society, profit-maximising organisations are self-interested and self-serving and will inevitably support the political party that will help to maximise their profits.   This tends to be Conservative or, in recent history, Blairite.   Hence there will always be right wing bias in the press under the current system of ownership.

Professor Wade suggests the way ahead:

“The future of quality media can only be assured when owned either by a trust with a cross-subsidising cash cow (such as the Guardian’s Scott Trust) or by a low-profit limited liabilitycompany.  The latter makes profits, but has legal protection from shareholder demands for open-market profits.”

There are many mountains to climb before one dare to hope for this transformation in media ownership, but it is not an impossible dream.  Having the vision can certainly help us achieve our goal.


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