The Media Reform Coalition (MRC) marked the launch of its Media Democracy Festival this week (see: https://www.mediareform.org.uk/blog/media-democracy-festival-2021) by publishing a new report on media ownership in the UK. It makes depressing, although predictable, reading. The MRC produced its first report in 2015 when they argued (along with many others) that concentrated ownership of the media was a significant problem for any modern democracy. Four years later an updated report showed that not only did concentrated ownership persist but that the problem was getting worse. Since then the situation has deteriorated.
While the government is still deciding on whether to decriminalise non-payment of the television licence fee, following a public consultation earlier this year, the very future of the TV licence fee hangs in the balance. Although safe until the next BBC Charter Review in 2027, when the way the BBC is governed and funded is decided, government ministers are reported as saying they are “open minded” about how to fund the BBC from then onwards.
Last week I sent out an email to contacts telling them about a new Government inquiry into the future of journalism. Chaired by Lord Gilbert of Panteg, chair of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Select Committee, it will investigate how the production and consumption of journalism is changing, how journalists can be supported to adapt to those changes and how the profession can become more trusted by—and representative of—the general population. Within hours I received a reply from a long standing friend of mine, Mike Jempson, who has run a media reform organisation for decades. Mike has in fact been ‘in journalism’ for some 50 years, and has been director of journalism for the ethics charity MediaWise for almost a quarter of a century. He commented in an exasperated tone: “How many more times are there going to be inquiries and the like? Since 1947 they have got us nowhere! The baleful hegemony of the owners remains the same.”