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.”
The central role the media has played in the General Election Campaign is undeniable. So is the pro Conservative party dominance of much of the national press together with its anti-Labour party bias. Social media has again offered alternative platforms for the parties and people to get their messages across. Since the last election we have seen increasing consolidation of media ownership, the latest takeover being announced at the end of November when JPIMedia sold the i newspaper and website for a reported £49.6m to the billionaire Lord Rothermere’s Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns the Mail on Sunday and MailOnline. Meanwhile press baron David Montgomery is in talks to buy JPIMedia which owns dozens of major local British newspapers.
So what new policies do the parties offer to counter these concerns and make our media ‘fit for purpose’? Continue reading Media reform – are the parties up to the challenge?