Last Saturday saw the launch of the Media Reform Coalition’s (MRC) Media Manifesto 2019 at their well attended Media Democracy Festival in London. The festival was built around the theme of democratising the media and the various diverse workshops looked at just how this should be done.The manifesto is built on extensive research and a number of briefing reports from a wide range of specialists and media reform campaigners. It follows in the tradition first established by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (now disbanded) which had for many years published a Media Manifesto in advance of general elections to place policy choices for media reform in front of the public and political parties.
The manifesto is in four parts. The first outlines a framework for achieving media plurality, pointing to the fact that just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach) dominate 83% of the national newspaper market (up from 71% in 2015). It also highlights the threat to media plurality posed by tech giants like Google and Facebook and makes proposals for reform.
The second part sets out ideas for a more democratic, diverse, devolved and independent BBC pointing out that the BBC’s independence has been steadily eroded and its programme making commercialised. Turning to the need to diversify the workforce, the manifesto points out that ensuring adequate diversity will require complete transparency about the make-up of the BBC’s workforce and makes recommendations to achieve diversity.
Part three sets out urgent steps that a new government must take to restore confidence and trust in a free, accountable and sustainable press. This section includes ideas for a new funding settlement for public interest news (there was extensive discussion on the Cairncross recommendations in one of the workshops) and the need for better privacy for journalists by amending the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (nicknamed the Snooper’s Charter).
The final part ‘A Digital Media Policy for the 21st Century’ outlines reforms of digital media policies including proposals put forward by Jeremy Corbyn MP in his Alternative McTaggart lecture last year for a new British Digital Corporation. Recommendations to reinforce Net Neutrality are also outlined.
The festival also saw the launch of the revised edition of the MRC’s UK media ownership report. The Coalition produced its first comprehensive report on media ownership in the UK in 2015. The latest report argues that concentrated ownership in the UK “was a significant problem for any modern democracy. Four years later, we have produced an updated report that suggests that, not only does concentrated ownership persist, but that the problem may be getting worse.”
The report finds that in the area of local news, just five companies (Gannett, JPIMedia, Trinity Mirror, Tindle and Archant) account for 80% of titles (back in 2015, six companies had the same share). Two companies have 46% of all commercial local analogue radio stations and two-thirds of all commercial digital stations. The report goes on to find that the digital landscape is hardly less concentrated. “Google dominates search while popular apps like Instagram and WhatsApp are owned by Facebook, itself the most popular social media site. New, digital-only news sites have emerged as a significant force since our last report but these are overshadowed by the continuing grip of legacy news and, especially, national newspaper titles.”
The MRC hopes that this ownership report will provide information and arguments that will be useful to all who want to campaign for a more pluralistic and trusted media in which a genuine diversity of views, voices and opinions are aired.
Finally the meeting was urged to promote a model motion through their local parties, for the next Labour Party Conference and election manifesto which set out policy objectives to achieve a more democratic, trusted and accountable media.
More details may be found on the MRC web site, including a copy of the updated media ownership report at: https://www.mediareform.org.uk/
Questions on the report (including requests for printed copies) and on other aspects of the campaign to MRC at: firstname.lastname@example.org