Election 2019 – Future of the Media – what the parties say

With less than three weeks to go before the general election on 12 December all the main parties, have published their election manifestos. Below are their proposals on the future of the media which I have taken from their manifestos (or ‘Contract with the People’ in the case of the Brexit Party).  Any additional points I may have missed welcome.

Brexit Party

Scrap the licence fee by phasing out the BBC licence fee, which is currently £154.50 a year for most people.

Conservative and Unionist Party

We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s and believe they should be funded by the BBC.

Through the Cultural Investment Fund… we will also support activities, traditions and events that bring communities together. We will support local and regional newspapers, as vital pillars of communities and local democracy, including by extending their business rates relief.

We will champion freedom of expression and tolerance, both in the UK and overseas. } To support free speech, we will repeal section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2014, which seeks to coerce the press.

We will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson Inquiry.

We will continue our campaigns to promote international media freedom

Green Party

Protect the BBC, reinstate free TV licences for over-75-year-olds and tighten the rules on media ownership so no individual or company owns more than 20% of a media market. To further challenge the control of our media by big tech and unaccountable billionaires, the Green Party will ensure that a suitable independent regulator is better able to safeguard a healthy plurality of media ownership, to undertake regular plurality reviews and to trigger remedies where necessary. The recommendations of the 2012 Leveson Report will be implemented, to hold the UK press to high ethical standards.

Support, through new grants, the growth of a wider range of civic-minded local news publishers. Local newspapers in the UK are an important part of our democracy and culture yet many are closing or struggling to survive.

Introduce a Digital Bill of Rights that establishes the UK as a leading voice on standards for the rule of law and democracy in digital spaces and ensure independent regulation of social media providers. This legislation will safeguard elections by responding to the challenges of foreign interference, social media and declining confidence in democracy.

Introduce a public interest defence for breaching the Official Secrets Act, alongside better protection and support for whistle-blowers in the public and private sectors.

Labour Party

A Labour government will ensure a healthy future for all our public service broadcasters, including BBC Alba and S4C. We will protect free TV licences for over-75s.

A free and fair press is vital to protecting democracy and holding the powerful to account.

We will address misconduct and the unresolved failures of corporate governance raised by the second stage of the abandoned Leveson Inquiry. We will take steps to ensure that Ofcom is better able to safeguard a healthy plurality of media ownership and to put in place clearer rules on who is fit and proper to own or run TV and radio stations. We will take action to address the monopolistic hold the tech giants have on advertising revenues and will support vital local newspapers and media outlets.

We will consult media-sector workers and trade unions to establish an inquiry into the ‘fake news’ undermining trust in media, democracy and public debate, and on a legal right of public interest defence for journalists.

Lib Dems

A well-functioning democracy should have a high standard of public debate in which: citizens are supported, educated and empowered to distinguish between facts and lies; there is a pluralistic media environment where journalists have the resources they need to find the truth and to hold the powerful to account; civility in public discourse is protected; election procedures and rules are upheld robustly and quickly. However, these foundations of our democratic way of life are under threat. Liberal Democrats are the only party forward-looking enough to do what it takes to foster high quality public debate. We will:

Mandate the provision of televised leaders’ debates in general elections, based on rules produced by Ofcom.

Introduce a Leveson-compliant regulator to be given oversight of both privacy and quality, diversity and choice in both print and online media and proceed with Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry.

Expect the BBC both to provide impartial news and information, and to take a leading role in increasing media literacy and educating all generations in tackling the impact of fake news.

Strengthen and expand the lobbying register and ban MPs from accepting paid lobbying work.

Review the need for any election safeguarding legislation that is needed to respond to emerging challenges of the internet age, such as foreign interference in elections.

Protect the independence of the BBC and set up a BBC Licence Fee Commission, maintain Channel 4 in public ownership and protect the funding and editorial independence of Welsh language broadcasters.

Scotland and Wales

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru is seeking the devolution of broadcasting so that we can create a level playing field with every other UK nation and give Wales the power to decide its own media and broadcasting policy. In government we will promote a Welsh media that represents the people of Wales and what matters to them.

Scottish National Party

We continue to believe that responsibility for broadcasting in Scotland should transfer from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. In the meantime we welcome the creation of a new BBC Scotland TV channel and its associated investment. We will continue to push for greater authority and funding to be moved from BBC network to BBC Scotland. We will also continue to push for a fairer share of the TV licence fee raised in Scotland being spent in Scotland.

We welcome the proposals for the relocation of Channel 4 out with London (sic), and SNP MPs will make a strong case for as many functions of the Channel 4 operation as possible to be based in Scotland.

As the UK government consults on proposals to reduce the requirement for local content on radio, SNP MPs will seek to protect local news and other content provided by local commercial radio stations, recognising the valuable contribution they make to informing and entertaining listeners.

We remain committed to a vibrant, free press and we will work with other parties, in Scotland and at Westminster, to ensure it is supported.

We will make the case for the Scottish Parliament to have the power to decide which sporting events in Scotland are included in the list of those that are free to view in Scotland. We will demand that the UK government reinstates its funding for Gaelic broadcast

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