Owen Jones’s 11-word takedown of a Sunday Times editor on Newsnight is absolutely delicious

Owen Jones and Sarah Baxter on Newsnight
Tracy Keeling

Owen Jones delivered a delicious takedown of a Sunday Times editor on 23 August.

While discussing Jeremy Corbyn’s plans to ‘change the media’ on BBC Newsnight, Sarah Baxter claimed Britain’s currently in a “golden age” of media “diversity”. In response, Jones said:

that’s probably one of the most ludicrous propositions I’ve ever heard.

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Isn’t it just. But it’s not surprising that an editor at one of Rupert Murdoch’s rags would try and convince people that’s the case.

Bold plans

Corbyn recently laid out Labour’s plans to reform Britain’s media landscape. Proposals include removing political influence from the BBC by allowing licence fee-payers, rather than government, to elect representatives to its governing board. They also include setting up a fund to help pay for public service journalism, paid for by “digital monopolies”, aka big tech companies.

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The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has “warmly welcomed” the proposals. The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has also greeted the plans with praise. Baxter, however, doesn’t appear to be a big fan. And Jones made sure to point out why on the BBC programme.

Rubbish

The Sunday Times deputy editor tried to paint Labour’s proposals as a power grab on Newsnight.

She claimed that the suggestion public trust in media is low is “nonsense”, and that:

We’re in a golden age of more diversity and more opinion than ever across the spectrums.

In short, she effectively argued that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the British media, so the plans can only be “a bid by Jeremy Corbyn to take control of the media that he doesn’t like”.

But, as Jones pointed out, there is a problem with the British media. In fact, there’s a few.

The Guardian columnist said:

The problem with the media is twofold. Firstly, it is the most socially exclusive profession, other than medicine…

The other issue… [is] most of the press in this country is run by a very small group of media moguls, like Rupert Murdoch

So, the moguls’ playground that passes for Britain’s national press isn’t representative of the people it’s providing ‘journalism’ for. Not only because of who its owners are, but also because a disproportionate number of high-profile national reporters went to private school in comparison to the rest of the population.

No wonder then that, as Jones says, there is a “massive crisis in trust” in Britain’s media.

Resistance

Clearly, new media is helping to ensure there is “more diversity” in journalism. Of course, its rise has largely occurred because there’s such a lack of that in the mainstream press. But diversity and a range of opinion needs to be part and parcel of the national news – and the country-wide conversation it dominates.

That Corbyn’s plans are facing resistance from those who prosper in the current elitist system shows they’re on course to do exactly that.

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