Labour MP Clive Lewis told a packed audience that the British media is “fit for purpose”, on 16 March. But this wasn’t meant as a compliment. He explained that we have “a media system” that is “fit for the political economy we are in”.
Fit for the establishment
The point the former BBC journalist was making is that it is not an accident that the establishment press reports the way it does. The press, including the BBC, reports the way it does because it ‘reinforces’ the establishment status quo. That status quo is corporate, individualistic, and neoliberal. In this worldview, governments are meant to allow ‘markets to self-regulate’, with minimal ‘intervention’. According to the speakers, the majority of the political and professional class accepts this view as an article of faith.
The MP for Norwich South made his comments during the 2019 Media Democracy Festival. The Canary attended the event, which featured workshops, talks, and discussions.
James Meadway, economist and former adviser to John McDonnell, gave a perfect example of establishment bias in the mainstream media:
Meadway also said that every economics textbook will tell you that the worst thing to do during a recession is to cut government spending. During a recession, businesses are already cutting spending, and even going bust, he said. And so what society needs during a recession is more government spending, not less.
Yet alternatives to austerity are hardly, if ever, discussed by the establishment press.
Lewis pointed out:
Tom Mills, author of The BBC: Myth of a Public Service, also made this point during a discussion about ‘reforming’ the BBC:
Sarah O’Connell, who has worked with the BBC for many years, said:
She noted with concern that:
Bradford is just “one place” O’Connell exclaimed and “the north” is a huge region.
Faiza Shaheen discussed a cringe-worthy story about working with the BBC:
Everyone agreed the problems with the BBC ran deep:
Democratise the media
The Media Reform Coalition (MRC) released its Manifesto for Media Reform 2019 and it will be available online soon. It calls for democratising the BBC. It also recommends making the TV licence fairer by linking it to internet access and council tax bands rather than simply ownership of a TV or use of BBC IPlayer.
The Canary reported last year on Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s proposals to help democratise British media.
In 2018, Mills and Dan Hind, co-presenter of the Media Democracy podcast, wrote a chapter on media democracy, for an ebook called New Thinking for the British Economy.
Mills warned that:
New Thinking for the British Economy is available for free.
Progressive media reform
Justin Schlosberg, of the MRC, told the audience:
So it’s up to all of us to make that happen.
Featured image via BBC iPlayer