Conservative culture secretary Jeremy Wright is offering Channel 4 and other broadcasters significant “support”. But this seems to be in return for them toeing the government line on foreign policy. Wright is calling on broadcasters to battle what he calls “disinformation”, such as counter-narratives on the Russian spy story, “in exchange” for a preservation of their market dominance.
Broadcasters under threat
Channel 4, the BBC and ITV are facing greater competition in the age of the internet. And the rise of smart TVs and app-based channel selecting is making that threat worse. The number of people watching YouTube from their television sets, for example, is growing 45% every year. These broadcasters, along with Channel 5, are pushing for legislation to protect their prominence on new channel interfaces.
Now it looks like the government may be using this unease to influence how channels report foreign policy stories.
“Battle against disinformation”
At the Royal Television Society conference on 18 September, the culture secretary will accuse Russia of “a blatant disinformation campaign with misleading procedural questions and over 40 different official narratives – all false”.
Wright will also say:
High quality journalism is the best possible weapon in our battle against disinformation, so the sustainability of our media is something that should concern us all.
I want to see them doing more to reach a diverse and younger audience, exploring innovative ways to reach the public and providing opportunities for under-represented groups both on and off screen.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
In exchange, the Government is committed to supporting the Public Service Broadcasters to ensure they continue to thrive, and stay prominent, as part of a healthy, sustainable and dynamic media landscape.
Author of BBC: Myth of a Public Service, Tom Mills, says the BBC has “always been kept under some degree of political control” by the government. For example, the government sets the BBC licence fee rate, which gives it control over the broadcaster’s financial health. Upon entering office in 2010, David Cameron froze BBC funding for six years. While Cameron praised the cuts as “delicious”, Ivan Lewis, Labour’s shadow culture secretary at the time, said:
the recent dodgy licence fee deal and these trite comments by the prime minister undermine the independence of the BBC and display a worrying level of hostility
With the cuts in place, then-director-general Mark Thompson was photographed visiting Downing Street. He was carrying a memo about how the BBC could frame the government’s austerity agenda. That sparked a furious debate over the broadcaster’s ‘impartiality’.
In 2018, the BBC is still operating under the funding squeeze.
The government is no stranger to leaning on the BBC to influence its reporting. Citizens must be wary of the government doing the same to Channel 4 and other broadcasters. A free and diverse media is the bedrock of a meaningful democracy.
The Canary contacted Channel 4 and the BBC for comment.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
– Read and support other independent media outlets:
Another Angry Voice, Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, The Skwawkbox, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via Channel 4/ YouTubeSupport us and go ad-free
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.