Who’s holding the British press to account?

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The British media’s treatment of Meghan Markle has given us clear examples of its poisonous nature. Her recent interview with Oprah highlighted articles and headlines that vilified Markle, with clear colonial and racist undertones. 

Markle’s interview

The press labelled her “manipulative” and “controlling”, and we saw stark disparities between reporting on Kate and Meghan – be that about avocados or baby bumps. 

Responses to the interview – in which Markle stated she “didn’t want to be alive any more” – show us just how cruel and damaging the British press is.  

The interview opened broader conversations around the perpetuation of racism, the stigmatisation of mental health issues, and the vilification of marginalised communities by the British press. 

Institutional racism in the British press

This isn’t the first time the press has worked to demonise and discredit a powerful Woman of Colour. We only need to look at the tabloid witch hunt against Diane Abbott. The media exists to set the national agenda. It works to shape public discourse and policies. A free and open press is central to a functioning democracy.

Britain’s mainstream media works to vilify minorities, and sets a racist, Xenophobic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, homophobic, transphobic, misogynistic, and ableist agenda.  

Powerful tabloid journalists feel emboldened to call immigrants “cockroaches” and “feral humans”, while others are happy to talk about “the Muslim problem”. As this headline in the Times shows, it’s not just right wing tabloids that are the problem. The establishment press is also guilty. And these stories have real life consequences, fuelling prejudice and hate crimes.

Read on...

The fact that the BBC thought it appropriate to use a racial slur in a news report, or that Nick Ferrari felt comfortable to tell Black British journalist Afua Hirsch that she should leave the country if she doesn’t like racism, shows us just how normalised racism is in the media.

Lack of newsroom and reporter diversity

Behind the headlines, the media is an elitist industry that discriminates against marginalised journalists. According to a 2017 study, around 94% of UK journalists are white. And while only 7% of the population have attended private school, more than half of ‘top’  journalists have.

Holding the press to account

The role of the press is to hold power to account. But who’s holding the press to account? 

Piers Morgan storming off set when confronted by the only person of colour in the room, and the head of the Society of Editors minimising the reality of racism and bigotry in the British press shows us that the power behind the press still refuses to be held to account. If they won’t even acknowledge racism in the industry, how can we expect them to challenge it? 

What can we do to challenge it?

The establishment press exists to maintain the status quo. A status quo that is failing most of us. Diversity schemes don’t work to bring about institutional change, and often expose marginalised journalists to toxic newsroom environments. So instead of supporting outlets that continue to deny marginalised people opportunities and a voice, we should support alternative, independent media, and platforms created for and by marginalised people.

It’s up to us to challenge an industry that has the power to fuel hate, legitimise the far-right agenda, and attack the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society.

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  • Show Comments
    1. The press ie Tabloids and TV are nothing more than gossip, sports news and headlines that could equally be used in Hello magazine. But, to add to that, they add Islamophobia, far right comments (even in supposedly left wing newspapers) and a complete failure to report real news or indeed fact check that which is handed to them. They singularly failed to report on Assange’s extradition hearing and why the outcome was so significant nor the fact that he is now held, without charge nor conviction even AFTER being told he is not to be extradited. Simply our political prisoner now. And today, the only journalist who DID report on Assange’s hearings, Craig Murray, has been convicted of contempt of court over the Salmond trial. Again, he was the only journalist to report Salmond’s defence which, if you wouldn’t know about unless you read it on his website, NB his defence wasn’t about there ‘not being enough evidence to convict’ it was, rather that he could disprove all of the allegations and had multiple witnesses who could back this up. They alleged Murray identified the complainers by ‘jigsaw identification’ He did not do this, however, other publications which weren’t prosecuted DID do this. The only man to report the defence was the only man to be (wrongly) prosecuted. This is the first case of its kind in the UK EVER, not just for a long time but EVER. And, in normal contempt of court cases the matter is settled quickly – not two months later! To top it off the judge hasn’t issued her judgement DESPITE having all this time to prepare it. This STINKS to high heaven.

      When we see these things happening and when we see that no newspaper or TV news questions it then you MUST realise we no longer live in a democracy..

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