Thursday, June 30, 2016

We Need Press Reform - but how?

Remain narrowly lost the EU Referendum 2016 for several reasons, and one of these is the fact that of all the newspaper articles about the EU referendum read by the British electorate, they were reading 4 times as many anti-EU articles as pro-EU articles.

On a day-to-day basis, for every single reader of liberal/progressive newspapers in the UK there are three readers of conservative/neo-liberal papers.

That is going to have an effect on the way people think and behave. It is known that newspapers affect their readers' views on the "salience" or importance of events and opinions. If it is carried, it is important, if it is not carried, it is unimportant.

In a healthy democracy, the newsprint split between liberal and neo-liberal should be much closer to 50/50.

Supporters of the status quo say that the split in favour of conservative papers is because of consumer choice, they are only giving people what they want. But there is an interwoven relationship between reader and writer. They feed back onto each other, but the writer affects opinion, and opinion affects what is written. The writer is clearly the more powerful of the two.

Just as it was the Sun Wot Won It in the 1992 general election for the Tories (allegedly), it was the pressure of the tabloid papers that has helped to take us out of the EU (unless we have a second referendum).

To strengthen and balance up our economy it is vital that we reform the press.

What can we do? Here are 5 simple steps:
  1. Implement the Leveson Report
  2. Display the name of the proprietor in the title banner of the paper.
  3. No one person or company to own more than say 10 or 20% of the national paper readership.
  4. Local ownership of local papers
  5. Corrections to be given the same prominence as the original story
  6. Join the #Deadvertise campaign to Boycott major advertisers in right wing tabloids
Leveson means a new body instead of the Press Complaints Commission, a body with teeth. Subscribing to the new body would be voluntary, but subscribers would get a kitemark.

The problem is that the press scream  FREE SPEECH UNDER ATTACK! in response to any and every attempt to curb their excesses and disregard of truth . is an attack on free speech. Therefore any campaign will have to be carried out on the internet and in direct communication (leaflets etc) with the people, and even then the campaign will be attacked by the Press.

So we are in a Catch 22 situation - we cannot criticise the right wing press, because the right wing press will criticise us to oblivion.

It's a bleak situation. The only hope is that if things slip into recession again as a result of the press-induced Brexit, people will turn against the right wing tabloids and stop buying them.

So there's a start. Feel free to add any further suggestions you may have. This blog post is just a tiny fragment, a nucleus in a cloud around which  a raindrop can grow.

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