Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party in England and Wales was a speaker at the parliamentary launch of the media manifesto produced by the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom and the Media Reform Coalition. She announced that the forthcoming Green Party manifesto will make a commitment on cross-media ownership reform as well as a promise to limit ownership in any individual media market to a maximum of 20%. More details on the Green Party’s policies for media can be found here. Meanwhile we hope that other parties will follow suit and make similar commitments to tackle concentrated media power as part of a democratic reform agenda. Media Reform caught up with Amelia shortly after last night’s launch.
Media Reform: Why has the Green Party made this manifesto commitment?
Amelia Womack: The media is meant to be something that keeps the world of politics in check and informs members of our communities. Yet if only a few voices are doing that, there’s no diversity of opinion and there’s no diversity of story. We end up with a monopoly of the media and one voice in quite a ‘Big Brother’ way. A clear 20% ownership limit means that we can actually get that variety, we can get that diversity in our media, and it means that we’re not falling victim to one voice, one power telling us what the news is.
Media Reform: Are you nervous what the reaction might be?
Amelia Womack: I think you’ve got to challenge what’s happening in society and at the moment, people are feeling like there’s something not quite right – and that’s in both politics and in the media. For the people who would see this as a negative policy, well really our policy is made for people, for the common good, and fighting for that fairer future. We want a more socially just future that is about making sure that we are representing people and the needs of the general public.
Media Reform: What’s your impression so far of the way in which the Greens have been represented in the media?
Amelia Womack: It’s funny because we’ve gone from barely having any news stories about the, the Green Party to the media taking quite a lot of interest but actually not reporting whole truths and coming at us from a very strange angle. I thought an interesting take was that we weren’t a feminist party. As the party who has only had female leaders and where most of our elected representatives are women and where we’ve got strong policy about women’s rights, the fact that we’d be deemed unfeminist and have an entire article that basically didn’t have the facts but was trying to attack our strongest point – the thing that people associate with the Green Party – they were doing this to try and taint the party.
Media Reform: One of the things you said in your talk was that we need to change the system and that we’re not talking about individuals. What is the structural problem that you see?
Amelia Womack: Well business as usual clearly isn’t working in both politics and the media and that we need to be looking at system change if we want a more representative society, to ensure that we are being properly represented. If you take the House of Commons for example, fighting for proportional representation to make sure that every vote counts and that everybody’s voice is heard, we need a system change. I think a lot of people are starting to get behind this and believe that the only loser of this general election is the first-past-the-post system. In a five or seven party system we just need to be challenging all of these different structures and some of these traditions that we’ve been working with.
Media Reform: What do think- what would your message be to other parties in terms of making a manifesto commitment on media ownership. Do you think any of them will be bold enough to do what you’ve done?
Amelia Womack: Obviously I hope so because who knows what is going to happen in the general election. It’s everyone’s favourite pub game at the moment – speculating about what the potential coalitions could look like. I think it’s important that we have policy that represents people’s values and opinions and I think that the monopoly that we are seeing in our media is something that has been coming up on the doorstep. People have seen that there is something wrong with that and they are looking for parties to be strong on the changes that need to happen.