The arrests at the Sun
underline the need to be aware that an over-powerful, concentrated media presence is a disaster for democracy and the rule of law. It proves what many campaigners have long held to be the case: that a concentrated mass media serves shareholder interest more than the public interest and that legislative barriers to concentration must be put in place in spite of the apparent business imperative to do otherwise.
If News International pulls out of the UK it will massively decrease the number of journalism jobs in the UK and that, in itself, is a threat to news plurality. News Corp has a responsibility to invest in news and not to shut down titles and undermine jobs. However, no single organisation should have been allowed to gather so much power over something as vital as the delivery of news.
The Government must urgently consider the need to maintain a plural news media in the face of increasing pressures on the business models of the press (online and off line). This might require subsidising news journalism (at least in the short term) while long-term solutions are addressed about the future shape of news.
Professor James Curran, chair of Media Reform, a new organisation established to coordinate civil society responses to the Leveson Enquiry and the Communications review, said today:
“A high degree of media concentration has limited media pluralism and deterred reform of the press by cowed politicians. This has perpetuated a culture of impunity in which press self-regulation has clearly failed, and a cowboy spirit has prevailed that has given rise to the illegal hacking of voicemails and the alleged bribing of public officials. If we are to tackle these problems and come up with effective solutions, we have to change the basis on which the media are organised, regulated and funded.”
The Coordinating Committee for Media Reform proposals include:
- A public interest test for companies that secure a 15% share or more of any media market
- Stronger cross-ownership rules and clear upper ceilings on the share across media markets
- A statutory right of reply
- A new News Publishing Commission composed of members of the public, ordinary working journalists and editors to promote press freedom and foster responsible behaviour
- More robust systems of transparency governing the interaction between the news media and their sources
- The introduction of levies on turnover of profitable communications companies and tax incentives to help sustain new and existing public-service oriented news projects.
Partner organisations include Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, Community Media Association, MediaWise, Cooperatives UK, MeccSSA Policy Group, Red Pepper, Open Society Foundations and Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
For more information or for interviews with Media Reform or any of our partners please email firstname.lastname@example.org