MRC Weekly Digest – 16th July 2021

By Media Reform Coalition / Friday July 16, 2021 Read More
Hi everyone, Eliz Mizon here with the Media Reform Coalition blog every Friday. For even more media news and analysis, plus the latest media reform campaigns and content, follow me at Chompsky: Power and Pop Culture For now, here’s your media news digest!

The deaths of Dawn Foster, Peter de Vries, Alexander Lashkarava

The deaths of several journalists have been reported this week, including the sudden passing of progressive journalist and social commentator Dawn Foster at age 34. From The Guardian: Foster was a staff writer for Jacobin magazine, and a contributor to the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement. She wrote for the Guardian’s comment pages on housing and social justice issues. In 2015, she wrote about her chronic health conditions for the Guardian with typical honesty: “It’s never socially acceptable to reply to the question ‘How are you?’ with ‘Shit, actually’, even when for the vast majority of the time that’s true.” Foster, who grew up in south Wales, published two books: Lean Out, a critique of the rise of “corporate ‘1% feminism’”, and Where Will We Live?, a polemic on the UK housing crisis. She had been working on a book about the dole. Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries was shot in Amsterdam last week, and Georgian TV cameraman Alexander Lashkarava was beaten by far-right extremists while covering a Pride parade. Both sadly succumbed to their injuries this week.

The BBC and Beyond campaign   

Can public media be antiracist?, our final event in our Town Hall series, was on Wednesday night. The conversation was really brilliant, including how community media can be part of antiracist organising, why blockchain might be a more accountable kind of technology than the internet, and why public media needs to move from promoting ‘diversity’ to embracing ‘reparative justice’. If you missed it, you can watch the recording on the MRC YouTube.  Over the summer we will be putting together a draft of our Manifesto for a People’s Media, drawing on all the conversations we’ve had so far. If you have ideas you would like to contribute to the Manifesto, you can submit them on the BBC and Beyond website here:   

Reminder: Supporting the Channel 4 Anti-Privatisation Campaigns

After noting its desires to privatise the publicly-owned Channel 4, the government has launched a public consultation on the question that runs until September. Watch out for loaded questions…  I’ll be interviewing public broadcasting expert Tom Mills soon at Chompsky – if you want more info you can read his write up on the C4 privatisation issue for Tribune, and then Have Your Say on Channel 4 Privatisation. Trade magazine Broadcast has also launched the Not 4 Sale campaign – which you can sign up to.

This Week’s Media News

  • Alexander Lashkarava, a 37-year-old Georgian TV cameraman has been found dead after being badly beaten by members of a far-right protest against a Pride march. More than 50 journalists were attacked, and the Pride march was eventually canceled over safety fears. (The Guardian via Agence France Presse)
  • The Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries has died after he was shot in Amsterdam last week. He reported on the country’s underworld, and particularly on cold cases. Two men have been arrested. (AP)
  • BBC Parliament, the BBC’s flagship political channel, will see harsh cuts this autumn in an effort by the public broadcaster to cut its overall costs. Looking to save £1 billion by March 2022 the broadcaster will end rolling politics coverage for the first time since the ‘60s, and reduce staff on the channel down to single figures. (The London Economic)
  • GB News has seen its ratings drop to zero on some shows after the viewers (the ones who continued to watch after the technical difficulties and anti-woke backlash) boycotted the channel over one presenter taking the knee in support of the England football team. The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (Barb), showed “no measurable audience” between 1pm and 1.30pm on Wednesday. (The Independent)
  • MPs in the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee have called for a “complete reset” of the music streaming market, arguing that musicians should be given their “fair share” of royalties – which they say is 50/50, instead of the current rate of 16%. UK record labels earn £736.5 million from streaming each year. (BBC)
  • The Rothermere family is set to put in a bid to buy out the rest of DMGT, the company that owns The Daily Mail and MailOnline, to take the company private. (The Guardian)
  • Google has been fined €500 million by French authorities after “ignoring” a court order to negotiate with publishers their use of news content on the platform. (Bloomberg)
  • Facebook has confirmed that it is delaying the safety audit it promised a year ago amid an ad boycott. The audit was supposed to take place by June this year after advertisers expressed concern “that their ad messages were adjacent to and financially supporting hate speech, misinformation, pornography and other unsavory content”. The June deadline has passed, and spokespeople confirmed that no contract has been signed between Facebook and the Media Rating Council. (DigiDay)
  • The US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called on tech platforms and the news media specifically to “take greater steps to combat misinformation.” He issued a Surgeon General Advisory, a public memo reserved for urgent public health threats, and said social media was a “super spreader” of misinformation and a likely culprit for vaccine uptake slowing in the US. (Deadline)
  • Filmmakers have deep faked quotes from Anthony Bourdain in a new documentary, Roadrunner, about his life and death. In an interview with The New Yorker, director Morgan Neville said “there were three lines of dialogue that he wanted Bourdain’s voice to orate, but he couldn’t find previous audio to string together or make it work otherwise”. Neville quipped “We can have a documentary-ethics panel about it later”. (The Verge)
  • A TikTok ‘pop-up’ is opening in west London, offering £5 sessions that teach wannabe creators how to make content, and parents how to keep their children safe on the platform. (The Guardian)
  • Twitter is shutting down Fleets after less than a year, citing low usage. (TechCrunch)