Hi everyone, Eliz Mizon here with the Media Reform Coalition blog every Friday.
For even more media news and analysis, plus the latest campaigns, content, and UK media jobs, follow me at Chompsky: Power and Pop Culture.
For now, here’s your media news digest!
Praxis Makes Perfect: Gary Younge
This week I interviewed award-winning journalist and activist Gary Younge for the ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’ series. He spoke on his work at the Guardian, the personal ramifications of “not trashing Corbyn”, and the wider UK journalism landscape. Importantly, he also assured me that energy put into activism is never wasted. You can read the interview here.
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The first stage of The BBC and Beyond – Reimagining Public Media campaign is now over, but we have more events planned in June focusing on public media in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Details will be announced soon on the MRC social media and in this newsletter!
If you missed any of the sessions live, you can watch it back on the MRC Youtube channel. Similarly, you can find all sessions from the ‘Liberalism, Inc.: 200 Years of the Guardian’ conference there too.
And remember to contribute to our Manifesto for a People’s Media on the BBC and Beyond website.
A Game-Changer for Media Unions?
The Daily Beast Union announced a huge win last week: for more than a year, beginning before the pandemic and through May 2021, it has negotiated and won a historic contract for its staff.
The milestones the Beast Union has achieved are quite stunning, including a ban on NDAs for harassment cases, an agreed progressive wage rise, and guaranteed privacy for the content of staff’s social media accounts.
The details of the contract have huge implications for all present and future Beast staff. But it doesn’t end there; this is agenda-setting for other newsrooms. It demonstrates to the management at Conde Nast, for example – who have been stonewalling union staff at The New Yorker, Pitchfork, and Ars Technica, for three years – what is possible. In their case, a strike is imminent.
This Week’s Media News
- It’s been an intense week for Amazon: officials in Washington D.C. began the process of suing the company on Tuesday. The primary accusation is that the company artificially raises prices for products around the web by abusing its monopoly power. The next day, it was announced they are paying a premium for film studio MGM, apparently to boost the prospects of their struggling Prime Video platform, and Jeff Bezos MC’d his final shareholder meeting. Shareholders voted down eleven proposals concerning whether the company should “take action on issues including climate change, labor conditions, use of facial recognition technology and racial and gender disparities in the workforce.” (NYT/BBC/CNBC)
- Amazon’s advertising unit continues to undergo major growth, as competitors such as Apple make it easier for users to block ads and tracking. Amazon’s revenue from ads is now “2.4 times as large as Snap, Roku, Twitter and Pinterest combined”. (CNBC)
- The position of Chair at Ofcom remains open after all applicants were rejected by the board, including former Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre who the Prime Minister had made clear was his favourite. (The Guardian)
- Owner of the MailOnline, Associated Newspapers, has paid substantial damages and publicly apologised to a French actor for revealing her identity in an assault case against director Luc Besson. The actor said “To this day, many people still believe that I chose to go public myself. I am pleased that MailOnline has apologised, that this distressing matter has now been brought to a successful conclusion, and that the record has been set straight.” (The Guardian)
- The EU is opening a formal antitrust inquiry into Facebook. It’s seeking to understand whether, by promoting its Marketplace services for free to its 2 billion users, it is engaged in anti-competitive practices. The Financial Times says that “EU officials have already sent at least three rounds of questions to Facebook and its rivals.” (Financial Post)
- Facebook in Canada has followed the Australian example of striking deals with publishers for news stories on its platform. But experts say the move is an attempt to divert attention from forthcoming regulation efforts in the country regarding misinformation, privacy concerns, and “non-cooperation with authorities”. (Yahoo Finance)
- Hedge fund Alden Global Capital is in the process of completing its acquisition of Tribune Publishing, one of the US’ major daily newspaper publishers, for $633 million. Two days after the announcement they offered all newsroom employees a buyout. (Chicago Tribune)
- The UK’s largest news publisher Reach has performed a U-turn on its decision not to pay back employees who took pay cuts at the start of the pandemic. They had originally said they were “not considering it“, but have now agreed to pay back £4m. The board and executive committee will not be reimbursed for their temporary pay reductions. Staff have been told there will be other spending cuts within the company as a result, but that no salaries would fall below the living wage. (Press Gazette)
- The BBC will conduct a formal review of its editorial practices and an investigation into how journalist Martin Bashir was rehired. Following the Dyson Report, which found the BBC covered up “deceitful behaviour” on Bashir’s part to secure the famous Diana interview, the BBC board has “accepted the findings in full and reiterated its apology”. In the House of Commons, culture minister John Whittingdale said the BBC had “damaged its reputation” internationally. (BBC)
- Axios Local is projected to bring in “up to $5 million” by the end of 2021. The programme is building on the success of its initial launch by expanding into 8 new cities, including Atlanta, Chicago, and Austin, and has gained 350k subscribers in 4 months. (AdWeek)
- Vimeo Inc. has gone public, but saw its share price drop almost 13% on its first day of trading. It still has a market cap of $8.5 billion. (Variety)
- Tennis seed No 2. Naomi Osaka has refused to partake in “mandatory” media assignments at the French Open, saying it’s detrimental to players’ mental health. A statement on her social media said “I’ve often felt that people have no regard for athletes’ mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one. We are often sat there and asked questions that we’ve been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I’m just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.” (The Guardian)
- Google has rolled out its new ‘Google News Showcase’ for desktop. (Google)