Media, Murdoch and democracy….
Well done to the media at large which has successfully dominated the news agenda with two stories concerning essentially itself. First, we have the wholly
unsurprising news that the Murdoch Empire is expanding to consume B Sky B whole and in addition we have the equally unsurprising news that the BBC will be toadying to the government by describing the cuts as ‘savings’.
Jeremy Hunt’s breathtaking claim that the B Sky B deal will ‘strengthen media plurality’ is right up there with other ‘classics’ from this government which brought us such gems as the ‘fair’ austerity budget which clobbered the poor and left the banks unscathed. The governments command of Orwellian Newspeak would be highly comical if only it didn’t run the country. Hiving off Sky News while retaining a controlling 39%.1 stake is not a concession and you don’t even have to be left-wing and naturally hate Murdoch to see this – even The Daily Telegraph can see what Murdoch is playing at:
it [the new Sky News] will have an independent chairman and some independent board members. This is a favoured ruse of Mr Murdoch’s: his takeover of The Times and The Sunday Times was adorned with a similar fig leaf, as was his more recent acquisition of The Wall Street Journal. These independent directors have not been conspicuously successful at reining in the proprietor.
If Hunt really believes what he is saying then the only logical conclusion is that he is naive to the point of abject stupidity and therefore should be ejected from high office. Meanwhile, over at the BBC, a more sinister blow against democracy comes in the form of its newly found love for the word ‘savings’. The thing with the BBC is that it is set-up as this highly idealised ‘impartial’ force. Of course, in the real world no such things exist; each outlet has its own bias and own slant on events.
In the BBC’s case this bias is to the government of the day. So, yes, when that was Labour I accept it was biased to us. Now, the boot is on the other foot. This all stems from the financial dependency of the BBC on the good graces of the government of the day. Not really that surprising that it is eager to please then. Herein lies part of the solution; to get a more balanced BBC the state must lose all power to determine the licence fee and all ties to the BBC.
The BBC should, in fact, become the property of all licence fee payers. This is the only way to solve this problem, and as we are frequently reminded, its such a national treasure that I can’t see people suddenly opting out and bringing down the BBC. You see, as with the dealings of the Evil Empire otherwise known as News Corp, the problem is a lack of democracy in our media. However, as a sector it is probably one where the means of democratisation are actually closest at hand. In some ways, the internet is the agent of that democratisation but its still not enough. Superseding traditional media simply won’t happen, at least not for a very long time, so something of the flavour of the internet, the freedom and its odd kind of anarchic democracy, should be brought to our traditional media outlets. In News Corps case that first means the state breaking by legislative force its undemocratic monopoly then democratising the smaller units; in the BBC’s case it means the state letting go. Maybe then we will have a media that serves its purpose as the tribune of the people, as opposed to a tribune of various vested interests.