This whole phone hacking saga has brought the ownership, and therefore the political power, of UK media to the fore, and quite rightly so. For far too long far too much undemocratic power had been vested into too few hands. We need wider media diversity with a far broader range of views and that means far wider media ownership. Obviously for some the Main Stream Media (MSM) is now an irrelevance as they pluck their news eclectically from the interwebs, but for the vast majority this is not the case and looks to remain thus for a while. The proverbial man on the Clapham omnibus does not have the time or the inclination to go hunting for the truth.
Firstly we need to differentiate between media that are purely entertainment and those with a news and current affairs content. All the entertainment channels we can forget about for the purposes of this discussion, unless the SNP set up a TV channel with continuously streaming Braveheart or Labour do the same with Mr Bean.
Basically one owner (and this includes the BBC) should be allowed to own all the following:
- One national TV channel with news and current affairs content.
- One national radio station with news and current affairs content.
- One website with national news and current affairs content.
- One daily newspaper with news and current affairs content.
- One Sunday newspaper (as long as the daily doesn’t publish on Sundays) with news and current affairs content.
- As much and as many purely entertainment outlets as they want.
Local media are another story and really need hammering down on. Currently this is dominated by the institutionally left wing BBC with their huge number of local radio stations and the Labour subservient Trinity Mirror with 240 regional newspapers. It is difficult to keep up with local events without having socialist dogma forced into your head. Therefore all local news and current affairs media should be returned to local ownership and control, so as to properly represent the interests and needs of their audience. So the ownership rules should be:
- One local radio station with news and current affairs content, as long as no national media are owned.
- Plus one local newspaper as long as no national media are owned.
The next problem involves content. One person could generate news and current affairs that suited their political agenda and then pass it on to several likeminded people to use in their separately owned news channels. So you could have diverse ownership without having plurality of content. So we need content rules. Perhaps 90% of all news and current affairs content to be internally generated, with exceptions for straight newswire stuff.
Then there are the non daily national newspapers, The Economist, Private Eye, Spectator Magazine etc. These carry immense power out of all proportion to their readership numbers because the quality of their content is vastly higher than that of the daily media. These should be limited to one title per owner in addition to their other national media.
At the same time we need to lift the rules forcing broadcast media to be politically neutral, this is ridiculous, why shouldn’t they be the same as print and online media? Lifting neutrality would foster plurality and lead to far wider and healthier debate.
The above proposals are common sense, they would work, we would have a far healthier media for them and the power of any one organisation or individual would be severely limited.