IN THE run up to the general election very little has been heard in the media about the main parties’ policy proposals on the industry’s future. Yet we are at a critical point. Consideration of Murdoch’s bid for the rest of Sky has been put off until after the election, while little is said about Leveson part two, which is supposed to investigate the alleged axis of corruption between the Murdoch press, successive governments and the police.
This does not reflect public concern about the unchallenged power of big media in Britain, owned by millionaires and big corporations, which is why the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, together with the Media Reform Coalition, has published its manifesto for media reform, Give Truth a Chance. But just what do the two main parties have to say?
Labour commits itself to supporting the BBC as a national asset and upholding its independence. On Leveson, Labour’s manifesto states that: “Victims of phone hacking have been let down by a Conservative government that promised them justice, but failed to follow through.
“We will implement the recommendations of part one of the Leveson inquiry and commence part two which will look into the corporate governance failures that allowed the hacking scandal to occur.”
On local news: “Local newspapers and broadcasting in Britain are an important part of our democracy and culture. We are concerned about closures of local media outlets and the reductions in number of local journalists.
“Labour will hold a national review [into] local media and into the ownership of national media to ensure plurality …To protect democracy and media freedom, we will take steps to ensure that Ofcom is better able to safeguard a healthy plurality of media ownership and to put in place clearer rules on who is fit and proper to own or run TV and radio stations.”
In the event of a Labour victory on June 8 it will be vital to keep the party to its manifesto pledges, given the vicious opposition there will be to them from the media owners. Just remember how they have lobbied and fought against implementing the recommendations of Leveson for better press self-regulation.
But it is the Tory Party manifesto that must be music to the ears of the Paul Dacres and Rupert Murdochs of the world. In it the party states that it “will not proceed with the second stage of the Leveson inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the press” and “will repeal Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act,” which penalises publishers who refuse to sign up to a Leveson-compliant press regulator.
Brian Cathcart from Hacked Off commented that: “This paragraph might have been, and indeed conceivably was, written by our corrupt national press itself — their very own get-out-of-jail-free card.
“And these are both U-turns by May, reversing positions she has publicly declared in the past. If it happens it will be just as if the world never found out that employees of Rupert Murdoch’s company hacked [murdered teenager] Milly Dowler’s phone.
“There will be no effective, independent regulation for the press in this country despite its amply proven record of amoral conduct and abuse of innocent people.
“Nor will there be access to affordable justice for the victims when papers breach their legal human rights (which they have been proven to do a great deal). There is no legal aid, the no-win-no-fee system has been neutered and May is now promising to remove any hope of access to the meaningful low-cost arbitration recommended by Leveson.”
Our Give Truth a Chance manifesto for media reform calls for government action to bring about controls on media ownership; independent and effective self-regulation of the press; well-funded, independent public service media and protection of citizens’ communications rights. You can read it at www.cpbf.org.uk/media-manifesto/
Barry White is a member of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom national council.