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Friday 26th
posted by Morning Star in Features

Anyone who challenges the ‘free press’ will face the onslaught of their owners, says PETER LAZENBY

“CAN anything be done about the shockingly biased media?”

It was the question I put to Jeremy Corbyn at the launch of Labour’s election manifesto in Bradford last week.

Now after the Manchester bombing the Sun says: “Innocent people were murdered specifically because Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell sucked up to the IRA.”

They didn’t. They sought peace and the Sun story made the question put at Labour’s manifesto launch even more important.

You can add the Sun’s lies to such stories as: “We can’t trust ‘weak’ Corbyn to get a good Brexit deal warns Theresa May” (Daily Mail, May 22), “Corbyn’s kick in the teeth for IRA victims” (Daily Mail, May 22), and “Trust Corbyn with Brexit? You must be joking” (Daily Mail, May 21).

Here’s the Express: “Revealed: The evil monster haunting Jeremy Corbyn’s past.

“Jeremy Corbyn’s great great grandfather was the master of a workhouse described as ‘a scandal and a curse to a country which calls itself civilised and Christian’.”

The Sun again: “Corbyn: Abolish the army — new leader’s potty plan for world peace.”

That was in response to Corbyn speaking out against illegal wars not sanctioned by the United Nations.

There are endless other examples. The question I posed at Labour’s manifesto launch was picked up by Gaby Hinsliff in the Guardian and the Observer in which she explored its validity.

She referred to the irony of the question coming from “a paper once owned by the Communist Party of Great Britain.”

Yes Gaby, it was. Now it isn’t.

The Morning Star is owned by its readers through a co-operative, the People’s Press Printing Society (PPPS). Anyone can take out a share for £1. Each shareholder gets one vote at our annual meetings to elect our co-operative’s management committee. However many shares you buy, you still get only one vote. It’s a pretty democratic way to run a newspaper.

Our paper is open about its politics and its beliefs. The words “For peace and socialism” are our proud declaration on our front page every day.

Newspaper sales are in decline, as online social media becomes the preference of a new generation, but I believe they still influence public opinion.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) audits newspaper sales. ABC’s latest research shows sales of daily national newspapers at about seven million.

There’s the Sun (1.6 million), Daily Mail (1.5m), Mirror (700,000), and other nationals selling around or under half a million papers a day each.

Each paper is estimated by the ABC to be read by at least two people. Tens of millions of people are being fed whatever version of the “news” the editors or proprietors of these papers choose to present to them.

Eighty per cent of national newspapers are owned by companies controlled by five billionaire proprietors, among them Rupert Murdoch of the Sun and the Times and Viscount Rothermere of the Daily Mail.

I don’t have an answer to my own question to Jeremy Corbyn: “Can anything be done about the shockingly biased media?”

He didn’t have a comprehensive answer either, though he did say the second part of the Leveson Inquiry into the conduct of the press will be followed through.

He wisely side-stepped, praising those journalists who risk their lives exposing corruption, repression, torture and injustice around the world.

Anyone who challenges Britain’s “free press” will face an onslaught from the “free press” owned by billionaires who run and control it in the interests of themselves and their class. But it’s a question which seriously needs to be answered.

  • Peter Lazenby is the Morning Star’s northern reporter.