Posts Tagged ‘media’

Labour needs to end its pathetic war on the media

12/04/2016, 09:38:50 PM

by Samuel Dale

Labour MP Angela Raynor is interesting. She is shadow pensions minister but despite a time of huge upheaval in both public and private pensions provision, she rarely talks publicly about her patch.

Instead, the former union rep focuses her ire on a vast array of issues beyond her brief such as the steel crisis or – the favourite of most Corbynite Labour MPs today – criticizing the press.

Last Wednesday, prime minister David Cameron admitted he had more than $30,000 held in an offshore trust that he withdrew in January 2010. It was a stunning admission after days of evading questions over the Panama Papers.

At 10pm on Wednesday, Raynor tweeted: “I bet the right-wing press will hardly cover Cameron confession, front page will be a silly non-story on an obscure topic #curseofcameron”

By 11pm, the front pages of all major newspapers had been published and the story was splashed on the Times, Telegraph, Daily Mail, Independent, Mirror, Daily Express and Metro. It also made the second story on the front page of the Sun.

Obviously she was completely wrong. But more importantly, it is typical in the party today. Even when Labour is getting good coverage, it is blinded by its hatred of the press.

On Friday morning, a reporter from LBC door-stepped Jeremy Corbyn to ask what he thought about the criticism around Cameron’s offshore holdings.


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The twelve rules of opposition: day ten

03/01/2012, 03:00:13 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Rule 10: Stories, stories, stories

It’s not often that there is unanimity between the pixels of Uncut and Liberal Conspiracy, but on one issue there is total agreement – the need for Labour to be more prolific in generating news stories.

In May last year, Sunny Hundal posted about how the shadow cabinet seemed half  asleep. The big stories revealing the levels of public sector job cuts, crony appointments to quangos and costs of over-running departmental programmes were all driven by pressure groups.

Precious little research that quantified what the government was doing was coming from the shadow cabinet.

Based on an analysis of Labour press releases as part of Uncut’s monthly work effort league, since Ed Miliband became leader, his shadow cabinet (excluding the leader and deputy leader) have proactively generated 70 stories between them.


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“Transparent” is the new “progressive”. Oh goody.

18/07/2011, 12:00:13 PM

by Tom Harris

Did I hear correctly? Did David Cameron actually say that every meeting or discussion any MP has with a journalist should have to be registered from now on?

No, he didn’t, actually. Though that’s how some outlets were reporting the Prime Minister’s views when he made his statement on the News International inquiry last Wednesday. All ministers should register such encounters, and the opposition should follow suit, he slyly suggested.

Can you imagine the panic that must have gone through both front benches at that point? What, tell the world that I’m having a drink with So-And-So from the Daily Whatever tonight? What happens when So-And-So’s byline appears on a story in tomorrow’s edition revealing that “a senior minister/front bencher” is unhappy with the leadership of “the leader/Prime Minister”? The ancient right to stab one’s leader in the back while being nice to his face is sacrosanct and was even included in Magna Carta. Probably.

And it would be extremely foolhardy to risk it and not register such an encounter, what with all these nosey bloody parliamentary researchers desperate to spot MPs having discreet conversations with journalists and email them to EyeSpyMP on Twitter.

This all smacks of the silly and damaging one-upmanship that prevailed during the expenses crisis of 2009; remember when Gordon and Harriet were reported as wishing to ban all MPs from having outside interests on the basis that it would damage the Tories more than us? They had to settle instead for the half-way house of forcing MPs to declare every penny of outside income, however small, and to invent a figure for the time spent earning it (“Harris, T: writing a post for Labour Uncut – four and a half minutes – remuneration nil”). (more…)

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BSkyB bid dropped – now we must push for media ownership reform

13/07/2011, 03:22:48 PM

by Anthony Painter

It would be lovely to think that the BSkyB bid has been dropped because of Parliamentary unity and clarity of voice. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. The reality is that two other factors are likely to have led to this decision.

The increasing political and media attention on the scandal in the US and the impact of this focus on News Corporation’s financial standing is undoubtedly a major factor. Questions posed yesterday by Senator Jay Rockefeller who has insisted that allegations that victims of 9/11 had their phones hacked should be investigated have forced the Murdochs into a rear-guard action. BSkyB is no longer the focus- News Corporation itself is the concern and the corporate share buy-back yesterday indicates the emerging crisis for the company.

The second issue is the ticking time-bomb of the Ofcom ‘fit and proper’ test. If they fail that, then not only would the bid have been stopped in its tracks, if may have had to divest itself of its existing highly lucrative 39% shareholding.

There is an important caveat to this. Rupert Murdoch is nothing if not tenacious. His thinking will be that this is the end of the battle but not the war: stabilise the situation in the US and come back later. So be it. However, next time the rules of the game must be different. This is not about one individual or a family or a single company. It is about understanding how we’ve been shown the consequences of allowing large concentrations of power to swell- corruption. Now we must say: never again.

It would be astounding in reality if News Corporation was able to launch another bid in the foreseeable future whatever Rupert Murdoch may be hoping. Nonetheless, if it does it should be on different terms. The Communications Act 2003 is now looking like a highly flawed piece of legislation: most particularly, its public interest test is too narrow. It is not good enough to wait for the public inquiry to report- we need to draft some amendments to our media ownership laws immediately. The following would seem to be sensible:

–      Ofcom should be asked by the secretary of state to continue with its ‘fit and proper’ assessment of News Corporation executives with the evolving criminal investigations taken into consideration.

–      ‘Fit and proper’ itself must be reviewed to ensure that it encompasses executives presiding over the types of malign and illegal behaviour we have seen within News International over the past few years.

–      Cross-media ownership should be more heavily restrained. 20% ownership is the current limit. It should be reviewed with a view to lowering it and it must be revisited should a media company exceed the new limit even after a takeover has occurred.

–      Content provision and carriage should be separated. In other words, no company should be both a content provider and media infrastructure service provider.

–      The BSkyB plan could ultimately evolve its digital television into a walled and bounded internet platform- this is anti-competitive and should not be allowed. If a company provides access to any of the internet, it should be obliged to provide access to all of it on an equal footing (ie same ease of access and download speeds etc.)

These changes will ensure that corporate media power will be heavily constrained. It will not hamper free, fair and determined journalism which is a public good. It will create an open, diverse, and dynamic information market.

We can’t drag our feet in diluting concentrations of media power. We now have the opportunity to act with clear heads.

News International is the power lever; BSkyB is the cash machine. At least the bid has been stopped in its tracks. We are at the end of the beginning of this scandal. Now we can push for an open, competitive, plural, transparent, and dynamic media and an enriched public and commercial space. Time to get on with it before it’s too late again.

Anthony Painter is an author and critic.

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Cock a snook at the Tory press: vote Yes to AV

06/04/2011, 01:00:26 PM

By David Seymour

Wake up, Britain, the Daily Mail exhorts its readers and I agree. If the people of Britain woke up and voted the right way in the AV referendum, they would strike a terrific blow for democracy and plunge a dagger in the heart of the anti-democratic forces that are taking over the country.

Where the Mail and I part company is that they want a No vote while I want to say No to the Mail and the other right-wing papers, which means voting Yes to AV.

It is an inescapable fact that referendums, like by-elections, give voters the chance to cock a huge snook at whoever they feel like teaching a lesson at that time.

The politicians are so split on AV that snook-cocking is particularly difficult this time. UKIP supports AV, the BNP prefers to stick to first past the post. Half the Labour party wants change, the other half doesn’t. Clegg wants it, Cameron doesn’t. Both sides have uncomfortable bedfellows.

There is one group, however, which is completely united and that is the Tory press. All are hysterical in their insistence that changing the voting system would mean an end to democratic life as we know it.

The Mail, the Express, the Sun and the Telegraph are as one in pouring out bile towards the Yes lobby and screaming at their readers to save the nation from AV. Magna Carta, universal suffrage and human rights are as nothing compared with the sanctity of FPTP.

What’s their panic? The reality is that a) first past the post is an unfair system which results in millions of people in hundreds of constituencies rarely if ever having a vote that counts; and b) the difference which AV would make is marginal – only full PR will properly modernise our electoral system.

It is true that a Yes vote on May 5 will create problems for Cameron, but the Tory papers dislike him anyway, so they ought to be pleased if that happens. Yet they have worked themselves into a lather at the prospect of “losing” the referendum.

It isn’t as if the vast majority of their readers care. In the real world there are genuine political crises which are causing turmoil in people’s lives, though the papers don’t like to accept that. They continue to insist that all public spending is profligate and all public-sector employees are lazy, over-paid lead-swingers.

Perhaps the referendum is a surrogate issue for them to get their fangs into. But that doesn’t explain the passion and fury with which they are pursuing it.

Their arguments are laughable. They say AV is complicated. Not for anyone who can count it isn’t. They say it will cost millions. Why? They say it is unfair when it patently isn’t less fair than the current system.

They claim it will be a historic deviation from the great British electoral tradition. By that measure, we should take the vote away from women and anyone who isn’t a property-owner. (Incidentally, did you know the president of the Tea party thinks people who don’t own property shouldn’t have the right to vote)?

It is being increasingly recognised that the answer nowadays to the question “Who rules Britain”? is: the media. Particularly the Mail and Sun.

If they succeed in getting a No result on May 5, they will be smugly confirming their conviction in their divine right to rule.

But if we can get a Yes vote, just imagine the tantrums, the screaming, the carnage in newsrooms on May 6. It will make the Dacres even more furious and desperate, but we will have won a crucial battle for freedom against the Fleet Street tyranny and the wind will be with us for the really big wars ahead.

David Seymour was group political editor of Mirror Group Newspapers for 15 years.

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The media were right about the march

01/04/2011, 12:22:22 PM

by Rob Marchant

There is surely no need to add to the articles on last Saturday’s demo which focus on the actions of UK Uncut and the black bloc. Although it seems uncertain whether these groups were not, in the end, a sideshow to the principal lessons from it all. Perhaps trickier to explain was the laying of any remaining blame, as many did, squarely at the feet of “the media”.

Politicians who complain about the media are, as Enoch Powell once sharply observed, like sailors who complain about the sea. But, although we are not all politicians but mostly activists, this is precisely the conclusion we have largely reached regarding the demonstration last weekend. It’s understandable. It seemed grossly unfair, to those who had in good faith given up their Saturdays for a decent cause, for a peaceful demo to be linked to the violence and disruption of a few idiots. But, the trouble is, it wasn’t unfair.

With some notable and honourable exceptions, there are many adverse criticisms you could reasonably level at sections of the British media: overall right-wing bias, dumbing down, laziness in fact-checking, toothlessness of the regulator and so on. Fair enough. And, as a party, we should really have no great interest in defending the media – after all they usually have no great interest in defending us. But just this once let’s try, if we can, to step back and be objective about them. (more…)

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Labour must be prepared to challenge the right-wing press

20/11/2010, 12:44:59 PM

by John Tipper

It was only as the march slowed on the approach to the Tate that I was able to take a good look at the crowd. To my left was the Buckinghamshire New University hockey team, who in addition to their sporting livery were wearing blue foam antlers; even then they struck me as unlikely to lead an armed insurrection, although I also concluded that if they did it would be worth sticking around for.

Directly ahead, a student had clambered onto a bin and was pleading for somebody to hand him a sign. Somebody did, apparently without noticing that it was in Welsh – cue much good-humoured speculation from the non-Celtic contingent about what it might actually say.

Amongst the forest of placards I noticed slogans bracingly direct (“Fuck Fees”) and oblique (“Would you cut a CAT? Then why cut EduCATion?”) and cursed myself again for forgetting mine.

At one point I observed a burly fellow with a beard and a Lib Dem sticker attempting a spirited if unconvincing defence of Nick Clegg – he’s got the tuition fees issue wrong but he’s a decent guy, always polite and nicely turned out etc. But not only was he pleasingly juxtaposed against a sign depicting Clegg as a weasel, I also began to suspect that his fellow Liberals Against Fees were not wholly in agreement. Some were loudly shushing, but most of them simply wore the pained expression of a pre-teen whose parents have insisted on dropping them right outside the gates on their first day of secondary school. (more…)

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Concentrating media influence in the hands of the few will lead to a narrowing of political discussion

07/11/2010, 01:49:17 PM

by Andy Dodd

RECENTLY I heard Lord Tim Bell, ex-advisor to Margaret Thatcher, defend Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take full control of Sky on the BBC world at one.  While Tim Bell’s views on media ownership are predictable, what caught my attention was how he enthused about the plethora of platforms and channels that enable us to have choice over how we access news and information, and how this diversity would ensure plurality and choice in the media.

I was momentarily beguiled by this warm, PR-spun vision of the always connected, always informed society, but then sanity prevailed and I began to realise that this vague, utopian sound bite really doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

It’s faintly ridiculous to see someone like Tim Bell using the very philosophy of free and open content provision that Rupert Murdoch hates so much, as a means to justify News Corp being allowed to further eradicate pluralism in the media.

The reality is that large media groups are doing everything they can to roll back openness and return us to the walled garden of the early days of the internet. For example; restricting access to content unless people are prepared to pay for it.  Just because there are dozens of different ways to access information, it doesn’t follow that the content is accessible. (more…)

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