Taken from Big Issue in the North magazine
A Conservative MP and former news presenter has welcomed a manifesto calling on politicians to commit to media reform during the general election campaign.
The Campaign for Broadcasting and Media Reform and the Media Reform Coalition recently launched their manifesto calling for: controls on media ownership; well- funded, independent public service media; protection for communication rights; action on lobbying and transparency; and independent, trusted and effective press regulation.
The groups argue that media reform has slipped from the political agenda since the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking put the behaviour of the media into the spotlight.
The manifesto calls for a cap on any one company’s market share in providing national and regional news. It wants better press regulation than the new Independent Press Standards Organisation provides.
It says journalists must be given greater protection from state surveillance. And it argues that action must be taken to ensure the political agenda is no longer set by the unregulated £2 billion lobbying industry established by powerful interests and corporations.
‘Too much power’
“Leveson appeared to be the moment when we were going to get changes in media ownership and press regulation,” said Granville Williams of the CPBF. “Because that has not happened we are hoping to make this an important issue with the electors, while also targeting prospective MPs with the aim of winning commitments for change during the next Parliament from 2015 onwards.
“Far too much power is concentrated in a few hands with 70 per cent of UK newspaper circulation controlled by three wealthy families who thus have enormous political power. Four nationwide chains now command three-quarters of the local newspaper market, down from around 20 in the mid-1990s. Thousands of journalists have lost their jobs and yet profits have remained impressively high.”
Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney, who was a reporter for BBC Radio Leeds and a presenter on ITV’s Calendar News, said: “The manifesto is worthwhile but so far it is not an issue that has been raised among my constituents, who are more concerned about jobs, affordable housing and the European Union,” said McCartney.
“Leveson arose because of the appalling hacking situation around Milly Dowler. The Mirror Group has just been exposed as a serious hacker and yet it has not attracted too much attention. I really hope it does not take another major scandal to force these issues back up a fast-moving political agenda.
“I believe we have about the right media ownership balance and would not want more concentration. Plurality is vital but we must also ensure the news sources are accurate, as many people believe if they see something on YouTube or Twitter that it is factually correct. That is not always so. We are lucky we have Ofcom, the communications regulator.
“It’s great to see ITV doing well again. This means money can be invested in good regional news that produces friendly, healthy rivalry with the BBC, a public broadcasting service we can be proud of and must retain.
“I want to see what sanctions the new regulators can exert on the newspaper industry. Where people are wrongly accused in the press of an offence they should get a similar-sized article that corrects the original inaccuracies.”