Yesterday at University I had my first presentation of the year. I had under a week to prepare it. It went pretty well though. I quite like being the first to present, and I have no problem talking in front of people. I get quite passionate when I talk too. Which must be a good thing. I get my grade back next week. I thought i’d publish my guidelines on here, for what I wanted to present. The presentation follows the question.
Presentation 1 – Debate and discuss: ‘Increasing concentration of media ownership into fewer hands means news will become less reliable as a source of information and public scrutiny’. Explain why you agree or disagree.
The corporate media is a business; enshrined by law to protect shareholders.
A media corporation is not unusual, it is a corporation. It has to play by the very same rules as every other corporation. This presents institutionalised problems right at the very fundamental making of a media corporation.
Joel Bakan, author of The Corporation, writes:
The law forbids any motivation for their actions, if it is to assist workers, improve the environment, or help consumers save money. As corporate officials; stewards of other peoples money, they have no legal authority to pursue such goals as ends in themselves – only as means to serve the corporation’s own interests, which generally means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders. Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal – at least when it is genuine.
Corporate media is no different. Its only concern and its only legal requirement, is to make money. It is not concerned with preserving and progressing democracy through what it likes to call an open and free press. It merely wants to make money, become dominant, and have influence. Wealth and power centralized within the State are considered great evils; wealth and power concentrated in very very few hands within a wealthy private elite, who remember are unelected and who are not in any way concerned with the public good, is strangely considered free.
When Jefferson stated that “The only security of all is in a free press” he was writing at a time when Corporations, including the press, had social responsibility enshrined in law. Corporations in those days were not allowed to attempt to influence elections, nor could they fund campaigns and if they were seen to be committing a public harm, they would be dismantled. The free press in Jefferson’s time, were not media conglomarates ruled by very wealthy elites.
Justice Hugo Black asserted that “The first amendment rests on the assumption that the widest possible dissemination of information from diverse and antagonistic sources is essential to the welfare of the public”. When corporate media attempts to consolidate its power, we don’t particularly receive diverse and antagonistic sources.
I wont try to suggest that all media outlets in the UK have the same agenda. It’s obvious to anyone that the Daily Mail has a far more right winged approach to the society and Nationhood and economics, than the Guardian. But, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t similar in other ways. The media is generally conservative, because it exists as a result of the economic and social structure that is in place and that it benefits from, and so anything that might threaten the power of business (for example; a working class or left wing version of events) is only ever going to be published in a negative light. For example, the top story on Sky News this morning was that 35 business leaders have backed George Osbourne’s plans for spending cuts. It was reported as if this is some sort of proof that the Conservatives are doing the exact right thing. The Sky News report said the document of support was signed by Stuart Rose, the M&S Chairman. What it doesn’t say, is that Stuart Rose is set to be made a Lord, by the Conservative Party and is a life long supporter of them. It also says that a group called Diageo signed the letter. It doesn’t go into any detail. Diageo is the parent company of Guiness and Johnny Walker and other big alcohol names. However, what the report doesn’t say is that over the past couple of years Diageo has restructured itself so as to avoid as much tax as possible, despite making most of its money in the UK. Another businessman to sign the statement in support of the Conservative Party, is Justin King, chief executive of J Sainsbury. What the report doesn’t say is that The President of J Sainsbury, is John Sainsbury, Baron of Preston Candover, with a net worth of £1.3bn, he is a Conservative Party donor, and member of the Conservative Party. Another businessman to sign the statement in support of the Conservative Party is Simon Wolfson, chief executive of Next. What Sky or any other broadcaster or newspaper doesn’t say, is that Wolfson is a member of the Conservative Party and donated to David Cameron’s 2005 campaign, and named by the Telegraph as the “37th-most important British conservative.” None of the British press or media in general today, have published this side of the story. And so information, it could be argued, has been withheld.
To own and run a successful newspaper in the UK, you have to have money. To have money, it is fairly unlikely that you are a pro-union left winger with socialist ideals. To enhance your wealth, you need to be somewhat dedicated to neoliberal ideals. This is one of the main reasons we do not have working class publications any more. And so one side of the argument is very much presented. Reliable sources of information, as well as two sides of the argument are almost never presented.
For example, during the election campaign, every party ran on the notion that spending needed cutting drastically, and that Gordon Brown referring to Gillian Duffy as a bigot was awful. None of them challenged the consensus. None of them bothered to point out that Gillian Duffy had actually asked Brown before hand “What are you going to do about all the Eastern Europeans”. To me, that stinks of bigotry and ignorance. On the economy, the Sun printed last Monday, a double page spread about benefit cheating, entitled “Benefit Ghettos: Worst welfare blackspots finally revealed”. It began the story with “Britain’s benefit black spots where up to eight out of ten people live on State handouts are exposed in shocking new figures released today”. This struck me as particularly over dramatic. Words like ‘exposed’ and ‘shocking’ add to the idea that we should all be intensely angry at a few people on benefits. This isn’t new, or exposing, or shocking, most Papers have ran stories on benefits over their life time. The suggestion is, during time of economic hardship, those living on benefits; if they aren’t the biggest problem, then it’s immigrants. Always the same story, time and time again. Now, what wont get published much, is the fact that according to statistics, in 2007 to 2008. Benefit cheating cost us around £800mn, whilst Corporate tax avoidance cost us £18.5bn. It would seem that when men in expensive suits do it, the papers aren’t too bothered by it. When a single mum in a council house in Liverpool does it and about 300% less, it’s a National scandal. The papers stay clear of it. I’d suggest this is simply because half of the companies who owe a fortune in lost revenue due to elaborate tax avoidance schemes, are key advertisers. Andy Coulson, the Tory party communications Director, and ex editor of the News of the World, must have had a say in the fact that both the Sun and the News Of The World tend to stay entirely clear of the Lord Ashcroft tax avoidance affair.
During the Summer of 2008, Rupert Murdoch’s son-in-law paid (around £34,000 in total) for the leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron, to fly Santorini (a Greek Island) for private talks on a yacht, with Rupert Murdoch. Also in Santorini for the talks was a lady named Rebekah Wade……………. Editor of The Sun.
It is no coincidence, that a couple of days after Murdoch spoke in the Sun, stating of David Cameron:
“What does he really feel in his stomach? Is he going to be a new Thatcher, which is what the country needs? The UK desperately needs less government and freer markets“
Cameron then made a speech, in which he said of Ofcom:
“So with a Conservative Government, OFCOM as we know it will cease to exist.“
Surely that’s no coincidence. I pick on Murdoch because he’s the current king of the media. He really pushed for a Conservative government and not just with the Sun. After every leaders debate, Sky News awarded victory to Cameron. Even the first, in which Clegg mania took off and the entire Country was pretty certain Clegg won; Sky News said 45% of people polled said Cameron won and only 23% said Clegg won. I don’t think 45% of Conservative HQ would have said that Cameron won.
To conclude, the concentration of media into fewer private hands, is no different to concentration of media in government hands; it provides only a certain side of a story, which is to say to side of the story which least affects its advertisers negatively, or the business community in general. Profit comes before responsibility much of the time.