Media Alert 8 Jan 2018
A round-up of the hottest takes from the best UK Indy Media
Media Alert is a new weekly newsletter from The Media Fund. In each edition of Media Alert, we will be giving you a rundown of the week’s most important events, bringing you news from the frontlines of media politics.
The Weeks Big Stories
Essential news from the frontlines of media politics
Liberals Pay Lip-Service to Independent Media
With the rise of independent media, it’s predictable that corporate media has started to lash out, as happened with Nick Robinson’s absurd attacks against the section in November.
But liberal voices can also be keen to play up support for grassroots journalism. Here are a couple of stories showing that all may not be as it seems with the liberal stance.
BBC ‘Local Democracy Reporting’ Sham
When the BBC announced that they would be putting £8m into 150 non-BBC ‘Local Democracy Reporters’ to cover goings-on in councils and local institutions, we might have been forgiven for thinking they were planning a worthy sponsorship of exciting new ground-level projects.
But, as it turns out, most of the recipients are large conglomerates, such as Trinity Mirror, Newsquest and Johnstone Press. Reported here in The Press Gazette.
The much-admired Salford Star pulled out from the application process. Their board told the BBC, “[t]o us it seemed administratively complex and there were doubts about reporter freedom.”
Editor Stephen Kingston said: “‘Local Democracy Reporters’ looks to us like a total sham – the newsgroups that have benefited from BBC funding have been sacking journalists for years in the relentless pursuit of more profit.”
The initial coverage can be found here.
Dan Hind, author and present of Media Democracy Podcast said,
“We’re always hearing that we need more independent, local journalism. But 90% of this ‘Local Democracy Journalist’ will be employed by just three large corporations. Between them, they reported profits of almost £200 million last year.
“These companies are not local. They are not democracies. And, even though they make lots of money, they have to be given public subsidies to do actual journalism.
“The eligibility requirements were set up in a way that made it very difficult for small community-led operations to qualify, and impossible for start-ups. If you wanted to give a subsidy to large, commercial newspaper groups without saying so out loud, it would look a lot like this scheme.
“There are better ways to support genuinely independent local journalism that could be structured so that both staff and readers have a voice in how they are run.
“Many UK news providers are emerging on such lines. The BBC could provide 79 democratically structured start-ups on The Bristol Cable model with an operating subsidy of £100,00 a year. And £10000,000 a year to The Cabel, so that they can help others get up and running.”
Radical Vs. Liberal Membership Models
At the end of December, a Guardian article celebrating a range of reader-funded media projects.
It’s an interesting piece celebrating such models “[f]rom Venezuela to Poland and from Hong Kong to Hungary”, but as Dan Hind noted, “it veers away from spotlighting reader-funded projects in the UK that compete with The Guardian, and that have democratic constitutions.”
He says, “there are two models emerging here, a liberal one where the media ask for support so that they can do good things and a radical one where the paying audience is also engaged as producers and have a degree of voice in editorial decision making.”
The Guardian has been suffering enormously from the decline of print media sales and the loss of advertising revenue to the likes of Facebook and Google. They are now actively trying to adopt the first mode, with permanent requests for financial support each time an article is clicked.
But incarnations of the latter model are arguably in direct competition with The Guardian for attention, so are likely to remain beyond the scope of their goodwill.
Picks of The Week
Our hand-picked selections from some of the best independent journalism around.
How women migrant workers defy ‘social control’ with everyday resistance – Kimya De Silva, Open Democracy
Open Democracy really goes the extra mile for quality stories that get scant attention elsewhere. Migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are treated appallingly. But Saudia Arabia’s fundamentalist regime gets an easy ride in our media.
This report details some of the resistance on the ground by courageous female migrant workers in the kingdom.
Find the author on Twitter @Kimaya_deSilva
Modern Monetary Theory – Life From the Left Podcast
This podcast does what it says on the tin. Their latest episode features Patricia Natalia Pino of The Pileus. In it, they cover some central concepts of monetary policy and dispel some common economic myths, such as those surrounding government spending.
Iran Protests: ‘it’s very difficult to know what’s fake… there are a lot of people pushing their own agenda‘ – Thomas Kavanagh, Press Gazette
The situation in Iran can be very confusing, with so many competing agendas and viewpoints. This Press Gazette article tries to grapple with the challenge, including a contribution from veteran Middle East reporter Patrick Cockburn.