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The appointment of Robbie Gibb as Theresa May’s new director of communications is a glaring display of how the ‘impartial’ media has functioned in recent years. Gibb, who was the BBC’s head of operations at Westminster and editor of the important Daily Politics TV show, now joins the pantheon of BBC executives who ditched their media careers to fulfil their true ambitions as Conservative party stooges.
In a functioning democracy, a public service broadcaster has an incredibly important role, not only in presenting the facts in a fair and balanced way, but also in setting the terms of debate – of what is and isn’t acceptable within the cultural and political realms.
Defining the parameters of this ‘Overton Window’ is something that Labour has had to fight tooth and nail for – and despite the unrelenting war waged on the Corbyn project, the party’s visionary campaign and manifesto have forced the neoliberal consensus to concede ground, with the BBC now begrudgingly making concessions to the new playing field.
On the other side of the debate, the task is a lot easier, however. The Conservatives have long held a firm grip around the neck of the BBC, and so have had free reign in determining what is and isn’t politically ‘neutral’. It is no coincidence then that, for example, business representatives appear on the 6 o’clock news 19 times more frequently than trade union ones do.
When the 2016 culture secretary John Whittingdale unveiled a white paper outlining the BBC’s future, it was startlingly clear that the Tories were proposing a reformation in public broadcasting that would bring it ever closer to full state control: a new board was created in which 5 of the 12 members would be handpicked by the government and given powers to decide the strategic direction, budget, and all other activities at the BBC.Robbie Gibb isn’t the first and won’t be the last to participate in the revolving door between media and parliament – in fact, it’s been at full capacity for full time. David Cameron’s director of communications, Craig Oliver, was yet another BBC News editor who ditched his journalistic career to support the Conservatives.
But although many jump ship, many Tories – notably Andrew Neil (former Sunday Times editor and chair of the company that owns the right wing Spectator) and Nick Robinson (president of the Oxford University Conservative Association in 1985) – remain on. Of course, having political opinions isn’t a crime, but these are people who have clear biases, serving a public institution which is paid for – by us – on the assumption that it will be non-partisan.
We live in a country where most of the press is objectively more right-wing that the public are, and it’s worrying that although 40 per cent of the public supported Corbyn’s Labour, virtually no mainstream media outlet did. This disparity between the views of the privately-owned media and the public makes it even more essential that the state-owned BBC is safeguarded from political intervention and vested interests – if we can’t rely on them, then who can we rely on?
However, the answer to that question is where we can begin to regain hope. The left is now successfully finding ways to bypass the traditional media entirely; a huge army of grassroots activists, mobilised largely by Momentum’s modernised campaign strategy, have been able to promote Labour’s manifesto face-to-face with the public and repudiate the false narrative (perpetuated by the BBC as much as other media) about Corbyn’s ‘unelectability’.
Social media, of course, has also been key, as well as new media like Novara, which provides refreshing and uncompromising support for the Corbyn project.
Labour should seize the opportunity to demand an end to BBC bias and reforms to the whole mainstream press – outlawing media monopolies for a start. However, it’s certainly exciting to think we are on track to win despite the opposition of almost the entire traditional media, with the tabloids’ power looking broken. We should be optimistic now in our ability to overcome incredible odds, and defy all the expectations, sneering and bias of the mainstream.
The Spanish state is seizing ballot papers and raiding meetings, write Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte – but it is being met with united resistance
The crunch executive meeting ahead of Labour conference agreed some welcome changes, writes Michael Calderbank, but there is still much further to go
Dipesh Pandya speaks to documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who for 30 years has been working outside the mainstream to tell a story rooted in the struggles of those excluded by India’s militarism and its narrative of neoliberal growth
Jeremy Gilbert on how radical Labour politics can be inspired by the utopianism of the counterculture
Disasters have unequal impacts – it's the poor and marginalised who suffer most. David Harvey writes on Hurricane Harvey
Survivors of the fire are still relying on thousands of community volunteers, writes Dan Renwick - but the failed council is plotting a comeback
What if it's not us who are sick, asks Rod Tweedy, but a system at odds with who we are as social beings?
The people could reach a democratic and non-violent solution if they were freed from US meddling, argues Boaventura de Sousa Santos
A decade after the start of the crash, economic power is in our hands – we must take it, writes Ann Pettifor
Don’t let Uber take you for a ride
Uber is no friend of passengers or workers, writes Lewis Norton – the firm has put riders at risk and exploited its drivers
Acid Corbynism’s next steps: building a socialist dance culture
Matt Phull and Will Stronge share more thoughts about the postcapitalist potential of the Acid Corbynist project
Flooding the cradle of civilisation: A 12,000 year old town in Kurdistan battles for survival
It’s one of the oldest continually inhabited places on earth, but a new dam has put Hasankeyf under threat, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
New model activism: Putting Labour in office and the people in power
Hilary Wainwright examines how the ‘new politics’ needs to be about both winning electoral power and building transformative power
What is ‘free movement plus’?
A new report proposes an approach that can push back against the tide of anti-immigrant sentiment. Luke Cooper explains
The World Transformed: Red Pepper’s pick of the festival
Red Pepper is proud to be part of organising The World Transformed, in Brighton from 23-26 September. Here are our highlights from the programme
Working class theatre: Save Our Steel takes the stage
A new play inspired by Port Talbot’s ‘Save Our Steel’ campaign asks questions about the working class leaders of today. Adam Johannes talks to co-director Rhiannon White about the project, the people and the politics behind it
The dawn of commons politics
As supporters of the new 'commons politics' win office in a variety of European cities, Stacco Troncoso and Ann Marie Utratel chart where this movement came from – and where it may be going
A very social economist
Hilary Wainwright says the ideas of Robin Murray, who died in June, offer a practical alternative to neoliberalism
Art the Arms Fair: making art not war
Amy Corcoran on organising artistic resistance to the weapons dealers’ London showcase
Beware the automated landlord
Tenants of the automated landlord are effectively paying two rents: one in money, the other in information for data harvesting, writes Desiree Fields
Black Journalism Fund – Open Editorial Meeting
3-5pm Saturday 23rd September at The World Transformed in Brighton
Immigration detention: How the government is breaking its own rules
Detention is being used to punish ex-prisoners all over again, writes Annahita Moradi
A better way to regenerate a community
Gilbert Jassey describes a pioneering project that is bringing migrants and local people together to repopulate a village in rural Spain
Fast food workers stand up for themselves and #McStrike – we’re loving it!
McDonald's workers are striking for the first time ever in Britain, reports Michael Calderbank
Two years of broken promises: how the UK has failed refugees
Stefan Schmid investigates the ways Syrian refugees have been treated since the media spotlight faded
West Papua’s silent genocide
The brutal occupation of West Papua is under-reported - but UK and US corporations are profiting from the violence, write Eliza Egret and Tom Anderson
Activate, the new ‘Tory Momentum’, is 100% astroturf
The Conservatives’ effort at a grassroots youth movement is embarrassingly inept, writes Samantha Stevens
Peer-to-peer production and the partner state
Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis argue that we need to move to a commons-centric society – with a state fit for the digital age
Imagining a future free of oppression
Writer, artist and organiser Ama Josephine Budge says holding on to our imagination of tomorrow helps create a different understanding today
The ‘alt-right’ is an unstable coalition – with one thing holding it together
Mike Isaacson argues that efforts to define the alt-right are in danger of missing its central component: eugenics
Fighting for Peace: the battles that inspired generations of anti-war campaigners
Now the threat of nuclear war looms nearer again, we share the experience of eighty-year-old activist Ernest Rodker, whose work is displayed at The Imperial War Museum. With Jane Shallice and Jenny Nelson he discussed a recent history of the anti-war movement.
Put public purpose at the heart of government
Victoria Chick stresses the need to restore the public good to economic decision-making
Don’t let the world’s biggest arms fair turn 20
Eliza Egret talks to activists involved in almost two decades of protest against London’s DSEI arms show
The new municipalism is part of a proud radical history
Molly Conisbee reflects on the history of citizens taking collective control of local services
With the rise of Corbyn, is there still a place for the Green Party?
Former Green principal speaker Derek Wall says the party may struggle in the battle for votes, but can still be important in the battle of ideas
Fearless Cities: the new urban movements
A wave of new municipalist movements has been experimenting with how to take – and transform – power in cities large and small. Bertie Russell and Oscar Reyes report on the growing success of radical urban politics around the world
A musical fightback against school arts cuts
Elliot Clay on why his new musical turns the spotlight on the damage austerity has done to arts education, through the story of one school band's battle
Neoliberalism: the break-up tour
Sarah Woods and Andrew Simms ask why, given the trail of destruction it has left, we are still dancing to the neoliberal tune
Cat Smith MP: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has authenticity. You can’t fake that’
Cat Smith, shadow minister for voter engagement and youth affairs and one of the original parliamentary backers of Corbyn’s leadership, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali