The combination of a corporate stranglehold on mainstream media ownership and its dominant role in media policy-making should alarm us all. The corporate drive for profit maximization ultimately necessitates the existence of media conglomerates and their attendant exponential increases in influence. As a result of this structure, the importance of advertising revenue produces conflicts of interest between providing a service to the public and advertisers. Demands for increasing shareholder dividends result in fewer staff covering greater ground. Naturally, journalists will gravitate towards “official” sources for information, usually corporate and governmental press offices, which provide a steady diet of “press releases”. Journalists who refuse, or are unable, to follow the “right” story face “flak” from a PR industry solely devoted to maintaining positive media images for their clients. Furthermore, mainstream media companies are themselves inexorably linked with the establishment, indeed they are the establishment, and have an obvious stake in reflecting elite interests and opinions.
It seems then, that even a cursory glance at the institutional structures of the mass media should leave us unsurprised at the end product: news that has been filtered to provide very limited debate which overwhelmingly favours elite perspectives. Stories framed in a manner that usually fail to question establishment assumptions and censorship occurring simply through omission. And the oft-used excuse of “time constraints” is wheeled out to explain why major stories often lack any background or context and leave the average recipient of the news no more informed than before the information was imparted.
As Robert McChesney points out[[Robert W. McChesney, 2004, ‘The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the 21st Century’, New York: Monthly Review Press.]], the public-at-large also face a barrage of well- practised media myths aimed at maintaining the anti-democratic domination of news production and dissemination. Among these myths are the notions that the media doesn’t really matter that much and that, anyway, they merely reflect reality rather than shaping it, that the corporate/commercial media system has arisen naturally and that, furthermore, it provides the people with what they want. As McChesney retorts, one might wonder why advertisers spend billions of dollars to be highly visible in an arena with such little impact. Furthermore, the assertion that the mass media and their end products have naturally arisen in the free market carefully obscures the fact they are, rather, the result of policy which has been steadily reformed to suit the requirements of big business and profit maximization. Unfortunately the ease with which one can refute these myths doesn’t appear to diminish their potency.
The following articles, then, turn their collective spotlight on mainstream media performance, illuminating many of its woeful inadequacies and suggesting various methods to make a difference. Ultimately, too few people are watching the watchers. Democratic media institutions don’t evolve by Darwinian natural selection. Only a combination of continuously checking and challenging corporate media performance and public participation in policy-making processes will provide us with the media we really desire and help us on our path to the democratic politics we so desperately deserve.
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Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
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Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
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Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
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Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
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Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out
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Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen
Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant
Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’
Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue
A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank
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Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts
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The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.
How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op
Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
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Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
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Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson
Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
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University should not be a debt factory
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