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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.
Corbyn just won a prize for peace activism - so why is the Labour Party still committed to renewing trident? Lily Sheehan investigates.
Connor Devine writes that whilst Brexit might be a car crash, we can't just side with an institution responsible for enforcing austerity.
Michael Coates reviews a new film revealing the shocking state of housing inequality in the UK.
The vicious media campaign against trans people is part bigotry, part strategy, writes Roz Kaveney
Jon Trickett MP reports on 'Dickensian' levels of poverty and hardship felt across the UK.
Natasha King busts some myths around the No Borders debate
He was once a radical icon, but now he's a mouthpiece for racism and nationalism. Time to get off stage, writes Michael Calderbank
Consensus seems to have shifted, but austerity is far from over. The chancellor has committed us to yet more years of misery while the rich get richer, writes Richard Seymour.
Frustrated at the idea of another royal wedding? You're not alone. Joana Ramiro argues we should stop idealising a fundamentally undemocratic institution.
Liberal elites are using Russian interference to minimise their own political failures, writes Matt Turner
Meet the frontline activists facing down the global mining industry
Activists are defending land, life and water from the global mining industry. Tatiana Garavito, Sebastian Ordoñez and Hannibal Rhoades investigate.
Transition or succession? Zimbabwe’s future looks uncertain
The fall of Mugabe doesn't necessarily spell freedom for the people of Zimbabwe, writes Farai Maguwu
Don’t let Corbyn’s opponents sneak onto the Labour NEC
Labour’s powerful governing body is being targeted by forces that still want to strangle Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, writes Alex Nunns
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny