This is an open letter to the UK’s independent media. If it seems presumptuous from someone with a semi-active blog, please forgive me. . I propose a framework for the long-term objectives of the UK 5th Estate and identify priorities for this sector.
the main priorities of the Fifth estate should be
- Give progressives a more influential voice,
- Challenge traditional media Press & Broadcasters the “mainstream” media.
Financially Self Sufficient
How can the Fifth estate be made sustainable in the long term? Firstly, it must contributors a living wage. Generating enough profits to enable further investment. i.e. become an effective business. This will be a challenge, though is feasible. Insuring the business to meet likely legal challenges. I’ll examine possible ideas in my next article.
Give progressives a more influential voice
The current situation is a number of smaller outlets. Diluting the impact of the progressive press. I propose a collective which will give the sector a more powerful voice. Publications will keep control of their own editorial direction while gaining a more influential voice.
Challenge traditional media Press & Broadcasters
Eventually the Fifth estate will need to challenge the “mainstream” media. Public trust is the main factor here. The Fifth Estate should set out to publish balanced, accurate reporting and not simply reporting Government press releases to the public e.g. Unemployment Figures should be subject to detailed scrutiny. the Fifth Estate should always ask is this claim accurate? How are these figures compiled? Is it fair to compare them to previous figures if the criteria have been drastically altered? As the Fifth Estate will not be dependent on a licence fee it will be free to ask these questions without fear of government interference. Long term the aim has to be a high-quality progressive media trusted by the public to provide a fair and balanced picture of current events. There will be mistakes and challenges along the way. As long as a commitment to excellence is maintained, the NIM will be heading in the right direction.
A Framework for long term change
I propose the following framework for the Fifth estate. It should lead to a sustainable, profitable and effective Fifth Estate whilst avoiding the shortcomings of the “mainstream” media. A quality alternative to corporate media. One day I’d like to see it supplant the traditional media outlets.
There is a market for quality journalism which challenges the prevailing orthodoxy. and is not afraid to ask the questions and challenge narratives the MSM is unwilling to. in addition to debunking prevailing narratives, the Fifth Estate must never be afraid to be original and reject the ‘suffocating groupthink’ that characterises so much MSM output.
There is a need for greater diversity within journalistic circles, too many come from the same privileged circles and represent their worldview as the prevailing orthodoxy. Schemes such as unpaid internships prevent the less wealthy from training as journalists, so I’d like to ensure that the NIM offers effective apprenticeships that enable working-class & BAME talent to enter journalism as a career without running up ruinous debts in the process, in this way privilege is removed from the equation. These journalists will not need to imagine what it’s like growing up Black or Asian in Bristol, they’ll *know* and will have experienced discrimination at first hand. And be committed to combatting it, likewise, they’ll have experienced job hunting as a disabled person in Northern England. this goes far beyond mere tokenism it is driven by a desire to give those communities & demographics a resounding and powerful voice within our democracy. It should aim to shatter the ‘magic circle’ of privilege which characterises political journalism in the UK. I believe this contributes to the lack of genuine scrutiny politicians are subject to. They are old school chums or ex-workmates having come from the same milieu. to ensure that journalism is fresh, dynamic and asking the right questions unlike the current situation where journalists all seem to ask the same dull predictable questions.
The NIM should have environmental values running through the sector’s DNA rather than indulge in what’s been described as greenwashing i.e. giving a pretence of a commitment to the environment. Rather, a genuine wholehearted commitment to safeguarding the planet for future generations this includes a commitment carbon neutrality by the earliest possible date achieving a paperless office if practicable in a prompt way by aiming for a paper-light office from the beginning, this should make the eventual adoption of paperless easier to achieve, that’s green on the local level, now to examine environmental impact on a global level, a common misconception is that the internet is carbon neutral it’s not, one estimate suggests the internet’s carbon footprint is 300 million tons of Co2 per year much of this is generated by server farms and data centres the Ecosia blog claims “Servers use a lot of power. If the internet were a country, it would rank #3 in the world in terms of electricity consumption”, internet giants such as Apple and Google have started moving to data centres powered solely by renewables such as solar and wind power with some companies such as Ecosia claiming that ‘Carbon neutrality is not enough’ aiming to become carbon negative by plantings trees to
As well documented by observers such as media lens advertising from major polluters such as fossil fuel companies, airlines and car manufacturers undermines the green credentials of newspapers. Depriving the publication of the ability to criticise advertisers who are polluters. If an advertisement dependent model of funding is chosen for the sector then it should not accept adverts from polluters
Research has shown that that the general public doesn’t trust journalists much with the British press is the least trusted in Europe according to one study. The ethical failings exposed by the Leveson Inquiry won’t have helped the reputation of British journalism. These finding also points the way to an ethical free press that operates in the public interest. Ethics before sales, never vice versa. I suggest that the NIM considers voluntarily adopting the recommendations of Leveson II. One would hope the editorial focus of the NIM would not be on celebrity & royal tittle-tattle, such subject matter is of no interest to me, and those seeking it can rely on the tabloid press. However, Political shenanigans are of interest. I’m convinced politicians and those participating in the political arena can be investigated ethically, the activities of the NIM should be focused on genuine public journalism alone following both the spirit and letter of ethical guidelines. the raison d’être of the NIM is a commitment to progressive values and obtaining progressive government, rather than financial gain.
NIM should endeavour to sign up to a press regular recognised by the PRP press regulatory panel such as IMPRESS. Most major UK publications (but not the Guardian, Times or Telegraph) are signed up to The Independent Press standards organisation (IPSO) which campaign groups such as hacked off continue to have grave concerns about.
Neither metropolitan nor provincial
One of the features of the MSM which irritates me is that a lot of it appears to are written by metropolitan writers for a metropolitan audience, this is a facet of the Westminster bubble which is oft talked about. Politicians such as Nigel Farage have sought to take advantage of this with his talk of a cosy North London elite, a feature of his ‘man of the people” schtick. The NIM should cover all of the current UK equally where possible and it should never appear as if it has been written by someone with only a cursory or superficial understanding of your region/country. Bella Caledonia does a great job of highlighting Scottish cultural life. eventually, I’d like to see publications of similar quality doing the same for Wales and the English regions. both Bella and the National fly the flag for Scottish politics. Unlike the MSM the role of the NIM should be to prevent the voice of parties not in government from being side-lined and should always represent truly progressive politics and to be free of the spin & PR which blights Westminster.
Political consciousness & literacy
Political consciousness is an awareness of a country’s politics and economy and one’s position within it. For Marx, an authentic consciousness was linked to understanding one’s true position in History 5 In Marx’s view, consciousness was always political, for it was always the outcome of politic-economic circumstances. What one thinks of life, power, and self, for Marx, is always a product of ideological forces. The role of the NIM is to raise the level of political consciousness & debate within the UK, this will allow the public to make informed decisions about issues such as Brexit, Trade Deals and Scottish independence. The NIM should ALWAYS be an honest broker of news and political comment, utterly opposed to the post-truth politics currently on offer in the UK, the Dilemma here is how can political theory be discussed without appearing preachy and sophomoric a failing that can be attributed to the left at times, such a perception will win progressive politics no new supporters.
The NIM should always encourage its readership and contributors to think critically and to eschew political apathy/ignorance
I hope this first Request for Comments (RFC)piece has covered all the important objectives of the NIM and that nothing major has been left out. If you believe something has please feel free to comment in the section below, constructive feedback is very welcome. This feedback will be considered for the rest of the RFC Series where I’ll examine the major points (e.g. funding) in greater detail, it will be an interesting challenge to see if an effective fifth estate can be created which will challenge the narratives and influence of the MSM, this could be run along socialist lines, an exercise in practical socialism if you like.in the aftermath of the 2019 General election it’s obvious there’s a pressing need for independent outlets to restore the imbalance between establishment media and the SNP/Labour parties. The election raised serious concerns about BBC ‘impartiality’ which will not easily go away, if the NIM can provide a relatively balanced and accurate news outlet then its quite possible inroads might be made into MSM Dominance, quite a challenge but not impossible. I hope this post has been thought provoking and offered ideas about how this might be achieved in the long term
- The Ecosia Blog. ‘“Carbon Neutral” Is Not Enough: Ecosia Built Its Own Solar Plants’, 1 August 2019. https://blog.ecosia.org/why-carbon-neutral-is-not-enough-ecosia-has-built-its-own-solar-plants/.
- ‘Political Consciousness: Definition of Political Consciousness and Synonyms of Political Consciousness (English)’. Accessed 20 December 2019. http://dictionary.sensagent.com/Political%20consciousness/en-en/.
- Charlotte Tobitt. ‘UK News Media Least Trusted among Eight European Nations to “get the Facts Right” and “Cover Important Stories of the Day”, Report Shows’. Press Gazette (blog), 15 May 2018. https://www.pressgazette.co.uk/uk-news-media-least-trusted-among-eight-european-nations-to-get-the-facts-right-and-cover-important-stories-of-the-day-report-shows/.
‘Nearly Half of People in the UK Don’t Think BBC News Journalists Tell the Truth, According to YouGov Poll’. Accessed 5 January 2020. https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/nearly-half-of-people-in-the-uk-dont-think-bbc-news-journalists-tell-the-truth-according-to-yougov-poll/ar-BBY54mX?ocid=st.
‘Political Consciousness’. In Wikipedia, 25 June 2017. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Political_consciousness&oldid=787517829.