Blueprint for a better media
1: Tackle ownership
News media is too central to democracy to be concentrated in the hands of a few influential moguls and tech titans. Use anti-trust legislation to break up media oligopolies with tighter limits on market share. Stand up to the smash-and-grab bullies, from Murdoch to Zuckerberg. Make them pay taxes in the countries where they make revenue. Explore bringing internet search, or search algorithms, into public ownership. Support co-operative and reader-ownership models.
2: Encourage plurality
Cultivate a diverse and sustainable media environment. Foster fledglings. To help fund independent, investigative and local media, use tax proceeds from digital intermediaries – like Facebook and Google – that continue to profit from disrupting the media landscape without taking on any of the costs (and responsibilities) of publishers.
3: Hold to account
Freedom of speech is a precious right that must not be abused through criminal behaviour, spreading of lies and unjustified violations of privacy. But these have gone – and continue to go – unpunished when committed by rich and powerful media bullies. Independent monitors and enforceable codes of conduct are necessary for press, broadcasting and the digital sphere.
4: Remove barriers to entry
Jobs in the media are increasingly closed to disadvantaged groups, making it an elite profession. This effectively silences large sections of society and results in discriminatory representations. Exploitative pay and conditions are on the increase.
Check out: mediadiversified.org; realmedia.press; Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (Australia); National Union of Journalists; Canadian Journalists for Free Expression; European Journalism Centre; onourradar.org;
5: Fight for data rights
Tech titans like Facebook and Google make huge profits from harvesting your personal data and selling it on to third parties, usually without your knowledge. Their ability to do this must be restricted to protect personal privacy.
6: Tell the truth
This is a key duty of news media. Accuracy is sacred. But often it is sacrificed in the rush to ‘binge publish’ and the quest for ‘clicks’ and ‘eyeballs’. Mistakes should be corrected promptly and prominently. Fact-checking should be routine. Technical aids for detecting manipulated or fake audio or visual material and new fact-checking outfits may be helpful.
7: Be transparent
Indicate where news and information comes from (though this does not mean betraying confidential sources!). ‘Native ads’ or ‘advertorials’ – paid-for ads that look like news – unless clearly marked as advertisements are fake news by another name. ‘Sponsored’ content (paid for by a third party) should be clearly flagged as such.
8: Slow down
Break the frenzied addiction to high speed, breaking news and clickbait. Opt instead for slow journalism – original investigations, thorough analysis, informed opinion.
9: Educate and train
Public education on how to read critically and being able to identify different perspectives and biases in news media, is vital today. Italy has started teaching ‘media literacy’ to schoolchildren.
Investment in training journalists – whether professional or ‘citizen’ – should be geared towards improving standards, responsibility and ethics. It could reaffirm the journalistic duty to speak truth to power and expose wrongdoing.
10: Fight for internet freedom
Net neutrality (the ability of the internet to exist as a public sphere that is not owned or controlled by any private or corporate interests) has been sacrosanct since the creation of the worldwide web. Moves to end net neutrality are a corporate grab and a false solution to ‘fake news’ and the online spreading of harmful, violent content.
11: Pay for what you value
There is no single replacement for the broken news business model (based on advertising revenue and print sales). Some media now rely on crowdfunding or philanthropy to fund their journalism – investigative projects are especially costly. The decline of local journalism has led to media deserts. Local journalism needs supporting and could be funded as a public service. Be prepared to pay something towards the news you value and consume, via subscription or donation.