Following the election of the new leader the Fabian Society has invited us to offer him some “miligrams” – special pieces of advice. Polly Toynbee and David Walker have taken up the challenge in their open letter to Ed in today’s Guardian. Among many other wise, considered and well-researched ideas they suggested “restricting multiple ownership [of the press] and disallow non-British taxpayers [from owning papers and TV channels]“.
And why not? As with many other aspects of the British economy the press has only been a “free market” since Thatcher’s reforms. Higher state involvement in other countries leads to higher quality journalism as there is less need for a “race to the bottom” – the bottom being low-brow sensationalism. Better funding, better research, more original material are all desperately to be desired in a highly-educated but largely tabloid-consuming country.
We’re all in thrall to the moguls, particularly Murdoch. Parties, policies and individuals can all be spun by one of the many branches of News Corporation, and it is chilling that there seems no way out. But we are free to make our own laws. If he wants to go elsewhere, let him coerce ad terrorise the citizens of America or Australia, and welcome if they’ll have him. To buy up US enterprises he had to take American citizenship, but the Conservative government’s reforms allowed him, as a non-domicile tax exile, to seize a large fraction of our media outlets.
The Daily Mail was bought by the first Viscount Rothermere, and in a family history that could have come straight out of a Jonathan Coe novel, has been inherited by his son, grandson and great-grandson respectively. The family is related by marriage to the Thatchers, and surprisingly enough, is openly Tory supporting. The Barclay twins, owners of the Telegraph, are notorious millionaire tax avoiders, and they have a zero-tolerance policy towards criticism. Like the Murdoch and Rothermere enterprises their business is characterised by hypocrisy and nepotism.
Whereas the Guardian, Private Eye and other left-wing, relatively independent publications are making huge losses every year. The founder of Wikileaks is subject to libelous claims and has little power to refute them.
Kicking up a fuss about nobility and millionaires in the cabinet is all very well, but the fourth estate is monopolised by them in a far less transparent sense. If “Red Ed” is the man I hope he is then heads, one day, will roll.