Building a Better Media for Scotland

Bella Caledonia and Newsnet are delighted to announce a new collaboration, where we will be commissioning new articles and sharing analysis and editorial content together.

The next six months will be crucial. As we lead up to the next Holyrood elections we’re bound to see the usual scaremongering of the Unionist media about the possibilities of serious constitutional change, and the usual right-wing press will collect around the forces of inertia and conservatism and no doubt we can expect a torrent of deference as the Royal Wedding cavalcade continues.

But the old media doesn’t have the strength and dominance it once had. The old press power as an agenda-setting force is weakening and the Herald and Scotsman, once credible national newspapers are as discredited as the Lib-Lab-Tory agenda they prop up.

The participative media in Scotland is stronger than ever – with a surge of high quality online content and discourse in the last year – but it will need to grow stronger still and sharper and reach beyond its established audience. The nationalist left will need to think beyond easy orthodoxies and begin to imagine and translate the sort of Scotland we want to see – not just tell the story of what is wrong with Britain, but what kind of society we want to create.

Bella will remain the place for longer articles – with a stronger focus on experimental culture – while Newsnet will stay as the place for daily news updates (and more). Join us – sign up to our newsletters or link to our feeds, Newsnet here – and Bella Caledonia here.

November was the best month ever for site traffic for Bella Caledonia¬† – but we need to be part of bigger. The recent Political Innovations event in Edinburgh talked alot about aggregation – and this is partly about that – but there’s no dilution with this collaboration.

Citizen journalism is particularly needed here in Scotland: “The intent of this participation is to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires.” We realise that action needs to happen in the ‘real word’ as well as on the internet – we’d argue that ‘cyber nats’ need to become ‘digi reps’ – digital republicans more equipped to broaden and deepen debate and analysis.

Reclaiming democracy, building independence and learning self-determination won’t all be done at the ballot-box. Re-establishing a coherent and funded alternative media is a big part of that movement. We feel this is something to celebrate this St Andrews Day.

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  1. I wasn’t able to go to the PICamp myself and I certainly welcome finding new ways to aggregate effort, build the collective and enrich the Scottish public sphere.

    However, one question strikes me about the goals as you are articulating them, here. Should we really be drawing binary distinctions in terms of mediated and <unmediated media? It strikes me that the real problem represented by the Scottish press is its capture by particular perspectives and interests, which causes mischief in large part because they seem mostly unconscious of the ways in which their particular ideas determine, in a selective way, what they find interesting, their approach, tone – what they emphasise and what they neglect – and so on.

    In this sense, consciousness of the ubiquity of mediation and honest disclosure is (up to a point) preferable to a false neutrality. As should be clear, I’m not disagreeing with the gist – but I think it is important to think these issues through and get our indictments right.

  2. bellacaledonia says:

    You have a good point LPW – the issue is more about ownership and control (and) embedded unconscious values and assumptions language and precepts. But I think the normal response to this has been to rail against that reality and throw beer cans at the telly. The nationalist community – I think – is lodged in a futile war against an opponent that will not change. The daily log of unionist injustices is (I think) not going to yield much change. The new (ish, er) slogan that is much preferable is: don’t hate the media, be the media .

    In other words it is not just the content of the media but its form and structure that is part of the problem and that this has a far wider resonance through society. So when the BBC say ‘here is the news’ they are not just framing and subverting the news agenda by what their Royal Correspondent / Economics Editor / Fashion Editor is going to say but the fact that it is disseminated ‘out’ from a central point is reflective of their deeper values.

    We won’t be unmediated nor can we be neutral. We know this. This is our news, these are our ideals, we own these. But we do offer people a space to take part in creating content, and that part is, at least marginally greater in meaning than voting for Wagner every weekend.

    The idea of co-creation seems to be more than just about participative media but about a participative society, a response away from the hierarchical, semi-feudal, statist, centralised monotony of the present arrangements with all their in-built inequalities corruption and stagnation.

  3. Am entirely in agreement with much of that – and as you noted elsewhere – the issue is primarily raised by the headline rather than the content of the piece. That said, I’d insist that it is often worthwhile to give a little thought to motes and beams. Not as an argument against doing it. I’m absolutely not suggesting that we should aspire to some sort of odd Archimedean non-political perspective on our politics. I agree that it is proving a futile and a seemingly endless series of scuffles and fair complaints amount to a wasted struggle and a waste of productive energy. However, it strikes me that the movement you describe from hating the media to being it is attended with interesting difficulties of the sort I’m trying to sketch.

    You also emphasise an important point which I toyed with including in the comment – but snipped for the sake of brevity. I absolutely accept that we shouldn’t “flatten” the world of Scottish opinion and so delude ourselves that a false equality of views reigns here. It is absolutely and immediately relevant that press, winking through its particular lens, dominates the scene and enjoys privileged (albeit not uncontested) access to Scotland’s reading and viewing publics. Arguably, your point about overcoming structural relations and subverting and altering assumptions about opinion-producers and benign, consuming readerships is far more interesting.

  4. Tocasaid says:

    Good news in itself. More power to your elbows.

  5. HamishScott says:

    Yes, good news. The key issue, I think, is how to break out of our confines.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Hamish – I think you are right the key issue is ‘how to break out of our confines’. Absolutely in the widest sense.

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