Know the Media, Be the Media, Change the Media

According to the Media Reform Coalition 2019 report, Who Owns the UK Media? Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world. Concentration of power through access to storytelling undermines democracy argues Layla-Roxanne Hill.

The media play a huge role in all our lives as creators and consumers. The stories we write can impact long after publication and as creators of media – which includes those of us who use our voices on social media – we should try and ensure those who have the lived experiences of what we choose to report on are reflected.

Last month, I co-organised The Ferret’s – Scotland’s investigative journalism co-operative – Annual Summer Conference, ‘Owning a Collaborative Media’ at The University of Stirling, with the aim of creating an inspiring and welcoming learning space. As a co-operative, The Ferret has a responsibility to its subscribers and this includes finding ways to tackle some of the issues which crop up within media, from representation and plurality to financial sustainability and reader and journalist accountability.

One of the discussions which attracted a great deal of debate was Making the Media: The Future(s) of Journalism with representatives from West Highland Free Press, Clydesider, CommonSpace and A Thousand Flowers – all independent media channels from across Scotland – spoke candidly about their values, business and social models.

Who Sells the Stories?

According to the Media Reform Coalition 2019 report, Who Owns the UK Media? Britain has one of the most concentrated media environments in the world. This report shows that just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach) dominate 83% of the national newspaper market (up from 71% in 2015).

When online readers are included, just five companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group, Reach, Guardian and Telegraph) dominate nearly 80% of the market, slightly up from the 2015 report. Meanwhile in the area of local news, just five companies (Gannett, Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror, Tindle and Archant) account for 80% of titles (back in 2015, six companies had the same share).

Who Tells the Stories?

Perhaps there would be better balance in media story telling if historically mis and/or under-represented people were writing the stories? Research undertaken by University of Oxford, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism in 2015 suggests that won’t be happening in a meaningful way anytime soon. The research was drawn from the UK population working across broadcast, print and digital in local, regional and national news orgs in the UK. Sadly, the research only touches upon socio/economic status, gender (only defined by male and female), ethnicity and religion. If we were to look at intersections of sexuality, gender identity, disability, age and class – the picture would likely be more grim.

The research found that British journalism is 94% white, of those journalists who began their careers in 2013, 2014, and 2015, 98% have a Bachelor Degree and 36% a Masters Degree. 55% male and 45% female.

The most under-represented group are Black Britons, who make up approximately 3% of the British population but just 0.2% of the sample. Asian Britons represent approximately 7% of the UK population but just 2.5% of the sample.

Why does journalism look like this?

The survey found 45% of UK journalists see it as very or extremely important to provide news that attracts the largest audience and twice as many UK journalists believe that their freedom to make editorial decisions has decreased over time as believe it has increased. In addition, right wing political beliefs increase with rank.

Since the Scottish Independence Referendum, issues around representation have also surfaced and it has become increasingly felt that British media doesn’t reflect life in Scotland. This has enabled a space for new and online media such as The Ferret, CommonSpace and existing independent media such as Bella Caledonia to gain prominence in the Scottish media landscape.

Though these media channels try – and try hard on small budgets – to cover key topics across Scotland, they too can encounter similar issues related to representation as national traditional media outlets. The representation of local news from smaller regions and towns beyond the central belt or main cities still struggle to make it into new independent media. However, models such as the employee-owned West Highlands Free Press, demonstrates how independent and local news can work.

Making the Media: The Future(s) of Journalism

Sustaining new media models via crowdfunding, subscription models and grants, though allows for a growth of independent media, can still exclude voices by allowing only those with access to resources to choose which stories and media they want to see.

In a bid highlight the ways in which Scottish media could be truly radical and representative, Telling Our Own Stories: People of Colour in Scotland’s Media took place at Kinning Park Complex in Glasgow. Oftentimes, radical ways of thinking come from those who are the most marginalised.

Having a reflective media which is collaborative and representative of our society can go a long way in exchanging ideas and information in ways which are healing and helpful, instead of harmful. This includes all media; from legacy to new media and from ourselves as media creators and sharers on our social media.

Politics is lurching from one crisis to the next. The neoliberal economic model which has relied on sustained propaganda to account for its failings is also coming in to question like never before. As questions of economic and climate justice intersect with conflicts over national identity, race and class, the openings for new media narratives exit. But we must think outside of the old institutions which grew up with the system in the first place, if we are to realise them.


Comments (13)

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  1. Gordon Bickerton says:

    I couldn’t agree more with this article.
    I subscribe to the National on line, partly due to it being very difficult to get a hard copy locally when it first appeared.
    Store staff advised there was no demand for it!
    Now it’s stocked even at upper end supermarkets and placed alongside all other papers, (maybe not Marks and Spencers)
    It’s very encouraging to hear about other sources of unbiased journalism, but frustrating not to see them on news stands.

    1. Charles L. Gallagher says:

      Gordon, I came across this with M&S. I was visiting in Glasgow and was doing some shopping for my sister, a trolley-full of mainly small single items which came to over £100 and when I asked, “why no National” she could not answer so I asked her to call the manager, by this time quite a long queue had built-up behind me when he gave some lame excuse, “I said, well if your company refuses to stock a legitimate Scottish Newspaper, then I will find one that does and walked out leaving all my shopping on the check-out, getting a few well done from the queue who then followed me by abandoning their own shopping.” The look of apoplexy on the manager’s face was a picture only pity was I didn’t have a camera.

      1. Alistair Taylor says:

        Aye, well done, Charles.
        I have had that same “there’s no demand for it” answer in a few places, whereas I suspect that it’s been a management decision not to stock it.
        (I also suspect that the BBC is biased. Ha!)

      2. Jack collatin says:

        well done, Charles.
        The brand spanking new Lidl supermarket on the border between Clydebank and Glasgow doesn’t take the National either.
        Most of its foodstuff has the Butcher’s Apron stamped on it and there is even a loaf wrapped wholly in that Red White and Blue symbol of colonial tyranny. Almost all the fruit and vegetables bear the stamp of the Colonial Overlord.
        Of course the Saltire is displayed on ‘Scotch’ products, like beef, or cheese, or milk. But that is precious little in a vast superstore.
        Ironically their Lasagne flies the Jack on its packaging.
        I refuse to buy into this clear ‘swastika flooding’ of every aspect of Scottish life.

        It cannot go unnoticed by English and German(sic) supermarket chains that they are sacrificing at least 45% (Sept ’14 but rising) of its potential profits because of this sinister Union Jackery promo.
        Yet they are willing to lose a great deal of money on sales in Scotland, to what end?
        Is there Dark Money and promises being made to Big Business who flood our land with unionist propaganda?
        I will buy nothing with the Butcher’s Apron stamped on it.
        to Lidl UK Management, I say, I am sure that I am not the only customer whom you have driven from your store.
        A German owned company which has forgotten the lessons of 1933. Sad indeed.
        If it bears a Jack, put it back.

    2. BSA says:

      The National is prominent in Perth Marks and Spencer and, probably for that reason, fast selling.

  2. Daniel Raphael says:

    Another outstanding article, which I was pleased to tweet to a number of followers. Keep on keeping on, BC!

  3. Jack collatin says:

    Layla, keep going, we are in the darkest of dark times when it comes to manipulation of the people via a deeply elitist MSM.
    I joked over on WINGS that I knew the date of Indyref2.
    The second plebiscite will be held in the week of ‘Sex Pest’ Salmond’s Trial; I have no doubt that Scoop Hutcheon and Tam Gordon have big fat juicy folders ready to unleash during Indyref 2 week: Clegg was despatched to YES Dundee to coordinate Thomson’s ‘secret dossiers’ blackening of the former FM.
    I consider that you underestimate the proportion of the media owned and controlled by the New World Order. Even the National is part of the ruling Oligarchy when we get right down to it.
    Keep the Faith. We are all in your debt.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Indeed, and this is pretty much the same story of media concentration as when I studied British politics decades ago.

    I think we should also be wary of impressions of diversity that either regurgitate the same mainstream views under a different skin, or over-promote some visible minorities at the expense of covering many others less visible. There was an alleged example of the former in the BBC documentary “How to Break into the Elite” which covers how unrepresentative the BBC and Channel 4 are, for example. (50:39)

    But the other main point raised by the media section of my course was what seems often referred to now as the Overton Window:
    To quote from my lecture notes:
    “Media has an agenda-setting role. Media cannot tell us what to think, but it can tell us what to think about. More tabloid concentration on short-term, trivial gossip — deflecting interest from politics. Media are the opium of the masses. Safe political issues, trivial and personalized — for example Mr Foot’s mode of dress. Last item on BBC news is usually nice, comfortable story.”

    As ownership of the media was concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, Fleet Street (newspapers) became more Conservative while television and radio became more conservative. Television news was systematically biased C/conservative. Apparently a significant number of Daily Mail readers failed to notice a change in its ideological outlook after it changed from supporting Labour to Conservative.

    There has been a lack of investigative reporting, holding the state/government properly to account. So much so that organizations like Greenpeace have had to set up their own investigative reporting branch.

    It is also likely that much of the British public are unaware of how much state censorship of the media goes on, and how much power advertisers exert on content and agenda. The question of how far media outlets can report on and counter these influences is an open one. Certainly, as I have heard Tim Berners-Lee say recently, we should be prepared to pay much more than we do in the UK for the media we sorely need, and our consumption of (interaction with/creation of) media reflects on us in how far we are prepared to fulfil our citizenship roles.

  5. David Allan says:

    thanks Layla,

    I hadn’t been aware of either “West Highland Free Press” or “A Thousand Flowers” both impressive and will now be visited for news and views on a regular basis.

    I particularly delighted to read on WHFP of Skye flag proposals ! I look forward to viewing future design ideas.

    Scot’s are so deprived of good Scottish news sources. The West Highland Free Press model hopefully will be replicated in other areas.

    The media landscape in an Independent Scotland has such potential for vast improvement !

  6. Derek Henry says:

    That is what these voice activation boxes starting to fill our homes are all about.

    Alexa tell me the news – Orwell would be turning in his grave he gave a warning it was not supposed to be a blue print to copy.

    Neoliberal journalists do not even need to put their names on articles any more. They form groups and call themselves the associated press – Remember the Panama papers pure propaganda attacking people who were fighting against the banks after the crash. The Icelandic guy lost bankers millions that made sure his name was on the list. Putin and the Queen and Cameron a warning shot across the bows that neoliberal globalism must continue. The Panama papers was an exercise in making sure The voters still believe taxes fund government spending. A lie propaganda on steroids. To make sure banks continue to control the money supply and it is they that get to allocate skills and real resources within an economy and not elected governments.

    The Guardian is a neoliberal rag a disgrace. They even have a neoliberal economic group that do not have to put their names on anything they write called project syndicate. That makes sure neoliberal globalism continues.

    They support feminism and yet won’t even interview Stephanie Kelton Bernie Sanders economic advisor or Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. They steal their ideas and package them in a liberal way. Two of the most successful women world wide at the moment and will not interview them. If they did the Guardians neoliberal agenda would crash around their ears.

    Let us face facts here the Indy media are no better nobody has challenged the SNP on their ” heart of Europe ” stance. Nobody !

    I’ve challenged Robin Macalpine in private about it and that will remain a private conversation and I have challenged Mike openly about it on here. Nobody wants to challenge the SNP on this position which is deeply flawed.

    So I am sorry but the Indy media are currently no better than the rest. It is Indy at all costs nothing has to get in the way and we will deal with the EU later. Which is insane and very dangerous and not giving the voters in Scotland all the information they need to come to informed decisions. Why ?

    Because they are shit scared of telling the truth after large parts of Scotland voted to remain and their Indy dream would be over. I say it wouldn’t, I say tell the truth to Scottish voters and Indy will happen and happen for all the right reasons. I say voters have to know the facts so they know what they are voting for. I say if you start Indy on bed of lies and leave the SNP position unchallenged then we are no better than the associated press and project syndicate and the right wing press. I say we are liars who will tell lies for our cause.

    I brought people together to set up MMT Scotland. Everyone knows the SNP position would amount to state capture by Brussels. The common weal know it and George Kervevan knows it and Tim Ride out knows it. Yet, none of them will actually come out and say it and challenge the SNP head on. Instead, they hide behind Richard Murphy’s nonsense that an Indy Scotland will prosper with 3% deficits.

    It is embarrassing that so many would choose to hide behind a lie rather than tell the truth that they all admit in private. Why?

    Because it is easier to hide behind a lie than challenge the SNP head on. It is easier to hide behind a lie than inform the Scottish voters what would happen if we were at the heart of Europe. It is easier to hide behind a lie to get a faux independence.

    All that happens is when the SNP goes unchallenged on Europe is it allows Farage to ride into Edinburgh and steal the narrative. Say what is on offer is not independence and he is right and then run back down South. A third of Scottish voters know he is right.

    MMT Scotland has been set up for 11 months now and still keeps quiet about the SNP stance on Europe. Like the press they were set up to challenge all political parties if they lied about how our monetary system actually works. I left because I did not want to be part of that lie.

    I hang my head in shame that MMT Scotland was allowed to be politicised so easily by the Indy movement. It now just lies to get Scottish independence which should never have been allowed to happen and definitely not why it was set up in the first place.

    Stephanie Kelton shows what MMT Scotland should be doing and that is telling the truth and not hiding behind Richard Murphy’s nonsense of 3% deficits. Stephanie the mother of MMT.

    So my question is to the author of this piece is…..

    When is the Indy media going to start asking the SNP the tough questions around their heart of Europe stance ? When is the Indy media going to stop ignoring this issue?

    1. John McLeod says:

      This is an example of what I described in my own post this morning as the transient nature of on-line journalism. Having read Derek Henry’s interesting article, I want to learn more about his point of view. The video that is referenced did not seem to explain what EU finance policy might mean for Scotland. Presumably Derek has written a more introductory piece on these issues somewhere, that would be a good starting point for those like myself, who are new to this issue – maybe even on Bella.

  7. Derek Henry says:

    I left MMT Scotland after using all of my savings to set it up because people just could not explain the truth in public what they knew to be true privately.

    I refused to sell my soul for the cause. What scared me most was how easily others sold their souls for the Indy at all costs strategy. To actually say in public what they knew were lies to advance Indy.

    I have wanted Indy all my adult life and I used my own money specifically for that reason. However, Indy has to be won on a bed of truths not with a thorn of lies just because they were terrified that some voters will not like what you say when you tell them how different monetary systems work in reality.

    It is sad and showed me clearly how easy it is to get poisoned by politics and how souls get sold so cheaply for all the wrong reasons. Me I would rather hold onto my dignity.

  8. John McLeod says:

    This issues raised by this article are very important. My own view is that we are going through a transition. Sales of traditional newspapers are falling because people want to use the internet to access stories. However, it is hard to generate income through on-line newspapers. This reduction in income means that the quality of reporting in the mainstream media – particulaly investigative reporting – is nowhere near as good as it was 30 years ago. This depresses newspaper sales further. At the same time, the BBC news output is awful. Despite all of that, the mainstream newspapers and the BBC soak up almost all of the £££ that members of the public are willing to spend on news stories. This makes life very difficult for anyone setting up alternative news outlets to get enough funding to pay salaries.

    Alternative media can generate big readerships and reasonable income, if they are good enough at capturing the public mood and imagination. For example, Wings over Scotland and Wee Ginger Dug. But they are very small-scale operations (mainly one gifted writer) and produce maybe one article per day. So not really equivalent to reading a newspaper. Even Bella only seems to publish maybe 3 articles per day. However, there are some excellent alternative blog writers that few people seem to access – for example Mark Frankland.

    A further issue that is important is that, for the most part, on-line articles are transient. After a few days they fall off the bottom of the page and are lost. This means that a huge number of brilliant articles are not available to readers who become interested in looking more closely at an issue.

    My suggestion for moving the agenda forward in respect of alternative on-line news media would be to have some way of linking everything together so that all of the articles and blogs published on any one day could be accessed from one site. This would make it much easier for marginalised or undiscovered voices to be heard. It would look something like a newspaper, in terms of carrying many stories each day. It could have a search function, so that older articles on a topic or by a writer could be readily found. I personally would see no problem in public money supporting such a venture, alongside other funding sources. I am not a media expert – has anything like this ever been tried?

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