Campaigners for media reform outlined their ideas at a rally in Central Hall last week, chaired by Goldsmiths media Professor, Natalie Fenton.
The event was organised by the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform and the Hacked Off campaign and a host of speakers were given five minutes each to put forward proposals to address the problems in the British media.
Sharing the platform among others were Labour and Conservative MPs Tom Watson and Peter Bottomley, ex Daily Star Reporter Richard Peppiatt and phone hacking victims Mary-Ellen Field, former Crimewatch presenter Jacqui Hames and actor Hugh Grant.
Watson and Grant have been two of the most vociferous opponents of News International during both the Leveson Enquiry and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearings on phone hacking. In his speech, Grant lambasted both police and press regulation failings. Watson called on the government to drive forward press changes but told the audience: “You are the start of a movement we have to build in the country to make sure once and for all we get proper and comprehensive media reform”
Video: Olga Chwilowicz
Giving evidence to the Leveson Enquiry into press culture and ethics this morning, Watson said “about a dozen” MPs told him they had been unfairly targeted by the press. Also giving evidence today was former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who said Scotland Yard were “lethargic” in their response to phone hacking in 2009. The Labour MP said that parliament should set up a regulatory system, like they do with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
The reforms proposed by the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform focus on the need for diversity in the press, support for journalists and a new economic model based on levies from broadcasters, internet companies and mobile phone operators.
They demand that any company owning over 15 per cent of one media audience must have governance structures that are accountable to the public and they must provide public interest journalism. They also propose a News Publishing Commission to replace the Press Complaints Commission. As well as giving a statutory right of reply and complaints tribunal, the new body would have a conscience clause to deter journalists from unethical dealings.
The Coordinating Committee for Media Reform has been researching and discussing measures that achieve the purpose of improving ethical standards of journalistic conduct and publication while at the same time preserving the long standing British tradition of freedom of expression. One of the key figures in writing the proposals, Angela Phillips, head of journalism at Goldsmiths, gave evidence to the Leveson Inquiry Thursday December 11 last year.
A lack of diversity within the media was highlighted by the first speaker, Owen Jones, author of ‘Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class’. He said: ” Much of the media, especially national media, is becoming a closed shop for the professional middle class. The Sutton Trust a few years ago did a study, where they looked at the top 100 journalists in this country, over half were privately educated. Just one in ten went to a comp.”
Owen said that the unpaid internship is a national scandal, asking: ” If you’re an aspiring working class journalist from Glasgow or Manchester, how can you hope to live in London, one of the most expensive cities on earth for free? “. He said he hoped this campaign could build a media which is free from dominance and representative of all society.
After the rally, East London Lines spoke to members of the audience about what they had heard:
Click here to watch the Rally for Media Reform in full.
The issue of regulatory reform was further covered in an online debate hosted by the Speaker’s Corner Trust. “A Regulated Free Press – Compromise or Contradiction?” the Chairman of the Press Complaints Commission, Lord Hunt and, Angela Phillips, of the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform discussed the means of enforcing press standards.