Goldsmiths hosts Media Democracy Festival

The Speakers' panel

Aral Balkan, Amelia Womack, Natalie Fenton, Kam Sandhu Pic: Lamees Altalebi

This weekend Goldsmiths and Media Reform Coalition hosted an all-day event featuring speakers from the media industry to discuss media freedom.

Amelia Womack, Deputy Leader of the Green Party; Natalie Fenton, founding member of Media Reform Coalition, Kam Sandhu, journalist and co-founder of independent news site Real Media, and Aral Balkan, designer and activist, explained the importance of media democracy.

The speakers’ panel which was supposed to include Jeremy Corbyn  before he was elected as Labour leader, also discussed the issue of concentration of media ownership and representation of different groups.

A report by Media Reform Coalition showed that “just five companies dominate some 80% of the market share”.

Des Freedman, a professor of Media and Communications and Chair of  Media Democracy Festival, started the discussion by saying: “There is something fundamentally wrong with our media”.

Aral Balkan, a designer and founder of, an enterprise that aims to protect human rights in the digital age, said: “We have a capitalism problem in our hands today”.

He believes that “slavery” still exists even in today’s age and that technology has made it easier for big corporations to “make money by violating privacy” and accessing personal data.

Balkan gives the example of Facebook and it’s access to private  messages of users. Therefore, he stresses the need for alternative  independent technologies and projects like Heartbeat, a private messaging  programme that only the user has full access to.

He added that we need to “go beyond worshiping Silicon Valley and colonialism” and strive to achieve “equality, human right and democracy”.

Natalie Fenton, founder of Media Reform Coalition and professor at Goldsmiths Media and Communication Department, told EastLondonLines that she feels optimistic regarding achieving media democracy.

“At a meta level, we need more regulation around concentration of media ownership by putting threshold and limits on how much ownership only one corporation can have”.

Fenton also believes that taxing big companies a small percentage like 1 per cent can help generate money to then be put into a public trust fund where independent media can apply to and gain funding. Protecting journalists working with big corporation and going under editorial pressures is also essential to reach media freedom.

She said that we need to be “Stopping those at the top getting too big and helping those at the button to grow”.

The talk which was held in the Great Hall at Goldsmiths, also included Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Amelia Womack, who said: “Status quo is not  being challenged enough and people are getting way pushing their own agendas”.

She stated that the solution lies in challenging government policies and  supporting independent journalists in the mainstream media in order to have transparency and a range of voices.

Open spaces Pic: Lamees Altalebi

Open spaces Pic: Lamees Altalebi

The day also included an open space for attendees to propose different sessions they wish to run answering the event’s central question: how can we create media democracy?

Sessions included: ways to regulate the press, freedom of information and funding alternative media.

Centre of Investigative Journalism (CIJ) had taster courses at the festival which included workshops on using data to explain stories, information and security, and interactive storytelling.

Press regulation session led by Natalie Fenton and Jonathan Heawood Pic: Lamees Altalebi

Press regulation session led by Natalie Fenton and Jonathan Heawood Pic: Lamees Altalebi

Alongside the open space, there was a screening of the zero-budget  documentary The Fourth Estate, a film about UK’s media industry post  Leveson Inquiry, followed by a Q&A session with directors Lee Salter and Eliz Mizon.

The day ended with a party at Goldsmiths Students’ Union which included a  live crowdfunding event for various media projects to pitch to the room, music and spoken words from poets like Anthony Anaxagorou and Deanna Rodger.

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