On Thursday, Jeremy Corbyn announced 10 new Labour policies to change the media. Such policies weren’t particularly surprising to see from the Labour leader whose relationship with the press has been… testy since he was elected.
It’s good to see, however, that the policies, which aim to shake up Britain’s broken mainstream media, are positive and proactive, mainly centring on strengthening the BBC as Britain’s public service broadcaster. It could have been easy for Labour to create policy which threatened the freedom of the press in the UK, or to go after the owners of news conglomerates. Instead, the policies seek to create a strong, accountable BBC and give more funding to local media outlets.
Perhaps the most ‘radical’ of the policies is the introduction of a tax on tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix to help fund independent journalism, and a similar ‘digital licence fee’, which is payable by said tech giants.
None of this is really that radical. Tech giants such as Facebook have completely dominated and controlled public discourse, and it has become ever difficult for good, rigourous journalism to fight fake news. It makes sense to use a tax to strengthen our own journalism.
Good journalism is essential to our democracy. Democracy can only be successful with an engaged and informed population, the BBC is vital.
It also makes sense to democratise the BBC, and increase transparency within it to promote diversity and accountability in our public service broadcaster. As Corbyn said in his Alternative McTaggart Lecture, The Guardian has a process in which the journalists elect the new editor and there is no reason why every outlet shouldn’t have a similar process–especially the BBC.
It is also good to see attempts to strengthen independent investigative journalism by extending FOI laws and offering charitable status to some independent outlets. Corbyn and Labour have recognised that one of the biggest threats to good journalism is funding.
This is a continuation of the sort of common sense policies that filled the 2017 manifesto, a far cry from the frothing-at-the-mouth communism that some of the areas of the media would lead you to believe was on the agenda.