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Thursday, January 30, 2014

The mainstream media oligopoly


The main reason I devote so much of my time to writing blog posts and producing infographics is that I believe that the mainstream newspapers are failing in their duty to keep the public informed. Instead of informing the public as they should, the press has become a kind of corporate closed ideology echo-chamber for the promotion of the right-wing neoliberal orthodoxy.

The newspaper market in the UK is absolutely  dominated by an oligopoly of seven news groups. 

The largest by far is the Murdoch controlled News UK which controls well over a third of the newspaper market and includes the S*n, which is inexplicably still the most widely read "newspaper" in the country, despite the filthy lies they published about the Hillsborogh disaster (if you read the S*n you are clearly not a true football fan) and their unyeilding support for Margaret Thatcher's socially and economically destructive neoliberalisation agenda.
The next largest is the Daily Mail Group which has nearly 20% of the market share (plus the most visited "news" website in the UK). The Daily Mail is owned by the tax-dodger Jonathan Harmsworth and is famed for its long history of supporting the fascist ideology and printing utterly disgusting bile designed to rile the public into supporting ever more right-wing policies.
The third largest newspaper group is the Mirror group, which puts its allegiance behind the New Labour party, but this editorial line against the neoliberal policies of the current government is sure to be softened whenever New Labour get back into power with their appalling ideology of neoliberalism-lite.

The fourth largest is the Northern & Shell Group which is run by the pornographer Richard Desmond, who also owns Channel 5. The largest circulation paper Desmond owns is the Daily Express, which runs the Daily Mail close for the title of most extremely right-wing rag in the UK.

The other three are minnows in comparison. The Telegraph (owned by the reclusive Barclay brothers) preaches the same brand of neoliberalism as Murdoch, Harmsworth and Desmond. It is notable for its core following of delusional right-wing ranters (check the comments section beneath virtually any Telegraph article for all the evidence you need). Where the Telegraph do deserve some credit is their exposure and moralist condemnation of MP's expenses, not that that has stopped them though.

The Guardian used to be a left-wing newspaper, but after 13 years of apologising for the blatant neoliberalism of New Labour, then transferring their allegiance to the Liberal Democrats, it is absolutely clear that they all too often sing from the neoliberal hymn sheet now. The saving grace for the Guardian is the Comment is Free section which occasionally publishes articles that are explicitly critical of the neoliberal orthodoxy (although all credit is revoked again for a ridiculous editorial praising Iain Duncan Smith for his compassion and the tendency for inexperienced Guardian journalists to repeat blatant neoliberal dogma as if it is fact). Another saving grace is their coverage of the Five Eyes spy scandal when many other publications have turned willfully blind eyes.

The smallest of the seven is the Independent, which is controlled by the Russian oligarch Alexander Lebidev and his son Evgeny. It is by far the youngest of the seven having been founded in 1986. The Independent has a history of neutrality at general elections (instead of telling their readership how to vote as the other six do). The Independent has the least neoliberal editorial line of the big seven (for example: Owen Jones' "Agenda for Hope" extols traditional social democratic values) but they have a tiny market share of less than 3%.
The vast majority of newspaper coverage in the UK is presented from a right-wing orthodox neoliberal perspective, which is entirely at odds with the popularity of social democracy amongst the general public.

The majority of British people support social democratic ideas such as the nationalisation of natural monopolies (see graph), but this is neither reflected in the print media, nor in Westminster politics - where all three Establishment parties (the Lib-Lab-Cons) adhere to the same right-wing pseudo-economic ideology of neoliberalism, as promoted by the mainstream press.

There is a Misinformation War going on and the majority of people have been rendered voiceless by it. The majority of people believe in social democracy and fairness, whilst their newspapers and political parties constantly promote the ideology of neoliberalism which leads inevitably to crony capitalism, which results in austerity and wage repression for the majority, whilst the tiny establishment minority enrich themselves via enormous socialism-for-the-rich schemes (bank bailouts, quantitative easing, corporate outsourcing, PFI ...).

The newspapers in the UK barely question the core ideological tenets of neoliberalism, and in fact, most barely even mention neoliberalism by name - even though it is the unquestionable economic orthodoxy of our age. Their tactic is to repeat the Great Neoliberal Lie, that the economic crisis came about because of "excessive welfare spending by the state", rather than the reckless debt fueled financial sector gambling spree that actually caused it.

One example of how the newspaper oligopoly fail in their duty to inform the public what is going on is the appalling lack of coverage devoted to issues of huge national importance. Incredibly important issues such as the ongoing Tory privatisation of the NHS, Michael Gove's ideological destruction of the education system, the introduction of disgracefully illiberal legislation such as Secret Courts, the Gagging Law and Iain Duncan Smith's abuse of the parliamentary process in order to stick two fingers up at the courts have been completely buried under a tide of celebrity gossip and vapid personality politics.

A great example of how wedded the mainstream press are to the neoliberal ideology (that they won't even mention by name in print) is the furious reaction of the right-wing press to Ed Miliband's pseudo-socialist plan to cap energy prices for 20 months. Ed's plan isn't actually socialist at all, if it were, he'd have been promising to renationalise the energy infrastructure of the UK and run it as a democratically administered not-for-profit public service (as the vast majority of British people would actually like him to). The reaction of the Daily Mail was particularly telling. Instead of attempting to defend the cartel like behavior of the energy companies enabled by privatisation, they turned their fire on Ed Miliband's deceased father. It takes a truly breathtaking amount of hypocrisy for a newspaper that is owned by a man who lives abroad for the purposes of dodging tax on the profits, and which openly propagandised for the Nazi party and the British Union of Fascists during the 1930s, to deride as "unpatriotic" a man who fled Europe to escape the Nazis (that Harmsworth's great-grandfather was openly propagandising for), signed up to join the Royal Navy at the first opportunity and lived in the country that adopted him for the rest of his life.

The big question is this: Why should a few press barons be allowed to spread such biased political propaganda and tell people how to vote?

The obvious answer is that they shouldn't, but it suits the agenda of the political establishment to have it that way, because the press barons push the exactly the same neoliberal agenda that the Lib-Lab-Con establishment parties adhere to.

The only ray of hope is that the New Media (comprised of social media and small independent blogs) is providing an ever larger platform for dissent against the neoliberal orthodoxy of the establishment. The potential for the New Media to threaten, or even overthrow, old establishment orders has already been demonstrated time and again in Egypt, Hungary, Italy and Greece. Another
great thing about the New Media is that it is participatory. The New Media allows us to select the issues we consider important, and to share them with our peers, instead of passively relying on an oligopoly of newspapers to drip-feed us the news in their own narrow terms. I believe that it is for precisely these reasons that David Cameron is so keen to introduce censorship of the Internet and of non-profit organisations.


 
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Iain Duncan Smith's retroactive "I'm Above the Law" legislation
                  
The JP Morgan vision for Europe
         
The Daily Mail: A history of Fascism, Racism and Homophobia
                                          

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