Steven Barnett's presentations to Ecrea workshop, October 2013


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  • Steven Barnett's presentations to Ecrea workshop, October 2013

    1. 1. The politics of plurality: new policy approaches to media ownership in a convergent media environment Presentation to ECREA Workshop 26 October 2013 Steven Barnett, Professor of Communications, University of Westminster @stevenjbarnett Judith Townend, Research Associate, University of Westminster @jtownend
    2. 2. AHRC funded study 2013-14: Media Power and Plurality: New policy approaches to protecting the public interest in the 21st century • assess different approaches to defining and measuring plurality • examine the drawbacks of the current policy regime and the challenges posed by new and convergent media • evaluate new and existing ideas for structural initiatives which might exploit new media opportunities. • Facilitate consultation between politicians, policy makers, regulators, industry and the academy. • Facilitate sharing of ideas/papers/blogs in UK and Europe going live next week!
    3. 3. 2 contextualising factors • “Perfect storm” of economic and structural decline for journalism: – Recession-led decline in advertising – Irreversible shift of press adv/g → online – Fragmented audiences – Growth of non-linear consumption • Burgeoning digital, online, social media sector: “digital intermediaries”, e.g. Google
    4. 4. Challenges and Opportunities Challenge = highly political problem of “top down” dealing with power of conglomerates UK: little has been done for decades to curb expansion of media oligopoly, esp Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Integral element of Leveson Inquiry’s Terms of Reference was around plurality…..
    5. 5. Leveson: to make recommendations “a. for a new more effective policy and regulatory regime which supports…. the plurality of the media….; b. for how future concerns about press behaviour, media policy, regulation and cross-media ownership should be dealt with by all the relevant authorities….”.
    6. 6. Leveson Report =1987 pages • Of which 15 devoted to recommendations on plurality. • Pitched at level of “desirable outcomes and broad policy framework”. • Unlike his detailed scheme for independent press self-regulation, detail left to government. • Consultation Paper published in July 2013.
    7. 7. “A new measurement framework” • the types of media it should include • the genres it should cover • the types of organisation and services to which it should apply • the inclusion of the BBC • the audiences with which it should be concerned
    8. 8. 3 major lacunae • Nothing about political decision-making process and role of regulatory bodies. • Nothing about potential for new policy initiatives to promote plurality. • Simplistic approach to measurement focussed entirely on consumption. Will concentrate on first two issues…….
    9. 9. How (UK) governments approach concentration of media power Two views: -Assumptions about media power create fear of political action = pragmatic inaction -Belief in market-driven solutions = ideological inaction
    10. 10. Case study of Labour gov’t 1997-07 • Blamed media power for 1992 defeat • Reassessed relationship with media companies 1994-97 • Fundamentally shifted media ownership policy from interventionist to laissez faire • July 1995 Blair →Hayman Islands and Murdoch’s News Corp conference • Within 3 months opposed all o’ship caps
    11. 11. Case study of Labour gov’t 1997-07 • 2003 Communications Act – – Allowed foreign ownership of TV companies – Allowed cross-ownership of Channel 5 • Conventional wisdom: buying support of powerful proprietor who could ease path to political power (and sustain it). • But need to revise view based on Blair evidence
    12. 12. Case study of Labour gov’t 1997-07 • On Hayman Islands: “my speech held closely to all the policies I believed in”. • Guardian report: “a bold pitch for the new Labour Party he is shaping”. • Nothing given away in media policy • “Between 1994-1997, we did change Labour’s policy on media ownership” but “sound objective reasons” for doing so. • Formed the basis of CA03 ownership changes.
    13. 13. Rationale for ownership changes • Media concentration is “best dealt with as a competition issue”. • “The issue is the culture and rules under which people play.” • “….it was necessary to have other media owners with heft, with the ability to put major investment in”.
    14. 14. 6 issues where Murdoch was defied • • • • Buying Man Utd (complied with MMT rec) Sky opposed new BBC channels and online… and fiercely opposed BBC licence fee increases Introduced Ofcom, strong converged regulator which put Sky under far greater scrutiny. • Stopped Sky being able to buy ITV (“which they really wanted, not Channel 5”). • Ignored their opposition to listed events for sport – “we protected and extended them”.
    15. 15. Conclusion on the Challenge • Revisionist theory of New Labour and CA03: ideology rather than pragmatism • Top-down structural reform will be constrained by market-driven neo-liberal thinking • Though ?within a social democratic framework, tempered by behavioural interventions • Cf Robert Reich and “Supercapitalism” – regulation to safeguard citizen values
    16. 16. Reich, Supercapitalism, p126 “Markets have become hugely efficient at responding to individual desires for better deals but are quite bad at responding to goals we would like to achieve together. As companies are pressured to show profits, tougher measures are needed to guard public health, safety, the environment, and human rights against the possibility that executives may feel compelled to cut corners.”
    17. 17. Gibbons and Humphreys, p4 “Within a context of globalisation, commercialisation and technological change, regulatory competition between jurisdictions keen to maximise media investment is leading to substantive (if not formal) deregulation (a ‘race to the bottom’). Hypothesis No.1
    18. 18. And the opportunity….. • • • • • • • • Charitable journalism Not for profit models Foundation funding University journalism depts Local online startups Community radio Partnerships with PSBs Partnerships with established local press
    19. 19. Needs money AND creative policies • In UK Community Radio Order 2004, means… • Ofcom can license nfp stations according to criteria which relate to “social gain”. • Small grants available from DCMS. • Local subsidies confined to the press. Why? • Journalism not defined as charitable. Why not? • ISP levies, aggregator levies, recording device levies: to subsidise new and original content at local, regional, national level = greater plurality