The Leveson Inquiry has a broad remit: the culture, practice and ethics of the British press. A new media reform group has submitted their evidence and is urging Leveson not to sideline one of the pivotal issues: media ownership.
This week at the Leveson Inquiry, Ed Miliband and John Major both called for new ownership caps to be applied to the media. Major specified the need to prohibit any company from commanding more than 20 percent of cross media revenues, whilst Miliband focussed on the need to limit the share of newspaper audiences. Both these principles are cornerstones of the Co-ordinating Committee for Media Reform’s latest proposals submitted to Lord Leveson ahead of the final sessions of his inquiry this summer. (Read the evidence here from the CCMR website or here in PDF).
The proposals were produced in response to a special invitation from Lord Leveson and they follow extensive consultation we have undertaken with a range of civil society stakeholders over the past year. In addition to caps, the proposals outline measures designed to protect the autonomy and integrity of both journalists and editors working in major news organisations; a system of levies to fund public interest media via a new Public Media Trust; and a statutory-backed News Publishing Commission to replace the PCC.
Taken together, we believe they present a holistic solution to the myriad problems that have been uncovered over the course of the Inquiry hearings. Moreover, we believe they are achievable and entirely appropriate to the current political and economic climate and they broadly reflect an emerging consensus among organisations committed to media reform. Most importantly, we believe they offer an overall approach that addresses both the symptoms and root causes of the problems at hand.
James Curran, Chair of the Coordinating Committee for Media Reform, said: "Never before has there been such a united front against the perils of concentrated media power". If we want to see long-lasting and meaningful change in the way that our media are owned, structured and operated, now is the time to seize the moment in calling for substantive and consensual measures of reform.
The Co-ordinating Committee for Media Reform ↑ is a newly-formed umbrella organization of advocacy groups, academics and individuals campaigning for meaningful reform of the UK media. The proposals submitted built on three briefing papers produced in November 2011 covering Ethics, Plurality and the Public Interest, and Funding. See here for OurKingdom's breakdown of the papers, with responses from media experts and practitioners.
Media Reform has also issued the following statement, and are seeking endorsement from individuals and institutions for submission to Leveson by the 29th June deadline. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to give your endorsement.
Ownership is a Key Issue: Submission to Leveson
The Leveson Inquiry has so far revealed valuable details about the complicit relationships between police, politicians and large media corporations that undermine prospects for real democracy in this country. It has also highlighted the need for substantial reform of our media system, parts of which have, for too long, sanctioned unethical and illegal practices and fostered a culture of impunity among their perpetrators.
We fully support reforms to press regulation and debates about how to protect free expression but we also believe that such reforms will fail if they are not accompanied by a more decisive challenge to the concentration of media ownership and a more robust pursuit of media plurality.
In the light of the recent publication of the Inquiry's call for further evidence, we are concerned that this focus on the need for structural change is in danger of being lost amidst much needed but narrower discussions concerning freedom of expression and the best way to balance editorial independence with public oversight, a debate largely framed by editors and proprietors.
This is all the more worrying given that the original terms of reference for the Inquiry specifically called for recommendations about plurality and ownership. Indeed Lord Justice Leveson himself recently insisted that he wanted ‘to provide something that's meaningful and helpful’ in relation to recommendations concerning media policy, regulation and cross-media ownership.’
We are faced with a huge opportunity to put in place a more accountable and transparent media system that will do justice to the journalists who work in it as well as the public who depend on it. It is vital that we do not lose sight of the overwhelming need to break up the concentrations of media power that have corrupted British political life.