David Hawgood/Geograph

Own the Media: 4 Reasons the UK Needs a new Media Funding Revolution

by Callum MacRae

The Media Fund is currently raising money to launch on 10 December – promising a groundbreaking new cooperative to finance independent media in the UK. Through a website and app the fund will provide maximum simplicity for public users to set up regular direct debits to independent media organisations; taking the burden of fundraising off the shoulders of independent media organisations whilst increasing publicity and outreach. Here are four reasons to support them.

1. High Quality Independent Media Requires Resources

Put simply, without the money to pay editors and contributors alternative media organisations are extremely limited in their operations. Every article that finds its way onto a website like Novara or Open Democracy has to be researched, written, fact checked, edited, formatted, checked against a style guide, etc. And when all this work is being performed by unwaged volunteers there’s an unavoidable time constraint which prevents alternative media platforms from working at their optimal level. In order to stop journalistic standards from slipping, these organisations have to cut down on output – which means there are some stories which just can’t get out there. In effect, the new alternative media that we have seen flood onto the scene in the last five to ten years has been running in second or third gear. Imagine what it could achieve if it made it into first.

2. Without Money Alternative Media Is Limited to Analysis

A key way that alternative media is constrained by the funding obstacle is in the limiting of its scope to commentary and analysis. New media has done some excellent work in recent years taking apart the work of the mainstream media and highlighting its artifices and omissions — commentary, opinion pieces, and analysis of current affairs proliferate. But original reportage and independent investigations take time and money that independent media organisations often just don’t have. Consequently, without a massive change in the way we fund our independent media, oligarchs and the state will always set the parameters of debate. We might have some of the best minds in the game when it comes to incisive analysis, but without the funding to launch our own investigations we can have little say in what it is that gets analysed.

3. The Mainstream Media Fuels the Far Right

The vast majority of the UK’s traditional media is in the hands of either mogul billionaires or the state – with an astonishing 60% of Britain’s newspaper market shared between just Rupert Murdoch and Lord Rothermere, and 73% of the BBC’s statistics coming directly from the Tory government. Where these media outlets aren’t responding directly to the right-wing political biases of their bosses, they’re putting circulation figures above ethics. For example, the mainstream media have often afforded far more airtime to UKIP with their slick PR than has been proportional to the party’s popular appeal. Farage was the second most frequently featured guest on Question Time from 2008-2012 (a crucial period in their rise to prominence) and was named ‘Briton of the Year’ by The Times in 2014.

Moreover, a recent study by political scientists at the University of Southampton found strong evidence that the unusually extensive media coverage of UKIP had a significant and unique causal role to play in their rise to electoral success. With far right nationalism on the rise throughout the west, our mainstream media only serves as a catalyst for hate. To fight it we need an alternative media that can pull its own weight – and that takes independent funding.

4. The Mainstream Media Keep Getting It Wrong

Brexit. Scottish Independence. Corbyn. the 2015 General Election. Trump. On the vast majority of the major calls in current affairs in the last few years the mainstream media have either been downright wrong, or have massively underestimated the extent to which their readers’ views differ from their own. An elite complacency has sunk in that hampers their ability to accurately predict and take seriously the vast reserves of anti-establishment sentiment that exist in most western post-industrial societies. The mainstream media is unreliable and unfit for purpose – we can depend neither on their investigative results nor their data collection. We need our own studies, our own reports, our own polls. And for this we need our own funding.

The Media Fund is set to be the biggest and most comprehensive attempt to collectively and independently fund alternative media in recent memory. Through collective action we can come together to be more than the some of our parts. Through collective action our combined might can challenge the stranglehold of the state and multinational corporations. Through collective action we can own the media.

The Media Fund is currently running a £10, 000 fundraising campaign to cover the costs of start-up and development. To find out more and donate, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/mediafund

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Published 24th November 2016

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