for diverse, democratic and accountable media

Proposals to the Labour Party - February 2000

policies & issues |

Posted by The Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

Getting the media on Labour's agenda

The current round of Labour's local policy forums presents an opportunity for CPBF supporters in the Labour Party to raise media related issues under the subjects Industry, Culture and Agriculture. These are being discussed in local policy forums during February and March. Set out below is a discussion document 'Media Reform - Opportunities for Change' which contains proposals the Campaign would like to see adopted as party policy. If you can't get to a local party forum, you can still make your views known by writing to the Policy Commission, Industry, Culture and Agriculture, The Labour Party, Millbank Tower, London SW1P 4GT. You could also send a copy to Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport at 2-4 Cockspur Streey, London SW1Y 5DH (email

Labour Party Policy Review 2000 - Industry, Culture and Agriculture Media Reform - Opportunities for Change

During the past twenty years the trend towards increased concentration of ownership across the media continued. By 1996 the major UK press and media groups had secured unprecedented changes to ownership regulations which enabled them to increase their stakes across media outlets. All of the recent mega-mergers in the USA and Britain's own smaller examples like the putative Carlton/United News and Media deal, are about ensuring market dominance and competitive advantage. The question to be addressed is whether this trend is good for democracy.

A recent book by the American media analyst, Robert W. McChesney has the revealing title Rich Media, Poor Democracy. It argues that the power of large media companies distorts the political process, with pressure exerted on politicians to change policies. Indeed media groups invest huge sums lobbying and in political donations to defend their interests.

The Right of Reply

The press is subject to self-regulation through the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) which considers thousands of complaints a year, finding papers at fault in only a handful of cases. Editors dominate the PCC, the national press finances it and it is not just judge and jury, but police and prosecutor too.

There is no sanction, except the publication of its adjudications and even that is voluntary. No one wants state control of the press, but a statutory requirement on papers to correct factual inaccuracies would be fair. One such scheme was a proposal in a Private Members Bill tabled by Clive Soley MP in 1992, which got wide support.

Public Service Broadcasting

In 1998 the Government asserted that: “Public service broadcasting will remain important as a benchmark of quality and as a guarantee of plurality, diversity and impartiality across the whole range of programming." (Regulating Communications: Approaching Convergence in the Information Age HMSO.)

This statement recognised the importance of maintaining public service obligations on the BBC, ITV, Channels 4 and 5 and S4C. But increased commercialism has pushed broadcasters into scheduling more soaps and fly-on the-wall documentaries in peak time, producing less original, challenging drama, squeezing current affairs to the margins and, in the case of ITV shifting the News and Ten to a later time. Public Inquiry into Media Policies The last twenty years have seen major changes in the landscape of the media industries. These changes have developed without proper public scrutiny.

The advent of digital broadcasting and on-line services raises major questions about the future of public service broadcasting. When elected in May 1997, the Government 'hit the ground reviewing'. However, no review was carried out into media policy and most of the changes introduced during eighteen years of Conservative rule remain intact.


The Government should initiate an independent year-long public inquiry into the ownership, accountability and regulation of the press and electronic media, including

  • a review of the Broadcasting Act 1996 and the future of broadcasting (including public service broadcasting);
  • a statutory Right of Reply to factual inaccuracies in the press;
  • the creation of an independent press authority to monitor and promote media freedom and to supervise the Right of Reply.


DATELINE: 24 January, 2010