In the UK, press freedom is a fiercely contested issue. Scandals and slander are perceived to have engulfed the nation’s media for years. Of course, much of this is for good reason – Hillsborough and the Sun come to mind, as does phone hacking. Yet more and more it becomes a front to fight political battles. For instance, when outlets report anything negative from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s long and deeply questionable history, his supporters claim the reports are nothing more than ‘smears’ orchestrated by the ‘Tory press’. This is rather reminiscent of hardline Trump supporters’ shouts of ‘fake news’.
There is perhaps an element of newspapers and other outlets bringing this on themselves. Stories about Corbyn’s past have certainly been exaggerated at times to create a good headline. However, what has been reported about Corbyn has rarely, if ever, been factually inaccurate. Had it been, the Labour leader would have filed and won legal cases against the outlets reporting it, as he has already shown his willingness to do when reports have been genuinely inaccurate. That he has not done so is telling.
The eagerness of left wing activists to decry all negative coverage as smears, though, has been highly effective. Although it is not true, it has created doubt and mistrust of newspapers in the public. As a result, Corbyn is not held to account for his past, and Labour politicians have survived scandals which would be career-ending for others. John McDonnell and Diane Abbott openly speaking in support ofterrorist organisations and communist despots respectively springs to mind.
While Corbynites are quick to ignore anything coming from the ‘mainstream media’, they are equally fast to believe anything from their preferred alternative media. Labour propaganda blogs like the Skwawkbox, the Canary and Evolve Politics are treated as infallible in Labour circles. Meanwhile, the BBC is considered ‘right wing’ for daring to hosts guests from think tanks promoting free market ideas. A drive to prevent donors to such think tanks from being allowed anonymity is one of the latest Corbynite crazes.
This background makes Labour’s new media policy even more sinister. Announced by Jeremy Corbyn in a speech on fixing the UK’s media, the policy has several key elements.
First, taxing net giants like Netflix, Spotify and broadband providers to fund journalism and subsidise the licence fee. This combines economic ineptitude with totalitarian regime-style implications. If taxes were placed on these firms, all they would do is up their prices. This would be a tax on all internet users. Further, it makes the BBC even more dependent on politics, giving more incentive for bias. It is funding other journalism with the proceeds which makes Corbyn seem like a tinpot totalitarian, though. Who decides which journalists receive the funding? Corbyn’s speech referred to ‘public interest journalism’ – which sounds ever so slightly worrying.
Second, Corbyn proposed the public electing representatives to the BBC’s governing board. This sounds innocent enough but has worrying implications. Consider who is most likely to vote in these elections. A vast majority of the population have little interest in changing the BBC, creating the opportunity for very low turnout elections just like Police and Crime Commissioner elections. The winning candidates would be those with a support base who bother to turn up – the radicals who claim the current system is biased against them. In the UK today, that means the hard left and their useful idiots.
In short, when Jeremy Corbyn and his team talk of changing the media, what they really mean is controlling it. As with all socialist and fascist regimes, what is presented as change ‘for the many’ prior to election is really about control. It is time the nation woke up to this threat.