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17th November 2021

The elitist control over UK media: A call for a transformational response

Millionaires control the media … Here’s why we should have a collective ownership model instead
The elitist control over UK media: A call for a transformational response
Rupert Murdoch and Wendi Murdoch: anon @ Wikimedia

In recent years it has become more and more apparent that a large section of our newspapers and media are controlled by a very small collection of wealthy elites. A recent report by the media reform coalition reveals that “just three companies (News UK, Daily Mail Group and Reach) dominate 90% of the national newspaper market”. This concentrates the power and influence of the media into very few hands. 

With this modern age of easily accessible online media and rapidly-spreading stories, control over the media brings huge political power. Since most of these media outlets are controlled by billionaires, we can see the spreading of their own ideologies and beliefs in a way that will benefit them and push forward their own political agenda. Essentially, and scarily, they can mould the views of voters to their own will. 

This was seen in the 2019 general election, when tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail launched frequent attacks on Jeremy Corbyn. A Sun article from the 8th December 2019 opened by claiming that “this Friday the 13th could be the darkest day in British peacetime history if Jeremy Corbyn is ushered into No10”. This right-wing bias is rife among the media, with billionaire Rupert Murdoch owning the global media business News Corp that also owns The Sun. Murdoch’s attempts to prevent a left-wing government in the UK are clearly done in his own interest. Corbyn’s proposed policies involved redistributive taxation policies which would have hit the pockets of Murdoch (who now has a net worth of 23.5 billion dollars)

The Sun claims to “stand for ordinary working people”, yet it’s output of stories uphold the position of billionaires like Murdoch. There is very little representation of the interests of working-class people in our corporate, money-making media. It is wrong for such extreme political power to be vested into the hands of billionaires purely because of their wealth – money should not bring this much political influence. Control should be put into the hands of the majority and not just granted to those with wealth. 

A solution posed to this issue of billionaire control over media is the idea of collective community ownership. In this model, ordinary working people would be able to have influence in what is being written and would be able to have their views and their experiences accurately portrayed. The working class would then be able to read perspectives that consider them rather than those that only suit the ideologies of the one percent. 

Another necessary change required to reform media is to bring local journalism back into public control. Over recent years control of local newspapers and radio stations has increasingly been taken away from the local community and put into the hands of large corporations – just 6 companies now account for nearly 84% of the titles in UK local news. How are large corporations who don’t even understand or care about the areas that they are reporting for able to create representative journalism?

The issue of billionaires controlling what information is spread extends past our traditional perceptions of media. Looking beyond newspapers, radio, and TV we can begin to see that social media also fits into this pattern of elitist control. Owned by Mark Zuckerberg, who according to Forbes has a net worth of 116.1 billion US dollars, Facebook controls 3 of the top 5 social media services used to access online news in the UK. With the huge and growing influence of social media, it is especially dangerous that this much power is placed into the hands of one individual.

Zuckerberg is free to control what information people can view on his platforms which brings into question the ethics of one individual being able to place this much control over what people access. What we view on social media can be hugely influential and can often lead to misinformation or presentation of just a single side to the story.

Concentrated ownership is an increasing issue on both a local and global level. This can hugely influence policy decisions and election results so that they favour a tiny group of elites rather than most of the population. It is truly unethical that ordinary people should have so little say in how journalism is conducted. Free, fair, and inclusive media, which relies upon the collective participation of ordinary people, is necessary now more than ever.

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