I am with David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch in one respect on the Leveson report. British mainstream politicians are still more repulsive and self-seeking than the British mainstream media, and state regulation of the media, however modulated, is not good.
But Leveson was answering the wrong question.
The real problem is the ownership structure of UK mainstream media. Newspapers and broadcasters function as the propaganda tool of vast and intertwined corporate interests, shaping public opinion to the benefit of those corporate interests and ensuring popular support for politicians prepared to be complicit with those interests.
The only answer to this is to break up the corporate structure of the UK mainstream media. The legislative framework to do this is not difficult. What needs to be changed are the criteria. I would propose something like this; no organisation, state or private, should be allowed effective control of more than 20% of the national or regional newspaper market or the television market, or more than 15% of those combined markets.
The extraordinary thing is that Leveson specifically states that plurality issues do fall within his terms of reference, and that he must address them. He then completely fails to address them. At pages 29-30 of the executive summary of his report, he acknowledges that the current situation is unsatisfactory but makes no recommendations for change, only urging “Greater transparency on decision making on mergers”.
Leveson has provided us with the distraction of an argument about a regulatory body to look primarily at invasion of privacy abuse. The important factor for Leveson is not what Cameron or Clegg think of that idea. It is what Murdoch and the media corporations think of it, and the truth is that they could live with it, after huffing and puffing, because it would have zero effect on theirfinancial bottom line.
But what Leveson has totally failed to do – and doubtless never had the slightest intention of doing – was anything that hurts the corporate financial interests. Leveson’s failure seriously to address the question of media ownership and its use in the nexus of commercial and political interests is itself an appalling act of establishment collusion. Very successfully so – in all the “debate” going on about the regulatory body, the media ownership question has completely vanished. Brilliant.