The mainstream media is not only irrelevant to modern society, it is actively dangerous.
The mainstream media has, for a long time, been of great benefit to society. However in recent years this reporting has become more about drawing in consumers and attempting to influence politics, the result of a press left to its own devices without sufficient regulation. This needs to change, and fast.
Whilst previously the wide range of the mainstream media could have been seen as important, as well as beneficial to the global spreading of news, the birth of the internet and social media means that this is no longer the case. We have seen the internet’s ability to spread news quickly on countless occasions, meaning that stories can travel the world over before TV producers have even had chance to read them, or go viral and reach millions of people within hours. In 2011, residents on the East Coast of the United States even reported reading on Twitter about an earthquake 30 seconds before feeling it themselves.
The big problem with traditional mainstream media organisations is that they all have certain agendas. We have seen this in the past few months, with Jeremy Corbyn regularly being chastised by sections of the media for non-existent crimes, such as not bowing his head far enough at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. Various news organisations took this as an opportunity to present opinions as news, something we see all too often. Only a week before, the same section of the press had nothing to say when David Cameron’s staff “Photoshopped” a poppy onto the prime minister for the Downing Street Facebook page. I can picture the outrage if Corbyn’s staff had done the same thing.
We also frequently see inaccurate reporting from parts of the right-wing press on divisive issues such as immigration. The image below, taken from The Sun, shows an example of this. They had claimed in a headline that the European Commission said that the alleged 600,000 “benefit tourists” in the UK were not an issue, and later printed a very small correction (below).
Examples such as these add further proof that the mainstream media is driven by a specific political agenda. It is also clear from corrections such as the above, that there is no real desire to report facts. Compared to a front-page headline for an original story, clarifications are practically buried in the paper. Whilst the right-wing press is notorious for this, it is important to note that all sides of the political divide have their own agendas.
This is because big corporations have too much power over our media and ultimately over our politics. The Sun famously claimed after the 1992 election that “It’s The Sun Wot Won It”, referring to their supposed contribution to an unexpected Conservative victory. It is completely undemocratic for such media groups to hold such control over politics, and this is one of many reasons why regulation of the press is so important.
The Leveson Inquiry found the Press Complaints Commission insufficient, and recommended a new independent body which would be able to implement fines and provide direction with regards to the prominence of apologies and corrections. Whilst proposals were called “statutory regulation of the press” by some individuals and groups, including some of the major newspapers themselves, Lord Leveson rejected this. Reform of the press is essential, and as part of that, no news reporting organisation should be allowed to get away with intentionally publishing false information or reporting their own opinions as fact-based news.
Whilst individuals will always be biased, opinion should be kept completely separate from newspapers and news channels. Otherwise we risk blurring the line between fact and opinion further, leading to more undemocratic interference. It is true that individuals on social media are able to represent opinion as news, however it is much easier to refute an individual than it is a media organisation, and a single person does not hold the same power over communication as a media monopoly. As well as this, people are less likely to expect individuals to be factually accurate and are less likely to simply trust them in the same way that they do with newspapers and news channels.
The fall of the corporation-owned mainstream media is something that is gradually occurring, with newspaper sales falling by over half a million between March 2014 and March 2015 – however we can and must do more to accelerate it. We must not buy in to politically motivated lies, and must always be willing to question whether what we read is the truth. Only through this, alongside regulation of the press, can we ensure that the reporting is kept in the hands of the many, and not simply spreading the propaganda of the few.