Conglomeration, consolidation, corporatism and infotainment journalism prevents vital information from reaching citizens in favour of trivia and issues that serve the agenda of corporate powers. Big media threatens the few non-commercial voices, i.e. public service, that still don’t suffer from bottom line myopia and metrofication (short shallow news in contrast to investigative reporting, like the model of international free paper Metro). The result is a vanishing debate in society and a status quo in political regimes on both sides of the pond. This is, in short, the situation at the moment if you listen to some influential commentators. The solution? An extreme media makeover?
Pontus Schultz, journalist and media debater at web publication DagensPS.se reflects on a debate he participated in the other day, where Eva Hamilton, potentially a coming leader of Swedish public service channels SVT voiced her worries over the threats against public service television. ”Public service has never been under such an attack as now”, she meant, not only referring to political pressure on SVT’s role model BBC. She also pointed at coordinated attacks on EU-level from the commercial interests that want to limit the space for public service, on programming level and regarding what possibilities public service should have in the new media arena.
At the same time Anders Kempe and Anders Lindberg at PR agency JKL argues that Swedish media needs to be challenged more and that Sweden has turned into a one party state (sound familiar?) where few dare to challenge the ruling social democratic regime and their followers. With the same party in charge 21 of the last 24 years, everyone pretty much assumes a leftist government win also in 2006. It costs more and more for those who have opposing opinions and the tendency by corporations is to nurture relations with the ruling crowd instead of focusing on opinion building, minimizing the debate in society down to a minimum. Few dare to challenge the powers of leading politicians and media.
Or as Amy Goodman put it when she spoke with NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker about what she sees as the corruption of mainstream media.
In your book, you fault the media for asking softball questions in return for access to those in power.
Right. We call it the ‘access of evil’: Trading truth for access.
David Neiwert, a freelance journalist based in Seattle runs a blog called Orcinus, where he not only analyses the problems of journalism today, but also suggest a solution – a media revolt manifesto (please read this post, it’s very long but it’s worth it). He claims that media is not fulfilling its obligations today. Conglomeration and infotainment journalism prevents vital information from reaching citizens.
”Conglomeration and the increasing grip of monolithic corporatism has reduced the diversity of voices and viewpoints that are available to the public at all levels, from small local papers to major networks.”
His suggestion for a counter attack on media is summarized in a Media Revolt Manifesto. Interestingly he points to blogs as a means of shifting the power balance and increase diversity.
”But we have to get organized. And after years of wandering in the
wilderness, I believe that 2004 is the year to make it happen — if for no other reason than that the stakes are so high.
The main reason, though, is that I think the tools for serious change are finally within our reach. And the chief tool is the Internet, the
blogosphere in particular.
Blogs represent, in fact, the real democratization of journalism, which traditionally has always been about the work of keeping the public duly and properly informed. Stories and vital facts now no longer need go through the New York Times and NBC News in order to gain wide distribution. Blogs can effectively reach as many people as several large city dailies combined. And the network of their combined efforts represents a massive shift of data around the traditional media filters.
Blogs can also be terrific means for organizing, particularly for putting together a concerted response to political and media atrocities. One need only survey the ability of blogs to affect real-world politics — their role in bringing about the fall of Trent Lott was just a start — to understand that their power can readily extend to reshaping the media, since they represent in themselves a kind of citizens’ solution to needed reforms in the media.”
“Blogs, in other words, can and should play the role abdicated by the mainstream media both in monitoring their own behaviour and ethics, and in providing enough diversity that a wealth of viewpoints are given fair treatment, as in any healthy democratic society, and the public properly served.”
I’m not convinced that journalists agree with all this. Nevertheless, that’s a huge responsibility. Are we ready to bring the power back to the people, or do we rather lean back in the sofa in front of the latest reality show?