Ian Harrison

Lettersto the Editor: Fighting media bias

Ian Harrison

IN RESPONSE TO JOHN MCDONNELL’S Column (November Briefing) on the need for a debate about media bias, what is needed to serve the Labour and trade union movement is a television and radio broadcasting service under its control.

I recognise the significance of the new social media referred to by John in countering media bias – with the most obvious example being the rallying of movements in defence of basic rights during the 2011 Arab Spring. But this is not sufficient to address the most pressing needs of the movement.

How can we overcome the obstacles and prepare for the sort of threat posed by spokesmen for the armed forces during and after Jeremy Corbyn’s election last year?

These threats were not just aimed at the leader of the Labour Party. They were aimed at the whole movement that secured his election then, and again this year.

In Britain the media has crafted for itself the pretence that it is a trustworthy, selfregulating body, providing news and opinion to the public, quite independent from the politicians pursuing the interests of corporate globalisation through class on class war, disguised as ‘austerity’.

These politicians from Thatcher to Blair to May have learned to benefit from this illusion – and benefit from the media vilifying trade unions and their members as ‘bullies’ and ‘thugs’, while the unemployed are portrayed as ‘benefit scroungers’ and ‘parasites’.

Our movement needs its own TV and radio service whose primary task will be to make working people the subject of their own development, to counter the image of the vilified object of the mainstream media. Within the existing press and media, as within the trade unions, there are principled journalists and technical staff who could form the core of such a project. It would be essential to draw on the experience of film and TV documentary makers such as Ken Loach, John Pilger and the younger generation following in their footsteps, as well as intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky. Side-by-side with this is the need – in the words of Caroline Benn - to “educate for life”.

We should recall the achievement of the Labour government in the late ’60s that created the Open University (OU). Till the early ’90s many TV programmes made by the OU for distance learning were freely accessible. Was it just accidental that these programmes ceased to be broadcast when one government after another made sustained attacks on education, school and university funding, curricula, teachers and student grants?

Today employers demand education for work – not for life!

West Sussex, Labour Party and Unite member.