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Reviewed: Corbyn's Alternative MacTaggart Lecture

29 Aug 2018  |  Raymond Snoddy 
Reviewed: Corbyn's Alternative MacTaggart Lecture

Despite echoes of Trump and some crazy proposals, there is still a large measure of sense in Corbyn's ideas to transform the UK's "failing" media, writes Raymond Snoddy

Another day and more anti-Semitic headlines for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Attacks by Labour MPs of Jewish background such as Margaret Hodge are one thing, but to be roundly condemned by Lord Sacks, who served as Chief Rabbi for more than 20 years, quite another.

In passing, Lord Sacks put the boot in by suggesting that Corbyn's remarks about Zionists were the most offensive by a British politician since Enoch Powell's "rivers of blood" speech.

The Chief Rabbi did not directly equate the Labour leader with Powell, though he came close.

It was merely the most offensive since Powell, but Lord Sacks went on to denounce Corbyn as an anti-Semite who had "given support to racists, terrorists and dealers of hate."

Naturally, it was a perfect splash for the Daily Mail under the headline: "Corbyn's 'Rivers of Blood' Moment."

The latest turn in Corbyn's increasingly fractious rows with the UK's Jewish community and the media follows hard on the controversy over the wreath in the Tunis graveyard.

Was Corbyn involved - as opposed to just being there - and was there in any way an honouring of the memory of some of those accused of being involved in the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes?

It is now up to independent press regulator IPSO to untangle the saga of Corbyn and the wreath following the Labour leader's complaints against six national newspapers on grounds of accuracy.

It can be predicted with total accuracy that the relations between Corbyn and the media, the national press in particular, will continue to deteriorate in the run up to leaving the EU and the approach to what is likely to be an acrimonious general election.

There is a danger that Corbyn and his close associates will before long reach for Trump-like attacks on MSM - or mainstream media - used as a term of abuse.

In fact there are signs of it happening already.

The Labour leader accused the BBC last year of peddling "fake news" by reporting rumours of his possible resignation.

Last week Corbyn went further in his Alternative MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival by using Trumpian generalisations to announce "our media is failing."

What, all of it, in equal measure?

Corbyn then moved on to add "the latest statistics from the European Broadcasting Union show that the British people simply don't trust the media."

Actually, there is nothing simple about the use of such survey statistics or indeed simple about the use of the word trust and the British public's relationship with the media.

"For all our worries about new forms of fake news we've ignored the fact that most of our citizens think our newspapers churn out fake news day in, day out," Corbyn continued.

Some may think it, but it is absolutely not true and Corbyn is giving house-room in a rather slippery way to the idea that it is.

Of course, the ills are all down to the handful of right-wing billionaires who control most of the national press.

Some of Corbyn's close friends are even more extreme on the subject.

The latest tweet from Chris Williamson, Labour MP for Derby North, suggests that anyone fed up with the "biased reporting and smears of the MSM" should sign immediately for the Morning Star - circulation probably around 10,000.

According to his alt-MacTaggart lecture, Corbyn's relationship with the media began in a very positive way as a junior reporter on the Newport and Market Drayton Advertiser. It was "hard work but huge fun," Corbyn recalls. It has been downhill ever since.

Yet, despite echoes of Trump and some crazy ideas, there is a large measure of sense in Corbyn's four ideas designed to transform the future of the UK's "failing" media.

So it's no, Jeremy, to editors elected by journalists, even though it works in an indicative way at the Guardian, and his undimmed support for a Leveson 2 will do little to win him friends in the newspaper industry.

Elected board members of the BBC could lead to pandemonium in the social media age, and an expanded regional board - while attractive in principle - would increase both cost and bureaucracy.

But trying to persuade the lightly taxed social media technology giants to create a fund to support public interest media, including the BBC, beyond what they do already, is clearly a good idea.

Such funds could help to reduce the licence fee for the poorest families, a long-term injustice.

The trouble would come if compulsion had to be used. The cost of a tech tax would be passed on to consumers or even lead to reduced investment in the UK.

It would also be a good idea to remove the BBC from political pressure by giving the organisation full statutory status, with the chairmanship and the setting of the licence fee placed in the hands of an independent body.

The removal, or limiting of the Government's power of veto over Freedom of Information requests, is definitely worth a further look.

Equally promising is Corbyn's backing for former BBC executive James Harding's concept of a British Digital Corporation to sit alongside the BBC.

It would have the task of delivering entertainment and information on a scale to rival Netflix and Amazon.

Funding would clearly be a problem. A social media windfall tax would not be endlessly elastic and it might be better to build on the existing plan for Project Kangaroo, bringing together the main UK broadcasters including the BBC.

Overall it was a creative speech from Jeremy Corbyn with a number of good ideas worthy of further discussion and development.

Unfortunately to get any chance of implementing them he will have to get over rising allegations of anti-Semitism and historic links with terror groups and his past love affair with the collapsing political system in Nicaragua.

His economic policies will also come under further scrutiny from "the failing media" - in this case in The Times this week.

Clare Foges, after calling Corbyn "a pacifist who lauds blood-soaked murders", argued that his re-nationalisation plans would cost an estimated £176 billion - equal to 10% of national debt.

It's only a matter of time before such numbers are denounced as fake news. Bad! Or should that be Sad!

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NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 3 Sep 2018
“This ( popped up over the weekend, with Keeley Hawes fairly forcefully calling out ...incorrect reporting... in the Mail. It seemed pertinent; more relevantly, it just adds to a body of evidence for those who think the newspapers need to be regulated more closely.”
NickDrew, CEO, Fuse Insights on 30 Aug 2018
“With regard to your comment "Some may think it, but it is absolutely not true and Corbyn is giving house-room in a rather slippery way to the idea that it is" (about fake news in newspapers), you yourself have given more credence to the idea in previous columns, so you can't have it both ways.
Is the Daily Mail a bastion of true and truthful reporting, or does it make up hysterical interpretations of issues and events to galvanise its readership? Ever?
For defenders of offline media, the official line is "of course newspapers are always truthful and never tell lies"; and this unquestioning stance does no medium any favours. We know that the newspapers are guilty of exaggeration, of calling judges enemies of the people, of biased and distorted reporting on topics of particular focus to them - Brexit is just the easiest example to identify. Unfortunately, while that's brushed under the carpet, any attack on the credibility of online news sources just looks like a dislike of the medium, not the content.”
NigelJacklin, MD, Think Media Consultancy on 30 Aug 2018
“Politicians seem to forget that it helps if news is entertaining...hence why the media picked up on the 'crazy' aspects of Corbyns lecture (BBC content creators having to publish details of their parents occupation/social class). Cleary it's a bit of a stretch moving from the the trust scores to "most of our citizens think our newspapers churn out fake news day in, day out" which is also entertaining...and a fake fact.”