Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster, author and broadcaster on media issues
Steven Barnett is Professor of Communications at the University of Westminster and an established writer and commentator on media issues, specialising in media policy, regulation, journalism ethics and broadcasting. He has acted as specialist adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications for the last five years, most recently for their inquiry into Investigative Journalism published last year, and was twice called to give oral evidence to the Leveson inquiry. Over the last 30 years, he has advised a number of government and opposition spokespeople, given evidence to several parliamentary committees as well as the European Parliament, and has directed numerous research projects on the structure, funding, and regulation of communications in the UK and other countries. He was for many years an Observer columnist, writes for the national and specialist press, and is the author or co-author of a number of books. His latest book, The Rise and Fall of Television Journalism, was published by Bloomsbury in November 2011.
It's rare to see any cabinet minister being warmly congratulated by her opposition shadow in the House of Commons. On matters involving Rupert Murdoch, it is virtually unprecedented. Governments of all shades in Britain have an almost unbroken record of abject surrender when it comes to tackling the sprawling expansion of Murdoch's media empire.
For the right wing of the Conservative Party, there is a deep ideological conviction that private is always better than public, and only the market can deliver value - not to mention a passionate belief in the BBC's left-wing bias, despite clear evidence to the contrary.
Election day 2017 saw a predictable barrage of propaganda headlines from Britain's predominantly right-wing press, pleading with readers to give queen Theresa the mandate she was demanding and administer a bloody good kicking to the socialist terrorist-hugging Corbyn.
Why would the government launch a public consultation on legislation that Parliament has already passed by an overwhelming majority? Might they be worried that voters are suddenly enraged or alarmed by some terrible injustice? Are they beset by fears of some kind of popular uprising?
Our mainstream media failed spectacularly. Led, inevitably, by the viscerally anti-EU Mail, Sun, Express and Telegraph papers, most of our national press indulged in little more than a catalogue of distortions, half-truths and outright lies: a ferocious propaganda campaign in which facts and sober analysis were sacrificed to the ideologically driven objectives of editors and their proprietors.
Today's front page headline in the <em>Sun</em> covers almost the entire page. Accompanied by a chilling photo of a knife-wielding "Jihadi John" in black balaclava, it proclaims "1 IN 5 BRIT MUSLIMS' SYMPATHY FOR JIHADIS". It is a lie. Even worse, it is a shameful distortion of its own polling data, consciously designed to fuel terror and distrust of Muslims.
Within hours of the election result, we should have a clearer picture of whether the BBC will survive in its current form. With the current BBC Charter due to expire at the end of next year, the next government will barely have 18 months to consult on the terms of its renewal. It is perfectly possible, if results are only slightly worse for Labour and the Lib Dems than polls suggest, that an unholy alliance of Conservatives, Ulster Unionists from the DUP and a handful of Ukip MPs will see the BBC savaged to a point beyond repair. Its funding, remit, governance and possibly its very existence could be up for grabs.
It is a great shame that this apparently experienced international delegation fell wholesale for the self-serving corporate blather of UK publishers. Of course there are differences of opinion and passionately held views on a difficult issue. But there was no excuse for systematically ignoring those of us who gave up significant time to explain some basic, underlying facts about Britain's press history and political constitution.
Apart from the news plurality issue, a new takeover bid would raise other issues.... A wholly owned Sky will give Murdoch more leverage for cross-promotion across his empire, thereby entrenching his competitive advantage and further reducing the number of alternative voices.
If David Cameron skewers the cross-party Charter, we can be absolutely certain that the cycle of abuse will continue... Parliament has delivered its verdict, with overwhelming support from the public, and it's now up to Cameron to hold his nerve.
08/10/2013 10:50 BST
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