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Journalism Is Becoming the Preserve of the Elite

17/06/2015 10:56 BST | Updated 15/06/2016 10:59 BST

In Tory Britain, the fact that I missed out on a scholarship - and consequently the chance to take a postgraduate degree in newspaper journalism - will hardly be tragedy of the decade. Yet it does illustrate a very troubling point: journalism is increasingly becoming the preserve of the elite.

My situation is simple. As an aspiring journalist, I want to attend City University (almost universally regarded as the best route into the industry) in September. Though I come from a relatively comfortable background, I do not have £9,000 to chuck at up front tuition fees - let alone the necessary finances to live in London. So, having not won a bursary, I cannot attend. Granted, there are other options both in the industry and financially (those extortionate bank loans do look surprisingly tempting from here) but the point is that if I was rolling in dosh I could have taken the best option regardless of scholarships - and mine is just one story among many.

Another City offer holder is frustrated that after "difficult and stressful" applications, both to the course and various scholarships, they too will not be able to attend purely because they are not rich enough. Despite obvious talent, the student, who wishes only be identified as 'working class' for fear of jeopardising future scholarships, claims to have "no choice but to defer this year to save up the money I need" but is also worried about paying the £500 deposit required for deferring. Meanwhile, far less able journalists will fill that place, purely and simply because they have far more money.

Essentially, that means the next generation of journalists will be disproportionately made up of rich kids.

That has serious implications. Already much of the mainstream media, largely backed by filthy rich owners with their own (frankly despicable, Mr Murdoch) agendas, have successfully convinced the public that non-issues like benefits 'scrounging' and immigration are the grand problems of our age; whilst members of the tax avoiding, financial-crash-causing elite face far less finger wagging.

Make no mistake, the media plays a huge part in setting the political agenda. Endless cuts in the name of clearing a deficit, which has been widely deemed economically illiterate by numerous experts, is still peddled as necessity by a media run by the rich. The problems of minorities and poorer people are widely ignored partly because we do not have enough diversity - and crucially underprivileged - voices in the media.

The Scott Trust scheme which I applied for is a fabulous initiative, but to really change this system, reform of the industry - and society as a whole - must go far deeper than a bursary here and there for a few talented kids from poorer backgrounds. Even the much needed proposals for postgraduate loans, due to come into force next year, cannot fully fund students. Without serious reform, then, the agenda will be increasingly set by the wealthy, for the wealthy.

Some will say it has always been so, and they do have a point, but it seems to be becoming a more deeply rooted phenomenon. Last year, the 'top hundred media professionals' were eight times more likely to have attended private schools than the average person, but with vital experience increasingly going to those who can afford unpaid internships and expensive postgraduate courses, that is only likely to increase.

The few voices in the press who do stand up for the vulnerable blast unpaid internships, but it is widely accepted that media hopefuls simply have to complete such placements if they ever hope to make it. This farcical, unchallenged arrangement is based on free, exploitative labour and applicant desperation in an employers' market. Only those who can stay with friends in London or have the resources to find other accommodation have a genuine chance of future success. That is due to a lack of contacts and money, not a lack of talent.

All this means working class voices are being silenced before they even get the chance to be heard. You can make still make it in the media from that background, but it is much, much harder - and that cannot be right.