The UK’s media is struggling to do its job. The pandemic and Brexit have shown how far we are from having the media that we need – trusted institutions which can help a divided society talk to each other and hold the powerful to account. We can’t rely on private media companies to meet the challenges we face. We need media which is owned by us, accountable to us, where we all get to play a part in creating it: we need to build a media commons.
The BBC and Beyond is a campaign from the Media Reform Coalition. After dozens of conversations and 9 highly successful events (watched by 30,000 people) we have drafted a Manifesto for a People’s Media, which contains a vision of a media commons fit for the future.
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ACTIONS & EVENTS
In October 2021, we are running two workshops to look in more detail at different aspects of the Manifesto for a People’s Media:
The Independent Media Commons
Today’s media cooperatives, community radio stations and open-source digital innovators are already showing how communities can successfully manage shared resources to serve the common good. We think these need to be recognised as playing as important a role in social life as our public broadcasters, and properly supported and expanded to reach all communities. The manifesto contains a longer-term vision for what an Independent Media Commons could look like if it was funded on the scale of Channel 4, as well as immediate next steps towards that vision.
This workshop is open to all, but we particularly want to hear from people involved in the independent media sector.
Digital and data
We want to make sure digital technologies are properly integrated into our plans for a transformed BBC and Channel 4, and our vision of an Independent Media Commons. This workshop will look at proposals like setting up data trusts, and how digital technologies can enable other proposals e.g. for making our media system more participatory.
This workshop is open to all, but we particularly want to hear from people who have been thinking about the digital commons, and those involved in Open Source, non-profit and community-oriented tech initiatives.
July 14th, 2021. With Anamik Saha, Goldsmiths; Francesca Sobande, Cardiff University; Penny Wangari-Jones, Racial Justice Network and BCB; and Dan Lewis, Bywire; chaired by Marcela Pizarro. The conversation covered topics such as how community media can be part of antiracist organising, why blockchain might be a more accountable kind of technology than the internet, and why public media needs to move from promoting ‘diversity’ to embracing ‘reparative justice’.
The Manifesto for a People’s Media is currently being written, and will be made public following our October workshops. It imagines a system where significant new public investment and new forms of participation ensure that our media are independent, accountable, democratic and for everyone. And it contains a wide range of proposals to build towards that vision by transforming the BBC and Channel 4, and properly supporting independent media.
The manifesto will be launched in Parliament towards the end of 2021. It will be promoted with politicians, sent to the Department of Culture Media and Sport, and submitted to the BBC mid-term charter review in April 2022.
WHAT IS A MEDIA COMMONS?
A commons is a collective resource sustained through the active participation of those who rely on it. In a media commons, our media would be funded through significant public resources, and managed collectively so they serve our needs and help us face the challenges ahead.
The media commons wouldn’t replace all commercial media. But it would become the heart of a media system that is fit for the future – just as the NHS is the public heart of healthcare.
In a media commons, media will be:
While this is a bold vision, the seeds of the media commons already exist within the UK media landscape today – in the best of public broadcasting, as well as media cooperatives and democratically-run community media.
Q: Why do we need a media commons?
The 2020s are set to be a decade of huge challenges – whether that’s the climate crisis, public health emergencies, or the possible break-up of the UK. We urgently need a media that can help us interrogate these problems, find solutions and support the transformations we need. Yet trust in media in the UK is at a record low, and the media landscape is dominated by huge, unaccountable corporations who have no answers to the challenges we face.
Research from across the globe shows that private media is incapable of producing news, cultural content and digital technologies in the public interest, and there is an urgent need for large-scale public investment. Yet public media like the BBC also face declining trust and interference from government. Rather than just calling for more public media, we need to call for a media commons that is deeply participatory and rooted in communities.
Our vision of a media commons in one that contains a People’s BBC and Channel 4 – institutions which have been radically transformed to become far more devolved and participatory. And it also contains an Independent Media Commons – a thriving ecology of people’s newsrooms, community radio stations, digital innovators and cultural producers, supported by significant public resources to tell the stories of all the UK’s communities.
WHO WE ARE
The Media Reform Coalition was founded in 2011. For the past decade, it has brought together academics, media professionals and activists to demand that Britain’s media ecology become more accountable, democratic and sustainable. The current Chair is Dr Tom Mills (Aston University) and Vice Chair is Riaz Meer (BECTU).
The BBC and Beyond: Reimagining Public Media is a campaign running up until April 2022. The campaign coordinator is Dr Debs Grayson. The Campaign Advisory Board is:
- Sophie Chalk – policy advisor, Voice of the Listener & Viewer
- Debs Durojaiye – Afrotech Fest
- Rizwana Hamid – Centre for Media Monitoring, Muslim Council of Britain
- Mathew Lawrence – Common Wealth
- Lindsay Mackie – New Weather Institute
- Riaz Meer – BECTU and Media Reform Coalition Co-ordinating Committee
- Pascale Robinson – We Own It
- Marcus Ryder – Executive, Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity
- Dr. Marcela Pizarro – Northwestern University Qatar/former Al Jazeera English
The BBC and Beyond is supported by The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust
Ideas, thoughts, suggestions?
Please contact campaign coordinator Debs Grayson at dgray012 [at] gold dot ac dot uk