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 public media: owned by us, accountable to us, where we get to play a part in creating the media we need.
The BBC and Beyond is a campaign from the Media Reform Coalition, trying to reimagine what public media can be in the digital age. In 2021 will be creating a Manifesto for a People’s Media, with ideas for re-envisaging the BBC, Channel 4, and democratically-run independent media.
Join us as we create our Manifesto & build a movement to demand the media we deserve.
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We will be hosting workshops on our Manifesto for a People’s Media in the autumn – watch this space for updates!
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 will be written in summer 2021, with a public launch in Parliament towards the end of the year. 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.
It will contain ideas for making the public media we do have fit for purpose: how can we make the BBC and Channel 4 more democratic and accountable, so we can defend them against threats from government and commercial competitors? And it will have proposals for sustaining and growing media cooperatives and community media, who are often the ones truly offering the public media we need.
Contribute to the manifesto
If you’ve got any great ideas for the Manifesto, send them here:
WHAT ARE PUBLIC MEDIA?
‘Public media’ are media institutions that act in the public interest, rather than the interests of politicians, wealthy owners or powerful businesses. In the UK today, public media are the best of public broadcasting, as well as media cooperatives and democratically-run community media.
Public media are:
These are similar to the founding principles of our public broadcasters, the BBC and Channel 4, but we believe these institutions need updating and reimagining for a digital, cross-platform age.
Q: Do we have public media today?
The idea of public media is in some ways an aspiration – it’s a concept that we need to create and imagine together. Although there are lots of media institutions that live out some of the principles of public media, there are also constraints that make it hard to meet them all at the same time.
At the national level, the closest institutions are the BBC and Channel 4, which are both publicly owned and have ‘public service obligations’ to inform, educate and entertain (ITV and Channel 5 have these as well in a more limited way). Their obligations are underpinned by principles of being independent of vested interests (particularly the government), being universal, cultivating citizenship, and being high quality. You will probably have your own opinions about whether these channels really do fulfil these obligations. We believe these institutions need transforming to properly live them, and that they also need new obligations to involve the public in making decisions.
There are a number of independent media institutions who are experimenting with more participatory ways of producing media, such as the Bristol Cable and The Ferret, the community journalism of Bureau Local, and community radio station such as Bradford Community Broadcasting. These are probably the kinds of institutions that are closest to our definition of public media, but they face different challenges, particularly around sustainable funding and making their content universally accessible.
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 Professor Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths) and the Vice-Chair is Dr Tom Mills (Aston University).
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