Jeremy Corbyn: News reporters should have power to elect their editors to limit 'media barons'
Jeremy Corbyn today said news reporters should be able to elect their editors in a bid to “limit the power of unaccountable media barons”.
The Labour leader said journalists and producers should also join forces with consumers to take seats on news company boards, as he floated a string of radical ideas for media reform.
And he suggested a new ‘British Digital Corporation’ could sit alongside the existing BBC to deliver digital information and entertainment and even set up a social media outlet to rival Facebook.
The Labour leader has had a fractious relationship with the British media and just last week filed a complaint with the press watchdog over coverage of a 2014 wreath laying ceremony he attended.
Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival today, he insisted his proposals were not “retribution or retaliation” for coverage of Labour, and added: “I don’t see journalists as enemies at all.”
But he argued press “barons” were “failing” and said he wanted to see reporters “set free to do their best work, not held back by bosses, billionaire owners, or the state”.
The Labour leader said that one “radical” idea for the private sector would be to allow journalists to elect their editors “when a title or programme gets particularly large and influential”.
He said the plan would leave editors “accountable to their staff - and their journalistic ethics - as well as to corporate bosses and shareholders”.
And he added: “To improve our media, open it up and make it more plural we need to find ways to empower those who create it and those who consume it over those who want to control and own it.”
In a blast at the press, he argued the “unhealthy sway of a few corporations and billionaires shapes and skews the priorities and worldview” of the broadcasters.
“Just because it's on the front page of The Sun or the Mail doesn't automatically make it news,” he explained.
And he added: “The owners and editors of most of our country’s newspapers have dragged down standards so far that their hard working journalists are simply not trusted by the public…
"For all the worry 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."
But asked by a Times journalist whether Brexit would be good for Britain - a question he refused to answer when asked six times by Channel 4 - he said: "I realise this is becoming a game."
BRITISH DIGITAL CORPORATION
Turning to the BBC, he said reporters and licence fee payers should also be able to elect some of its board members and stamp out any government influence in the appointment process.
Other ideas for the national broadcaster included further equalities transparency over staff makeup and ending government control over charter renewal.
Mr Corbyn said tech firms could pay a windfall tax to help subsidise the licence fee – and he floated the idea of a separate digital service to compete with major streaming and social media firms.
“The public realm doesn’t have to sit back and watch as a few mega tech corporations hoover up digital rights, assets and ultimately our money,” he argued.
“This technology doesn’t have an inbuilt bias towards the few. Government is standing by and letting the few take advantage of the many using technology.”