I don’t usually share content from this site. Partly because that content to date has amounted to little more than variations on Ben Wray’s constant theme that the Scottish Government is getting it wrong whatever they do. Which, as one of the voters who nonetheless persist in electing the SNP, I find slightly insulting. Also, I have a policy – admittedly adhered to only sporadically – of not publicising political commentary sites which do not allow comments. Such outlets tend to be come a megaphone for the unchallenged and (effectively) unchallengeable views of some individual or clique promoting a narrow political agenda. I haven’t forgotten Open Space and what was done to that by people who considered themselves above question or scrutiny.
This article starts off in much the usual vein. It only gets out of the rut to drift towards a sweeping, self-serving apologia for the kind of self-styled journalists I’ve just been referring to. I have made my views on this matter very clear. To the credit of the author, he doesn’t stray too far into that territory and actually makes some fair points about media ownership and finances and the problems with support that takes the form of government largesse. I quote the final paragraph.
The answer is not for government to prop-up the owners of a broken newspaper model, but to treat the need for challenging, non-conformist journalism – free of malign corporate and state influence – like the cultural necessity it is. At the end of the day though, we can’t expect governments to support non-conformity; that’s almost a contradiction in terms. The non-conformists have to start the fire themselves.Free to Rebel?
I suspect I fall into the category of “non-conformist” as well as I do into the category of offended SNP voter. And I’m left to assume that by “start the fire” Ben Wray means start the flow of cash. I don’t think so, Ben. I, and I would hazard most of my fellow “non-conformists”, am not so readily induced to spend my money indiscriminately supporting those who appoint themselves to the category of ‘journalists’. There are journalists and there are journalists. I will happily support the noble profession of journalism. But I am disgustedly aware that what is practised by all too many who claim membership of that profession fails abysmally to accord with any objective definition of journalism.
Ben Wray makes the point that there is a danger government support will be used as a lever to ‘influence’ the media. I wonder if that is any worse than the excessive economic and political influences that already exits. But to the extent that this is a problem it is simply addressed by making it state support rather than government support. I’m assuming Mr Wray and others will appreciate the difference.
As well as the source he also raises the matter of the destination of state, government or any other financial support. As he says, it’s not acceptable that ‘grants’ be transformed instantly and as if by magic into ‘profits’. What Ben Wray fails to recognise is that to active, discerning consumers of media product such as myself it is just as unacceptable that my money should go to those I consider undeserving. I am happy to support journalism. I will not pay for anti-Scottish propaganda. I will not reward ‘journalists’ who prostitute themselves to established power. As I wrote in response to a more explicit apologia by Shona Craven,
… you cannot ask people to support newspapers which treat them, their country and its institutions with malicious contempt. You cannot reasonably ask people to pay money to perpetuate a gross imbalance which is a blight on our nation and our democracy. You say that if media companies fail there will be dark days ahead. For Scotland, the dark days are here. They’ve been here for many years.Dark days
But I don’t want to leave myself open to charges of negativity. The absence of a suggested alternative does not diminish or discredit the above comments. Indeed, the insistence on such an alternative is commonly used to divert from such criticisms. It is always appropriate to consider alternatives. It is not always wise to be led into debating anything but the suggestion being criticised. So! How about a truly “non-conformist” solution? Or, at least, the bare bones of one. It is all too easy to start digging down into ever finer detail on these things – if one is the kind of person who doesn’t stop thinking when they get to the first bit that they like. I have in mind a solution (I use the term loosely and with due humility) which is not only particularly pertinent in present circumstances but which may actually be facilitated by those circumstances. Maybe even necessitated by them.
Suppose we have some form of universal basic income. Suppose all journalists become freelance. Suppose the media companies become the market for the journalists’ product which they then aggregate and sell on to the public. Suppose journalists were, in effect, selling their product directly to the public but with sufficient state funding to be independent of the media aggregators. Suppose consumers could also support individual journalists through donations.
Suppose, instead of trying to eliminate market forces, we harness those forces for a social purpose.
Suppose you use your imagination to follow that through to the virtuous cycle which I am am persuaded is a real possibility.
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