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Buying the Media: Government is giving tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the corporate press (Daily Mail/Sun)

(12 Posts)
GagaJo Wed 29-Apr-20 08:35:02

The stench of corruption could hardly be stronger, says Brian Cathcart, on the bung Boris Johnson’s Government is giving to his employers in the British press.

The whole affair could hardly be more sleazy and murky, but the truth is now clear: the Government is giving tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to the corporate press, including the Daily Mail and the Sun.

Although no formal announcement has been made and no public explanation has been given, this is a direct, secretly-negotiated subsidy provided exclusively to members of the News Media Association (NMA), the umbrella body for the corporations that own most of the national and regional press.

Millions of pounds are thus going to groups owned by billionaires of questionable tax standing, and millions more to the three big asset-stripping companies responsible for devastating the local press.

Meanwhile, independent news publishers – of whom there are hundreds up and down the country, reaching many millions of readers – have been cut out of the arrangement and are set to receive none of the cash. When confronted about this in Parliament, the best Media Minister John Whittingdale could do was say he would think about it.

There is undoubtedly a crisis across the industry unless you are a member of the club of multi-million-pound corporations close to the Conservative Party.

The subsidy, proudly unveiled by the NMA here, takes the form of a special, sustained programme of COVID-19-related advertising by the Government, set to last three months.

It is striking that, although Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove was quoted in the NMA announcement, no official statement on this use of public money has been made to Parliament.

The NMA claims that ‘all regional and national’ news brands benefit, but that is just not true.

The Government actually talked to two bodies which represent large numbers of independent (non-NMA) news publishers – the Independent and Community News Network and the Public Interest News Foundation – but they are getting none of this cash.

In other words, while there is undoubtedly a crisis across the industry, unless you are a member of the club of multi-million-pound corporations close to the Conservative Party you get no help through this package. And how much is the package worth? The Government isn’t saying, but it is certainly in the tens of millions.

The stench of corruption could hardly be stronger. In a real democracy, no single political party – in government or otherwise – would ever be allowed to dish out money to news organisations that are supposed to scrutinise its activities on behalf of the public. State advertising of this kind has an ignoble history in this country – it was one of the ways King George III kept newspapers loyal.

As for the newspapers themselves, every one of them should now carry an announcement on the front page saying that they have been selected by ministers to receive a direct state subsidy – as an indication to readers that they can have no pretensions to being independent.

That this should happen not only without public consultation, transparency or accountability of any kind only deepens the scandal. Indeed the evasion went further. When I inquired about the meetings with the NMA over a week ago, Whittingdale’s spokesman repeatedly refused to answer me.

And that Whittingdale and Gove have their fingerprints all over this shameful arrangement is the icing on the sleaze cake. Whittingdale is hopelessly compromised by his past relations with the NMA and its members. Gove is a confidant and former long-time employee of Rupert Murdoch.

Jane10 Wed 29-Apr-20 09:08:06

The Scotsman carries many large full page Government coronavirus information pages. I fully assume this space is paid for by government and have no problem with that.

Elegran Wed 29-Apr-20 09:21:49

" . . a special, sustained programme of COVID-19-related advertising by the Government, set to last three months . . . " in the very newspapers that are read most by those who most need to be targetted about the progress of the pandemic and the need to take every precaution against it and to continue keeping a good distance from one another and avoid large gatherings and so on?

That seems to me like a good way to get the message over. Unless of course you are so anti-Tory that you would rather their message was seen to be one which is only advertised in the "posh" papers that are only read by the rich - which would then make it a message which the "ordinary bloke" can dismiss and ignore. If they want the message to go to everyone, that would have defeated the purpose, surely?

Elegran Wed 29-Apr-20 09:23:39

Are all the "posh" papers carrying ads too? You don't mention that, GagaJo

gillybob Wed 29-Apr-20 09:27:02

Good post Elegran .

My late grandad (ex miner) wouldn’t watch BBC news as he said it was the “Tory news” and he preferred to hear the “working mans news on ITV” (Tyne Tees as it was back then). He was the same about newspapers. Would rather have no news at all than read a Tory newpaper and he hung on the Daily Mirrors every word .

Sorry for going off on a tangent but just trying to illustrate how the message needs to get through to everyone .

FarNorth Wed 29-Apr-20 09:41:50

Sales of actual newspapers are declining, in lockdown.

MerylStreep Wed 29-Apr-20 09:47:45

Elegran ?????

MerylStreep Wed 29-Apr-20 09:51:25

Are you just as impartial in the classroom as you are on here??

Grany Wed 29-Apr-20 10:47:27

I dont put anything beyond this government they are a bunch of criminals only interested in helping big business corporations and themselves. And now with covid19 devastating the economy now is the time to demand these corporations pay their fair share in tax and close tax havens. Even the Queen has several millions stashed away there.

vampirequeen Wed 29-Apr-20 10:48:35

Probably pay back for pushing Brexit and getting them re-elected.

Gransnet….can we have a 'hiding behind the sofa' emoji, please grin

gillybob Wed 29-Apr-20 11:31:57

Well of course her maj has money stashed away . She’s no different to any other tax avoider .

GagaJo Wed 29-Apr-20 13:25:26

MerylStreep, funny you should stay that. I was teaching post colonial literary theory this morning, which is quite political and I was asked about my politics. I told them that I believed everyone was equal, should have equal rights to education, work, housing. And that is where I left it. Do you discuss your politics in general, supermarket, train etc? Because I mostly don't.

Plus I think you'll find that the post that I put up has only 3 words of opinion (in the title - *Buying the Media*). The rest are not my words at all.

Feel free to post your own version of propaganda.