Thursday, March 26, 2015

Control of media by elite interests: Corporate media pushes an unjust and unsustainable system; Billionaires control our democracy

The Real Media week of actions draws attention to the domination that the 1% have on information.
  • Between 70-80% of UK print media is controlled by 5 ultra-wealthy media moguls:  Rupert Murdoch, Viscount Rothermere (Jonathan Harmsworth), Richard Desmond and David and Frederick Barclay.
  • Academia is subverted through its dependence on corporate sponsorship and control
  • Advertising infects the popular consciousness, the public face a barrage of messages to consume and to control the way they think
  • Corporate media plays a pivotal role in pushing an unjust and unsustainable system
Knowledge is power is a common phrase. But further insight comes from considering how power controls knowledge. The way billionaires manufacture news and supposed ‘facts’ is a central theme within the Real Media campaign’s week of actions. Just as UK UNCUT drew attention to corporate tax evasion and Occupy drew focus on inequality, it seems crucial to publicise the 1%’s media supremacy.

This week was Anti-Daily Mail week, the Real Media team created fake newspapers, front covers and spoof videos, giving each day a specific theme of corporate corruption. It also teamed up with campaigners and activists who are also taking on the establishment. Kam Sandhu, organiser with the Real Media collective, explains why the Daily Mail was chosen as key focus.

"The Daily Mail is the one of the most vile, unapologetic and nasty mouthpieces of the corporate-controlled press. It hates everyone. The paper pushes out click-bait bile to divide, rule and distract people.” Next week, the Real Media campaign will continue with Occupy Rupert Murdoch. In April, Real Media will launch a website that aggregates critical and independent news and launches readers onto the hundreds (if not thousands) of media alternatives.

Billionaires control our democracy
The week kicked off with distributing 20,000 fake Daily Mails. The Morning Star front page asserted it’s time to “End Monopoly of Press Toffs”. A crucial example of press bias is how whistle-blower Mr Ethical’s allegations of systemic fraud against HSBC go untold. The Real Media campaign highlighted Nafeez Ahmed’s article Death, Drugs and HSBC, which details the scale of the fraud. It also explains the media’s vested interest to suppress the news. Peter Oborne revealed HSBC (like other corporations) have huge advertising budgets with newspapers: leverage to silence negative stories.

Ahmed’s article also pin-points how the ‘supposedly progressive’ Guardian has the largest HSBC sponsorship, which in the past may have limited its reporting on the bank although its recent work on exposing the bank was very robust. Additionally, the BBC silence looks all the more unhealthy considering the Chair of the BBC Trust, Rona Fairhead, is paid nearly £500,000 by her other employee: HSBC.

Climate Change is happening, manmade and preventable
In alliance with Talk Fracking and Grow Heathrow, on Tuesday Real Media highlighted how corporate message enables ecological destruction. A key example is the chemical leak at IGas’ Barton Moss fracking site reported by the Salford Star and other independent news platforms. Even after Real Media sent hundreds of members of the ‘mainstream press’ this news, it still ignores this serious issue.

Corporate climate denial was also a key theme of the day. Carbon Brief explain in detail how the Daily Mail reacts to the International Panel on Climate Change reports, giving misleading headlines such as “How Scientists Keep Changing Their Tune” and “Met Office Global Warming Figures ‘Are Fatally Flawed’”.  The climate denial trend is international: in the US, Murdoch-owned Fox News gives 69% airtime to climate deniers, when the proportion of doubters within scientists is a mere 3%. No wonder, as Murdoch also has direct interests in fracking, which should stay in the ground to stop climate change. 

Asserting fracking is dangerous and unnecessary, on Tuesday campaigners Talk Fracking coordinated 10 protests in universities across the country to launch its Frackademics Report. It details how the case to frack Britain is based on academics funded by the industry and does not deserve to be called science.

In another stunt, a group of polar bears protested against the multimillion-pound advertising campaign for Heathrow’s third runway, calling investment into aviation industry “plane stupid.” The bears visited architect Norman Foster’s headquarters, who has involvement in new runways at Heathrow and Atenco airport, Mexico City.

Across Britain the British public is currently under a barrage of adverts saying we need to expand Heathrow (and encourage more air travel), coupled with corporate-led climate denial and corrupted academia. This is a PR attempt on multiples fronts to engineer what people think, to suit the interests of trans-national capital.

The greatest wealth gap ever and it’s getting worse
Wednesday was budget day, coinciding with Blockupy protests against the ECB in Frankfurt. Both the ECB and George Osborne’s economic plan are central global pillars of austerity which are devastating societies. Although if you read swathes of the press, you may be led to believe our economic problems are caused by vulnerable or minority groups. Real Media combined with Debt Resistance UK who paid a visit to Goldman Sachs London HQ, with the message “1% your turn to pay.” Reflecting on the media’s obsession with the violent scenes from Frankfurt, Fanny Mailinen in Red Pepper pointed out how the corporate media ignores the silent violence of austerity.

End Privatisation of the NHS now!
On Thursday the theme was privatisation, focusing on how the government has just announced the biggest sell-off of the NHS. But the corporate owned media has been committed to a slightly more trivial matter: Jeremy Clarkson. It is no wonder a press controlled by billionaires mainly ignores free trade agreements like TTIP and dodgy PFI deals. For your average person on the street these threaten their vital public services, democracy and rights: for billionaires these are mechanisms to extract even more wealth. Each day the DailyWail corrections department was busy, remaking front covers as if it were not owned by Lord Rothermere. Correcting Tabloids fronts was also spreading, with Channel Four News’ Paul Mason getting in on the act.

Funding both sides of the War on Terror: Everyone loses expect the British Arms industry
The Real Media campaign on Friday pointed out how Britain gave weapons and training to the forces that became ISIS, just as it had done before for the Mujahedeen and Saddam Hussein before fighting them. Real Media asserts Britain’s foreign policy is about selling oil and securing oil, arming regimes without regard for their human rights abuses. In turn, Britain will commit human rights abuses and fight illegal wars. 12 years ago began the invasion of Iraq. The Real Media campaign points out how this is all enabled by a corporate media, with vested interests in keeping the oil and weapons business continuing.

Defend the Right to Protest: No racism
The final day of the Anti-Daily Mail Week coincided with UN anti-racism day. Real Media offered its solidarity with the London Black Revs in their protest against racialised gentrification. A story lacking coverage even amongst the critical media.
The campaign also asserted that we need a media that represents BME and all groups of society, both in output and the journalists and editors reporting news. Additionally, it asserted that the media’s jobs is not to ridicule protests and people critical of the system. After all, in a functioning democracy the press should act as critical voice, representing the people, not a mouthpiece for billionaires to tell people want they want them to think.