Much has been made recently by some in the Labour Party, and perhaps more by the less charitably inclined outside it, of the supposed divergence of views between party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his deputy Tom Watson. As both have now spoken about Labour’s proposals for news media, funding, and especially the BBC, this supposition can now be tested against reality. So what does the split look like?
The answer is that, on the basis of what has been said both in Corbyn’s speech earlier in the week, and Watson’s today, there does not appear to be one. Nor does the welter of righteous faux anger stirred up by our free and fearless press appear to have had any effect on Watson’s demeanour, as Steve Parks’ Twitter feed shows.
Talking about monopolies and media ownership, and possible changes under a Corbyn Government, Watson discussed “the decline of the local press, titles closing all the time … that the loss of local journalism also brings a loss of trust in local political institutions. What has then been happening is local press has been bought at fire sale prices”.
He also addressed the present situation of few owners for many titles, and the inevitability of coming change: “He says ownership is becoming concentrated. ‘We are coming to the end of the Murdoch era, thank god. But we need to make sure that the powerful of Silicon Valley don’t simply fill the void.’” And the latter would do this how, exactly?
“He sets out some of his thoughts: Have to stop big Tech companies hoovering up small innovative Media Tech companies. They are becoming data monopolies that are stopping new forms of media models getting any foothold. This isn’t being regulated”. Misuse of data … Cambridge Analytics, Aggregate IQ, the list goes on.
So what would Labour do? “Regulatory convergence is needed. This giant tech firms hire lawyers and lobbyists to run rings round politicians and regulators. There’s a whole list of splintered regulators. Needs to be a stronger simpler approach”. Proper regulation.
But who is going to be involved? Some serious re-thinking was going to be needed. “On Electoral Commission, in answer to @carolecadwalla, Tom says she’s right. The EC should not be body to investigate undermining of democracy. Need to demand 1) Gov confirm or deny if NCA are investigating this 2) if not there must be an independent inquiry” (Watson has since confirmed that the National Crime Agency should investigate).
Then there was further confirmation that he and Corbyn are on the same page. “Tom says those are a few things at the meta scale and Corbyn outlined more ideas in Edinburgh. They want to support more community and cooperative forms of public interest journalism. Through taxation, possibly on the Tech companies who currently don’t pay”.
And on the BBC? “Tom says they also want to make the BBC less prone to government interference. Remove power of appointments, funding etc”. As floated by Corbyn earlier.
All of which means that, in this area at least, there is no split between the Labour leader and his deputy. But then, the press has an interest in manufacturing one and playing factions off against one another. I’ll just leave that one there.
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