Exclusive: SNP, Labour and Green MSPs call for government action on corporate media ownership


Media Reform Coalition receives backing from 14 MSPs, trade unionists, academics and campaigners

NEIL FINDLAY MSP, Katy Clark MP, Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie and NUJ Scotland organiser Paul Holleran are among nearly 30 signatories on a letter calling for new legislation to curb corporate media ownership.

The letter comes as part of a campaign from the Media Reform Coalition to reform media ownership.

According to the organisation, corporate media ownership is acting as a “distorting force” in democracy and the situation requires government action.

The letter states: “Decisions about the Scottish newspaper industry, such as merging titles, deskilling, and laying off good journalists, are made with scant regard for the people of Scotland, while the BBC’s structure and content are determined with insufficient accountability to the public it is supposed to serve.

“Alternative new media platforms have sprung up rapidly in the last few years, but the ability of digital intermediaries like search engines and social media giants to filter information threatens to create new monopolies undermining these positive developments.

“We call on both the Scottish Government and the UK Government to create new legislation to prevent damaging media concentration and to encourage a more plural media at both national and local levels.”

The cross-party campaign – supported by leading figures in the SNP, Scottish Greens and Labour in Scotland – criticises the failures of big media institutions owners to invest in public interest journalism.

Scottish titles have been merged, deskilled and seen journalists laid off in recent years, according to the MRC.

Major news organisations such as Newsquest, News UK and Johnston Press face demands to return profits and meet shareholder expectations. Falling newspaper sales have intensified the pressure on media operations.

Newsquest owns the Herald and Times Group, which includes the Herald, the National and Evening Times among its stable, while News UK owns the Sun and Scottish Sun.

Johnstone Press owns the Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and, like Newsquest, a number of local newspaper titles throughout the UK.

The Media Reform Coalition is concerned that media ownership is concentrated in “a handful of corporations and individuals” and supports legislation “to encourage a more plural media at both national and local levels”.

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World led Labour leader Ed Miliband to call for limits on media ownership and the resulting Leveson inquiry revealed how Rupert Murdoch, chief executive of News Corporation, used his media influence to demand policy changes from John Major when he was prime minister. (Click here to read more).

Letter signatories

Paul Holleran (Scottish organiser, NUJ)
Paul McManus (Scottish organiser, Bectu)
Lorne Boswell (Scottish organiser, Equity)
Grahame Smith (General secretary, STUC)

Prof. Greg Philo (Research director, Glasgow Media Group)
Dr. William Dinan (University of Stirling)
Dr Alenka Jelen (General secretary, European Communication Research and Education Association)
Dr. Muhammad Idrees Ahmad (Lecturer in Digital Journalism, University of Stirling)
Prof. John Robertson (Professor in Media Politics, University of the West of Scotland)
Prof. John Eldridge (Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Glasgow)

Robin McAlpine (Director, Common Weal)
Christopher Silver (Writer and filmmaker)
Alison Balharry (Former senior producer at BBC Radio 4/World Service/Radio Scotland)

Linda Fabiani MSP (SNP, former minister for Europe, external affairs and culture)
Michael Russell MSP (SNP, former minister for culture, external affairs and the constitution)
Sandra White MSP (SNP)
Katy Clark MP (Labour)
Neil Findlay MSP (Labour)
Patrick Harvie MSP (Scottish Green party)
Alison Johnstone MSP (Scottish Green party)
Jean Urquhart MSP (Independent, founder of ‘Not My Xenophobia’ campaign)
Bill Kidd MSP (SNP, chief whip)
Stewart Maxwell (SNP, convernor of education and culture committee)
Graeme Dey MSP (SNP, former journalist and sports editor at the Dundee Courier)
Mike MacKenzie MSP (SNP)
Dave Thompson MSP (SNP)
Gil Paterson MSP (SNP)
Jim Eadie MSP (SNP)

Picture courtesy of Surian Soothsay