The media, both print and screen, gave us a real battering during the station strikes. While activists are right to feel angry at the hypocrisy and shamelessness of the TV and newspaper barons, we should not be surprised.
Whatever the sympathies of individual journalists, those who make the real decisions in the media are not on our side. They are an integral part of the same ruling class that runs private business, and indirectly runs both LUL and the government. The big media conglomerates are connected by a thousand ties to British and multinational industry, and their top brass are connected to other bosses by a thousand more. That’s why even the less blatantly reactionary papers never put a working-class view, and why the press gears up for attack whenever the labour movements organises a fight.
This is “freedom of the press” under capitalism - the right of the rich to monopolise the means of news-dissemination and opinion-forming through private ownership of newspapers, TV stations etc. Although the freedom of speech we have in Britain is much better than what exists in military or Stalinist dictatorships, and should be defended against the bosses’ attempts to reduce it, it is no more genuine free speech than our parliamentary system is genuine democracy.
In the short term, we can argue for reforms like limitation of the number of newspapers any individual or company can own. But replacing giant media corporations with slightly smaller ones will do nothing to give the labour movement and working-class communities real access and control.
In the early days of the Russian revolution, before working-class power was shattered by foreign intervention and smothered by the rising Stalinist bureaucracy, the media was taken into public ownership and facilities allocated to unions, parties and other organisations according to their level of support. Only such a democratic, socialist solution can guarantee a workers’ voice in the media.