Several academic studies have highlighted media bias against Jeremy Corbyn,his policies, his shadow cabinet and his supporters (see The Media Reform Coalition 2015; The Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics (LSE) 2016; The Media Reform Coalition and the Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies, Birkbeck, London 2016).
The London School of Economics (LSE) report went so far as to argue that in the first two months in his role as leader of the opposition the majority of the press did not act as a critical watchdog of Jeremy Corbyn, but rather more often as an antagonistic attackdog.
Despite this research little has changed; highlighted not least in the fact that a few days ago at the Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards a BBC reporter was named journalist of the year. This feels particularly incongruous given that the Birkbeck based study singled out the BBC, from other television and radio broadcasters, for its particular anti-left bias.
Of increasing concern to many, is the challenge to key Labour messages by some journalists and commentators who either ignore or misreport various concerns, issues, activities and events. One such issue is immigration. As several Labour MPs, including the Labour leader, have highlighted we must celebrate the ‘enormous contribution to our society’ that migrants have brought over the years’ - Independant Corbyn says immigration isn't a problem. And as the Shadow Home Secretary, Diane Abbott, reminds us:
It’s not immigration that drives down wages in this country, what drives down wages are globalisation, and predatory employers and employees either not knowing or not having their employment rights.
We need to be careful of that kind of rhetoric, because it’s not helpful.
Politics Home March 2016
Yet still the tabloid press regularly publish pieces that draw on the ‘politics of fear’: stereotypes and untruths that negatively label, even demonise immigrants and refugees. It’s difficult to decide which of the many articles, often published in The Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Express and The Sun., are the most offensive but somewhere on the list must appear those that: insist on ‘fear’ over the ‘real age’ of ‘child immigrants’ arriving from Calais; suggest that the man who murdered the MP Jo Cox was concerned that he would lose the ‘council house he grew up in’ to an ‘immigrant family’; and just recently, an article announcing ‘New asylum surge on way: Millions will be spent providing housing’.
In addition to Labour politicians various public personalities, including Gary Linekar and Lily Allen, have spoken out against such labelling and the lack of compassion it both represents and promotes. Perhaps not surprisingly the very ‘newspapers’ that publish the original pieces led the attack against Linekar, Allen (and others who have similarly put their head above the parapet) with The Sun going so far as to suggest that Lineker be sacked from the BBC for peddling migrant lies.
So it’s also not surprising that in response to a recent YouGov survey 66% of respondents agreed that immigrants should swear an oath of integration with British values and society. Ironic given that British values aren’t much to be proud of just now.
There is however evidence of some positive and powerful reactions to such intolerance and hateful messages. For example, the Stop Funding Hate campaign group’s alternative Christmas advert THIS IS NOT A CHRISTMAS AD, but is it ABOUT THEM (visit their Facebook page and watch it) has already been viewed more than eight million times. This production is part of the group’s attempt to persuade major brands to withdraw advertising and other promotions from the tabloids previously mentioned due to their ‘long track record of sowing hatred and fear within UK society, skilfully playing off one group against another in pursuit of their divisive political agenda’.
Whether as a response to this pressure, and/or their own values and interests, Lego have already announced that they will discontinue their association with The Mail whereas Kellogs have similarly withdraw from their relationship with Breitbart News (a news platform founded by a chief strategist of Donald Trump). Thus far other companies have been more reluctant. For example John Lewis issued a statement in mid-November which stated that whilst the store ‘understands the strength of feeling’, it would not ‘make an editorial judgement on a particular newspaper’. Since then the company has come under increasing pressure from partner employees:
. . . a number of its Partners wrote to the store's in-house magazine backing the Stop Funding Hate campaign. The Gazette, John Lewis's Partners' magazine, published two pages of letters from staff expressing their disappointment and criticising the store's hypocrisy after it issued a statement defending its position in the International Business Times.
With similar pressure being placed on other companies and firms we can only hope . . .
In the meantime there ARE alternatives to the mainstream media and the following is just a selection of publications/sites which aim offer something different and regularly provide a critique, and a much broader analysis, of the pieces published and presented in the more established daily newspapers/broadcast media:
Evole Politics - http://evolvepolitics.com/
The Canary - http://www.thecanary.co/
Prole Star - http://www.prole-star.co.uk/
The Morning Star - https://morningstaronline.co.uk/
Red Pepper - http://www.redpepper.org.uk/
The following are Facebook sites also have interesting videos, news pieces etc.
By Gayle Letherby