Media co-ops including the Bristol Cable, New Internationalist, Slaney Street and Transition Free Press are backing a challenge to bias in “big media”. The Real Media campaign is a network of community journalists, publications and media organisations who are working together to support existing alternative media in the face of “massive mass media bias”.
It is the brainchild of Real Fare, a project that aims to challenge myths about the welfare system. “One of the major obstacles to being able to have an honest conversation about welfare or immigration is the mass media and how they cover the issue,” said Drew Rose of Real Media and the Bristol Cable.
He is concerned about concentrated ownership of the mass media, the way in which it frames debate through lack of coverage of issues such as inequality, corporate power, fracking and privatisation, and misleading or negative stories on topics like immigration and welfare.
“Dominant narratives in the media can contribute to misconceptions,” he said. “A 2013 survey by Ipsos MORI highlighted a number of gaps between public perception and reality on topics including immigration, teenage pregnancy and the religious and ethnic make-up of the UK.”
Real Media’s first gathering at the end of February brought together over 30 independent publications and organisations to discuss how to work together. There were media campaign groups such as the Media Reform Coalition, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, which is exploring ways to secure local newspaper titles as community assets, and Impress, which is developing plans for press regulation independent of politicians and press owners. Publications represented at the gathering include national titles like Co-operative News, Positive News and Red Pepper, and local outlets such as the Dorset Eye and the Salford Star.
Angela Haggerty of Commonspace, an independent digital news and views service for Scotland, said there was a huge appetite for alternative news. “We’re not competing commercially. We don’t have to do that,” she said. She called for small media organisations to work together. “We’ll be much stronger if we share resources,” she said.
Jamie Kelsey-Fry, contributing editor to New Internationalist magazine, said this was an exciting time for “new media”. “The time is ripe for a new platform of credible alternative media outlets that can make the corporate-owned mainstream obsolete and show it for what it is, the servant to a system that is unjust, undemocratic, unsustainable and broken,” he said.
This month, Real Media plans to launch a news aggregator showcasing the best public interest and alternative journalism in the UK. See its website for details.