Green Ink on the Mediocracy

The Media and the Super Rich

Hulk Hogan

When it emerged that the Hulk Hogan lawsuit which put the controversial gossip site Gawker out of business was bankrolled by Peter Thiel, there was an almost unanimous outcry from the journalistic profession. It was not only the usual crowd of free speech fundamentalists. Even the likes of David Folkenflik of NPR, who has helped to uncover many of the misdeeds of the Murdoch news empire was alarmed. Gawker, he has pointed out, was the first to report on many of the rumours around Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Louis CK...

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Britain will never learn from Brexit

John Harris wrote in the Guardian last week that Brexit, in spite of having disastrous consequences that would last at least a generation, should not be reversed, because of the resentment and betrayal that would be felt by those who voted for it and won the referendum, and because it was the only way that the country could purge itself of its English exceptionalism. He quoted HL Mencken: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

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A defence of Liberalism

David Goodhart wrote a few weeks ago about his conversion from an ‘anywhere’ liberal to a ‘post-liberal’, someone who sees the world from the point of view of the ‘somewhere’ people, by which he essentially means 'moderate' nationalists.

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Press regulation and the economics of truth

1. Why lies are more valuable than truth

Opponents of any form of press regulation often quote Milton:

"And though all the windes of doctrin were let loose to play upon the earth, so Truth be in the field, we do injuriously by licencing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and Falshood grapple; who ever knew Truth put to the wors, in a free and open encounter."

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Cultural capture of financial regulators

Early literature on regulatory capture by Chicago economists (Becker, Stigler, Posner) suggested that all regulators are prone to capture, and that in many cases, they are actually established for the purpose of protecting the industry rather than the public interest. These analyses, focusing on regulators that had been established in the early twentieth century, tended to perceive regulation itself as the problem, and advocate deregulation as the solution. However, read more

Where's the real rally?

John Cleese

John Cleese was the main attraction at the Hacked Off ‘rally’ yesterday in one of the ornate committee rooms in the House of Commons. The carved pews, the silk wallpaper behind the vast oil paintings and the stately windows over the Thames make a rally atmosphere almost impossible.... read more

Media Concentration and 'share of revenue'


There has been much discussion lately about media power and concentration of ownership, with a number of different proposals of how it should be measured and then limited.

Power and influence are nebulous things, and there will never be a metric that is better than vague.  To make matters worse, any chosen measure will no doubt become victim to Goodhart’s Law:  "When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure." . .... read more (also published on the LSE Media Policy Project blog)

The most undemocratic thing about the EU is the media


The weekend before last (April 14), The Sunday Telegraph published a news article by Andrew Gilligan claiming that the “EU pours millions into groups seeking state control of the press.” 

Andreew Gilligan

Gilligan claims that the EU was angry with the way it is treated in the British press, and is therefore “seeking new national and Europe-wide regulatory powers over journalists.”

  He apparently asked Dr Rachael Craufurd-Smith, a researcher on Mediadem – one of the recipients of EU funding, whether the EU had funded projects like hers because it felt unfairly treated in the British press; to which answered: “I think there might be an element of that, Citizens have a new expectation to obtain reliable information about what’s going on in Europe.” more 

EU rules on media ownership

If you mention that you are campaigning for new EU rules on media ownership, a common reaction is “That’s an insane idea.” A number of objections are frequently raised. 

  • We don’t need Media ownership restrictions; the Internet is taking care of plurality issues.

  • Why should this be an EU-wide rather than a national issue? 

  • Doesn’t it play into the hands of powerful media corporations?

Here I will try to respond to each. ......see more

Leveson will protect the little guy

Simon JenkinsPeter Preston and Nick Cohen have all written vigorous dissents of the Leveson agreement in (on?) the Guardian this week. Preston laments the vitriol that has infected the debate; while Cohen vents spleen at liberals with short-term aims of binding right wing tabloids at the expense of basic freedoms. Simon Jenkins rails against one-sided justice drawn up by victims.

All of them claim a victory for the establishment.

Preston asks what

“'independence' means in a quangoid Britain where the same cast of great and good characters, retired judges, retired permanent secretaries, Oxbridge dignitaries, shift sweetly from one padded committee seat to the next ?”

And then Cohen:

“Did you not notice that Leveson hurt no one in power? …Can you not see an establishment stitching up a winding sheet for our freedoms in front of your very eyes?”

Sir Simon Jenkins

And Sir Simon Jenkins:

“the cheering across town this week is from the rich, the celebrated and the powerful”

see more (also published on labour-uncut) .


BBC subscription would equal abolition

David Elstein argues on these pages for replacing the BBC license fee with a subscription model. He makes many good arguments, the most compelling of which is that the license fee is a very regressive tax that is a much heavier burden on the poorest.  But he goes on to say that “A huge benefit of switching to subscription would be to end government involvement in the way the BBC was funded, and create a basic model of accountability – to consumers” and here he has missed the existential value of the BBC.  Existential because converting to a subscription model is not reform, it is abolition. more  (also published on

Milton Friedman and the media

Milton Friedman, not a man known for pushing the role of the state, wrote in 1955:

Milton Friedman

“The education of a child is regarded as benefiting not only the child and his parents, but also other members of society, since some minimum level of education is a prerequisite for a stable and democratic society. Yet it is not feasible to identify the particular individuals benefited by the education of any particular... read more


Part of the Solution to Part of the Problem (Why unregulated markets can’t provide the news we need.)

Kenan Malik has written a fascinating and thoughtful article criticising the Leveson report that I profoundly disagree with.

He says he regards “the US First Amendment as the touchstone of free expression and of a free press … Congress, it states, ‘shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press’, a very different approach to that taken by Leveson and his supporters.”....   read more

Competition in the media industry

In his excellent book A Capitalism for the People, The University of Chicago economist Luigi Zingales lays out the case for a pro-market not pro-business ideology.

Luigi Zingales

He argues that the Tea Party and the Occupy movement are protesting against two different heads of the same leviathan, because big government is always captured by big business. (Or big business always captures the government and enlarges it for its own benefit.) ..... read more


Free speech needs independent regulation

Last week saw the launch of the Free Speech Network (a network of mostly editors and proprietors) and a new pamphlet written by Professor Tim Luckhurst in which he argues against any statutory regulation of the press because it would be a slippery slope towards government censorship.

Tim Luckhurst

The Sunday Times, The Telegraph and The Times have published excerpts and editorials. A coordinated campaign against regulating the press is in full swing.... read more


Boris and the BBC

Boris Johnson said last week that “If you are funded by the taxpayer, you are more likely to see the taxpayer as the solution to every economic ill” claiming that the BBC is institutionally biased to the left. He picks on the soft target of the BBC arts editor Will Gompertz as emblematic of the BBC’s waste of public funds, disingenuously suggesting that we each of us are paying him £145 per year. Mr Gompertz apparently had the nerve to insufficiently praise the rusting mangled crane that Anish Kapoor has inexplicably erected over one of the Olympic sites (presumably his vision of the Olympic legacy). Mr Gompertz asked why it wasn’t bigger and free of charge to visitors, thus demonstrating his BBC everything-for-nothing mentality..... read more