Britain will never learn from Brexit
17 July 2017
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.”read more
A defence of Liberalism
3 May 2017
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.read more
Press regulation and the economics of truth
6 January 2017
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."
Independent regulation and dog whistlers
28 October 2016
Kelvin MacKenzie’s article on Fatima Manji presenting the Channel 4 news item on the Nice terrorist attack was a masterpiece in testing the boundaries of a free press. read more
Cultural capture of financial regulators
13 October 2015
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
Sir Alan Moses and how to convince the press to submit to independent regulation
19 March 2015
Sir Alan Moses, the chairman of IPSO, the new press regulator being set up by some of the newspaper publishers, last week gave a lecture on its progress at the London School of Economics.
The gist of the lecture was that for regulation to work, those who are regulated must be convinced of the incentives to submit to it.... read more
Where's the real rally?
26 February 2015
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'
17 March 2014
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
25 April 2013
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.”
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.” ....read more
EU rules on media ownership
10 April 2013
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
22 March 2013
Simon Jenkins, Peter 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?”
And Sir Simon Jenkins:
“the cheering across town this week is from the rich, the celebrated and the powerful”
BBC subscription would equal abolition
4 February 2013
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. ...read more (also published on OpenDemocracy.net)
A sensible report from the EU? On media regulation? Wonder if it was reported fairly by our press?
30 January 2013
A group of experts convened by the vice president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, this week published its report on media freedom and plurality. An EU report “calling for media regulation?” You can just imagine the frothing in some newsrooms. .... see more (published on labour-uncut)
Milton Friedman and the media
31 January 2013
Milton Friedman, not a man known for pushing the role of the state, wrote in 1955:
“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.)
1 December 2012
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
26 November 2012
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.
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
29 October 2012
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.
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
20 May 2012
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