Media for all? The challenge of convergence

With a media facing economic and technological changes, many requiring political solutions, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom is holding a conference on Saturday 31 October which will address key issues of ownership and regulation.

With a media facing economic and technological changes, many requiring political solutions, the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom is holding a conference on Saturday 31 October which will address key issues of ownership and regulation.

The conference comes at a crucial time in the political cycle. Unless Labour mounts a major fight-back instead of the debilitating fatalism that it is currently wallowing in – the Conservative lead in the opinion polls make it look odds on favourite that they will be shaping the future. Switching the focus to the public sector away from the dismal failure of the bankers is a triumph of Conservative propaganda aided and abetted by their allies in the media.

This forms the background for the continued assault on the BBC. But despite the unacceptable salary levels of executives and so-called ‘talent’, along with the decision not to broadcast the DCMS appeal for Gaza, the BBC needs defending. After all, it is not, as James Murdoch chillingly called it in his MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh, “state sponsored journalism.”

David Cameron wants to freeze (and cut?) the licence fee and Ben Bradshaw wants to top slice it and hand over large sums of money to commercial operators.  At a stroke universality will be destroyed, and free-to-air broadcasting undermined. There are other alternatives.  The unions have suggested a levy on the profits of those who produce no public service broadcasting or companies that reap benefit from re-transmitting public service content.

While the CPBF conference will discuss the domestic media landscape, it will also have an international perspective. The first plenary session will hear from John Nichols, Washington Correspondent for the Nation and co-founder of Free Press, the US media reform network. He is joined by Professor Alexander Stille from Columbia University who has written extensively on Italian history and recently carried out a three hour interview with Silvio Berlusconi. The third speaker is Dr Katharine Sarikakis from the Institute of Communication Studies at Leeds University. Her work focuses on the political and economic dimensions of media and communications policies, nationally and globally.

Throughout the day there will be sessions on the enormous changes in the media including the crisis in local news, digital convergence, and ‘citizen journalism.’ Some commentators are celebrating the liberating democratic potential of the Internet, and welcome what they  see as the end of the old Fourth Estate.  There will be a session to ask – Are they right?

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