Dan Hind is interviewed by Samuel Grove for the New LeftProject about The Return of the Public and his proposals for public commissioning—"in short, for the creation of a genuine public sphere."
If you want to shake unaccountable and unjust power, media reform looks like a really good fight to pick ... The aim of the book is to identify media reform as the focus of effort in progressive politics. From reform along the lines I propose comes social change that is widely understood and democratically legitimate. We have to make rapid changes in the years ahead, to address environmental crisis and economic breakdown. Can we really trust the existing media to tell us what is possible and necessary? Or do we want to wait for a heroic revolutionary to decide what is to be done?
Hind explains more about his reasoning behind his original proposal for public commissioning as a programme for media reform:
At present the content of public opinion largely derives from the products of state-owned and commercial institutions. Our knowledge of the world, and our knowledge of others' opinions—our knowledge of ourselves, even - all comes from institutions that have been demonstrably unreliable in recent years. And this unreliability stems from their structure; it emerges from the pressures and incentives that decision-makers within them face. We have relied on a few acutely vulnerable and necessarily unrepresentative individuals to keep us informed and they have failed to do so.
If we want to have an account of the world that is broadly accurate, and that can therefore provide a basis for rational decision-making, we need to create mechanisms in which each citizen has some commissioning power and some publishing power. Only if we have the means to combine and support inquiry without relying on institutional decision-makers can we hope to shed light on areas that the existing institutions have failed to illuminate—I am thinking of political economy, foreign policy, and the media themselves, for example. But I am sure we can all think of others ...
Changes to the structure of decision-making in the media have profound constitutional implications ... if we change the content of what is widely known and understood, we change people's opinions about what is just and unjust, reasonable and unreasonable. To follow Hume, if opinions change then the foundations of government change.
Hind will be discussing media and democracy with Professor Natalie Fenton at Kings Place on Monday 25 October.