Dan Hind writes for openDemocracy about the structural roots of the crisis in our media and lays out his proposal for public commissioning. Stephen Whitehead's review of The Return of the Public responds with praise.
Examining "war as a media event" as a crucial expression of the "shortcomings of almost all the existing sources of information", Hind points out that, "the institutions that represent reality to the population are themselves profoundly unrepresentative. And while claiming to hold power to account they are themselves profoundly unaccountable."
the overwhelming bulk of media power—that is, the power to direct resources towards particular investigations and the power to reach audiences with the results of these investigations—the bulk of media power is in the hands of the owners and senior employees of private companies subject to market forces and in the hands of individuals working for the state broadcaster.
What is clear is that the current arrangments have not been able to prevent the population as a whole from being exposed to—and quite often persuaded by—claims that are not true. Any tally of media failures has to include Iraq, of course. It should also include the coverage of the financial sector over the last 30 years or so. Financialization, deregulation, and the reorganisation of the enterprise have all taken place to a background of steady applause from the major media. In the face of escalating criminality—most glaringly in the mortgage markets—the same media maintained a dignified silence.
Hind outlines his proposed response of public commissioning to the crisis in the media:
In The Return of the Public I make the case for a system of public commissioning. Instead of relying exclusively on professional comissioning editors all citizens take some responsibility for directing journalistic inquiry ourselves.
In a system of public commisioning citizens would, collectively and equally, make decisions about the allocation of resources to journalists and researchers. Each of us would be able to provide a certain amount of material support for projects we wanted to see funded.
Hind goes into further detail about how such a system would work in practice.
Visit openDemocracy to read the article in full.
In his review of The Return of the Public Stephen Whitehead finds "much to like".
Hind's response to the crisis is an attractive one: a recreation of our ecosystem of information, from the broadcast media to academia, to form a 'commonwealth of descriptions' where the means to understand the world are a form of public property. The specific reform which he sees as the first step down this road is the creation of a system for the public commissioning of journalism.
Hind argues that commissioning editors exert a wealth of scarcely examined political power. By allocating resources to different journalistic investigations they effectively define the limits of what the mainstream media can examine. And yet, they are acutely subject to pressure, both from media owners and powerful external forces.
Visit openDemocracy to read the review in full.