The Return of the Public: Democracy, Power and the Case for Media Reform

Winner 2011 Best Book of Ideas at the Bristol Festival of Ideas

Under the incurious gaze of the major media, the political establishment and the financial sector have become increasingly deceitful and dangerous in recent years. At the same time, journalists at Rupert Murdoch’s News International and elsewhere have been breaking the law on an industrial scale. Now we are expected to stay quiet while those who presided over the shambles judge their own conduct.

In The Return of the Public, Dan Hind argues for reform of the media as a necessary prelude to wider social transformation. A former commissioning editor, Hind urges us to focus on the powers of the media to instigate investigations and to publicize the results, powers that editors and owners are desperate to keep from general deliberation.

Hind describes a programme of reform that is modest, simple and informed by years of experience. It is a programme that much of the media cannot bring themselves even to acknowledge, precisely because it threatens their private power. It is time the public had their say.


  • “A superb analysis of the way in which citizens have lost power in a political and economic system built around the free market.”
  • “A book marked by a somber and scathing rhetoric that recalls the Frankfurt School critique of thinkers such as Adorno and Marcuse.”
  • “In his ingenious and quietly passionate argument, Dan Hind shows how we could take democracy into the media so that it becomes something regular people can shape—a part of how we rule ourselves instead of stealing democracy from us.”
  • “Drawing on history and democratic theory, this book offers a powerful indictment of public exclusion. It is also original, breaking with standard corporatist approaches to reform. Well written, eloquent and very well worth reading.”
  • “A persuasive and vital analysis.”
  • “Winner, 2011 Best Book of Ideas”


  • This Revolution Cannot be Televised: on the closure of E.R.T. in Greece

    There was no conspiracy, there was no coup, there wasn’t even any suspension of the law in the name of the law, no state of emergency. The closing down of the Greek national broadcaster, ERT, was nothing more than an ordinary item on the political agenda of a socially defiant, semiologically indifferent, politically pompous and idiosyncratically reckless Prime Minister.

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  • Against Patriotism, Against Monarchy - A Reading List

    Are you drowning in deluded celebrations of a reactionary political system, a country facing economic collapse and a sporting spectacle sucking funds from our welfare system?

    Are you disgusted by pleas for everyone to 'pull together in this time of austerity' when the only thing that isn't being cut is the Queen's flotilla?

    After you've torched the street party and hung an effigy of 'our' monarch you may want to read these:

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  • Dan Hind's media proposals taken up by shadow media minister

    Dan Hind's The Return of the Public (out in paperback this month) has been cited by the shadow media minister, Helen Goodman, in proposals to democratise the BBC's output: 

    We are always being told that it is "our BBC" - usually by the BBC itself. But lately some high-profile voices appear to be taking that idea seriously.

    Helen Goodman, Labour's shadow media minister, has recently weighed in with a suggested collaboration with the BBC on a system of citizen commissioning allowing the public to schedule a set number of hours of radio and TV programmes...

    She said her inspiration was a book by the journalist and author Dan Hind called The Return of the Public. Hind's 2010 polemic sets out a series of proposals intended to democratise public debate through a system of citizen-led editorial commissioning.

    The subtitle of the piece asks "unworkable extremism or an idea whose time has come?". 

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Other books by Dan Hind

Other books of interest