By Campaign Agent Ethan Moxam
Jeremy Corbyn has proposed a number of new Labour policies designed to reform the landscape of British media. The first scheme being a new tax that could be levied on tech giants such as Google, Netflix, Facebook and Amazon.
The tax would supplement the current income that the BBC gains from TV licenses, as Corbyn’s plans are an effort to ‘end government control and reduce political influence’ over the BBC. Additionally, the Labour leader suggested that the public and BBC staff could instead elect the Corporation’s board members.
Corbyn has also called for the expansion of national and regional BBCs with quotas for women and minority groups. He claims that this devolution of power to lower divisions will help to decentralise the BBC.
Mr. Corbyn then went on to state that the supplemented license fee created from the proposed tax on tech giants could help to reduce the cost of the license fees for poor households. To do this, an independent body would decide on an appropriate level for the license fee, with discounts on the flat rate of £150.50 a year for poor households.
Other critics have suggested that protocols include the granting of funds and charitable status to groups dedicated to local public interest journalism. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism is an example of the kinds of non-profit organisations which Corbyn suggests should be given such status; whereas new “news co-operatives” could be created with the responsibility to report on regulated bodies and local government.
Corbyn claims that without such funding, a “few tech giants and unaccountable billionaires will control huge swathes of our public space and debate” and such risk requires intervention. He then pledged to put the BBC on a permanent footing, so that current ministers will no longer be able to use charter renewal negotiations as leverage to change the BBC’S behaviour.
The Labour leader continued by saying that: “if we want an independent BBC, we should consider setting it free by placing it on a permanent statutory footing, with a new independent body setting the license fee”.
Later, at an alternative MacTaggart lecture in Edinburgh, Corbyn unveiled a proposed ‘British Digital Corporation’ (BDC), which would offer access to public sector archive material as well as a platform for social networking. Mr. Corbyn revealed that the scheme could rival Amazon and Facebook, while ensuring “real privacy and public control over the data”. Moreover, the BDC would act as a sister organisation to the BBC and would be funded through the previously proposed revenue generated by taxes levied on tech giants.
The new plans have led many to suggest that Corbyn seeks to create a publicly owned Facebook; however, his team have said that while social networking will be a feature of the BDC, the public would also access content which will allow them to vote on what programmes the organisation will commission.
When elaborating further on what the new service would look like, Mr. Corbyn said to imagine “an expanded iPlayer giving universal access to licence fee payers for a product that could rival Netflix and Amazon”. Currently, these plans are not yet official Labour policy, however, the leadership have stated that they are committed to these proposals as they will be part of a wider scheme to reform the media.
Sources and Further Reading
- Jim Waterson, ‘Jeremy Corbyn: I'll tax tech firms to subsidise the BBC licence fee’, The Guardian (22 August 2018)
- Jim Waterson, ‘Corbyn proposes 'public Facebook' as part of media overhaul’, The Guardian (22 August 2018)
- Joe Watts, ‘Jeremy Corbyn sets out plans to 'end government control' of BBC’, The Independent (22 August 2018)
- ‘Corbyn: Tech firm tax could fund journalism’, The BBC (23 August 2018)
- Tom Batchelor, ‘Corbyn says Labour would consider state-owned Facebook rival’, The Independent (23 August 2018)
Image: UN Geneva @flickr