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By Jason Michael
Britain’s unionist media is, with a few small exceptions, the only show in town as far as informing the public is concerned. In Scotland we have worked very hard to create alternatives, but these are always in danger of going under.
It is certainly no secret that the BBC is no friend of Scottish democracy. During the 2014 independence referendum campaign the behaviour of the state broadcaster in its negatively biased coverage of Yes Scotland became so transparently toxic a mass public movement sprang up in response. This was no simple case of public hysteria. Independent media research and leaked training videos from within Broadcasting House showed us exactly what the BBC was doing. It was, unsurprisingly, the media wing of the Better Together campaign.
Nor was the BBC alone in its overt pro-unionist positioning. As the independence campaign drew on it became apparent that every television network, radio station, and newspaper the length of the United Kingdom was batting for the Union. The movement was vilified and its leaders demonised on the evening news and on the front pages, the case for independence was rubbished and downplayed, and the arguments for the status quo were always top of the bill.https://twitter.com/jetpack/status/887359657689456641
Our sense of the unfairness of this treatment at the hands of the media, much of it we had supported over the years with our license fees and subscriptions, was palpable. It was only right that we began to demand fairness and more balanced reportage and opinion. It was not forthcoming, however, and things have not changed since then. The behaviour of the media during all this time is largely responsible for the poisoning of political discussion here in Scotland and the growth in anti-Scottish sentiment over much of the rest of the UK.
Sadly it is the case that this will never change. We were deluding ourselves if we ever imagined the press to be a neutral conduit of the news and information. The “freedom of the press” does not mean the press is free from political agenda. It simply means, as Owen Jones pointed out in The Establishment, that it is available for purchase by the highest bidder; invariably gargantuan corporate interests with clearly established political allegiances to the state political establishment. Media is never without a political agenda, and that agenda in the UK has always been that of the British qua unionist establishment.
Such agendas inevitably determine the employment policies of the media; ensuring that management and producers, along with writers and reporters are all singing from the same hymn sheet. Of course, in order to give the impression of balance, there will be exceptions to this rule. There will be centrist and pro-independence voices, but none that cannot be easily handled, silenced, and controlled. All of this is as true of media in the United States or anywhere else in the world as it is here in Scotland and the rest of the UK. In short, this is how the media – as the fourth power of the state – works.
Alternative media offers some counterbalance but certainly not enough to offset the massive revenues and resources of the established media. The proliferation of the internet does offer people other sources of news and information, but this is always under threat. Writing a daily blog such as this or the other larger pro-independence blogs such as Wings Over Scotland and Wee Ginger Dug takes up a great deal of time and commitment. Typically they are hobbyist in nature and unpaid, and are generally produced by one author.
It does not take a rocket scientist to know that this type of media – as dedicated as it has proven to be – is not enough to fight a prolonged and intense media war with the mainstream establishment media. We have a responsibility as a movement to support it as best we can. From time to time the well-established blogs will put out calls for donations to help keep them going. Have a look over the blogs you read and trust and see if they are asking for your help. A few quid goes miles in small alternative media. Without funds they simply cannot do what they are doing, and the thought of facing another independence referendum without them is terrifying.
Speaking from experience I can tell you that no one gets rich from this. Every year that it has been running iScot Magazine has been at risk. It’s a fine glossy, available in print and online, but it struggles to keep going without subscriptions and donations. No one on the internet enjoys the whole donate button thing, I know I ignore it on the Guardian and Wikipedia and what have you, but the bottom line for the independence movement is that we are up against a corporatist government-friendly media machine that did secure a No vote in 2014. As time moves on we are in danger of losing the media we have managed to build up.