Media Ownership. Will Self Asks: Who Cares?

A stand-up comedy routine being performed by the writer, Will Self, had him coming to a sudden realisation regarding the ownership of the media: unless you are of a certain age, nobody cares.

Writing in today’s Big Issue in Scotland magazine, he was talking about an improvised routine, with a friend, that usually gets a laugh when he’s done something similar in the past. It was to prove not that funny this time around…..

He begins: “We both thought it would be amusing, given the Evening Standard’s relaunch, if we made none too gentle fun of its billboard advertising campaign, which has featured first a series of apologies – Sorry for Losing Touch, Sorry for Being Negative – and then a number of ‘promises’, such as We Promise to Listen.

“I styled myself as a Russian oligarch called Ledov (modelled on the Standard’s new owner, ex-KGB man Alexander Lebedev) and [my friend] Matt interviewed me as to my views on London and its sole newspaper.

“After a few minutes of the audience tittering bemusedly at our antics, an uncomfortable realisation began to dawn on me: these young folk couldn’t give a toss about who owned the Standard – or indeed any other newspaper or media organisation. I’m older than Matt, but both of us are journalists who came of age during the Wapping strike, when Rupert Murdoch, having bought The Times, broke the print unions.”

He continues: “Moreover, both of us belong to a pre-internet generation for whom media control is one of the most salient facts of the political landscape.

“Our audience, on the other hand, had no such scruple (or at least, that’s my hunch).

“For them, news is a kind of manna shed by the heavenly screen, while opinion is merely the margarine spread on this unleavened daily bread.

“Who the god or gods responsible for disseminating this stuff are is of very little interest to the majority – because, after all, if you don’t like/believe what one website is putting out, you can simply click to the next.

“Needless to say, I think this is a very blinkered view indeed. If the only price point acceptable to news consumers is zero, then they will get the news they deserve: the kind of blatant propagandising put out by Murdoch, Ted Turner et al. Ha-bloody-ha!

“This makes it all the more heartening that you’re reading this copy of The Big Issue, with its reassuringly-expensive cover price, and complete editorial independence.”

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