On a dreary, grey Saturday morning, I decided rather last minute to attend the 2019 Media Democracy Festival. An event that brings together ‘media democracy campaigners, journalists, researchers and citizens’ with the overarching goal/theme of the reforming and democratisation of the media.
This was spoken about to some length in Owen Jones’ keynote address.
Ideas he spoke of were for an imposition of taxes to be placed on advertisers (an industry that spends in excess of £20Bn per year) and that for-profit businesses no longer be subsidised by the public purse.
This new tax revenue could then be awarded to initially start up not-for-profit outlets run by public communities.
In conjunction, allowances of £200 could be given to the public for the express purpose of funding independent media outlets of their choosing, which would be split into 2 components: local/regional and national outlets.
This would enable a broad spectrum of voices to be heard and not just those designated from autocracy.
For example, non-white ethnic media outlets could be supported by those various communities, and health workers could give their allowance to outlets reflective of that community, and so on. And in turn, each media outlet could campaign to the public to donate part or all of its allowance to its cause.
Numerous and brilliant ideas such as these were reeled off and I’d encourage readers to visit the Media Reform Coalition’s BBC Reform Proposals to get a flavour of the ideas discussed.
However, I couldn’t help notice that one of the most pertinent aspects was missing from the discussion: working toward a timeframe to which these changes are to be brought about. More specifically, against the backdrop of climate change.
The latest IPCC report gives humanity a little under 12-years before we’re committed to catastrophic, extinction level, climate chaos.
Indeed, science has revealed that Venus was once Earth-like, perhaps with lush vegetation and wildlife. Now, it is the most hellish planet in the solar system – hotter, even, than Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun. Why? Because Venus has a runaway greenhouse system that is enveloped in thick, dense gasses that traps heat like a pressure cooker. This is where the Earth, the only planet in the solar system hospitable to human life, is headed.
The way in which we’ve thus far tackled climate change and ignored its growing dangers reminds me of the steamroller scene from the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.
A guard screams at the sluggish steamroller driven – from a great distance – by the film’s titled protagonist before being steadily flattened by the vehicle. Either protagonist in this scene could be applied to our world’s governments and those who believe climate change to be a hoax: Austin could’ve simply steered clear of the guard, or the guard could’ve simply stepped aside. A fitting scene that provides a perfect metaphor for the ignorance and torpor towards impending climate chaos.
Decades ago, we could’ve begun implementing systemic changes to infrastructure to reverse climate change, ushering us toward a carbon neutral society. Now, we’re left with just over one decade to mitigate its worst affects.
This global clock has been imposed upon us by rampant neo-liberalism and capitalism that permeates every aspect of our societies. These malignant ideologies have enabled us to strip nature of its essence, decontextualize, package and commodify to the point that we are mesmerised like infants when confronted with its raw power and beauty.
This divorcing of nature is by design, it allows us to commit eco-genocide without a second thought. Professor Jem Blendell gives sobering commentary on the atrocities us humans have committed on the biosphere and the numerous ways we’re destroying our planet. I’ve seen first-hand the actual decimation wrought on the jungles of Borneo that have been replaced with row after endless row of palm trees.
This decoupling of conscience is similar to how certain communities are first dehumanised so that violence and murder becomes far easier to commit and doesn’t cause the assailant to lose any sleep, question their actions or consider its impacts on their fellow human.
With all this in mind, I asked Owen the question whether we should be working with this ecological timeframe in mind?
In response to my question, Owen went on to state that we should be careful when talking about this 12-year deadline so that it doesn’t become “demobilising” and we don’t “succumb to defeatism”.
However, his answer didn’t really address what I was trying to get at. My question shouldn’t be viewed as being defeatist or one designed to inspire it; rather, it is one designed toward pragmatism.
My point is this: If independent media, journalists and campaigners – who desire and seek real structural change and the democratisation of the press – are serious about ushering in these changes, we all need to work to an agreed, immutable deadline with which to bring this about. Because there is little point doing so if there’s no society – or societal structure – left to enjoy the fruits of its labour.
Rendering this noble effort little more than an exercise in putting the cart before the horse.