Under UK regulatory laws, the country’s broadcast media are legally required to be balanced in their coverage. But ahead of the country’s June 8 elections, the left-wing Labour Party is facing down a right-leaning British media, and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is a major sub-plot in the election story.
The Sun, the Daily Mail and others have been openly hostile towards Corbyn since he took over the leadership in 2015.
“I think journalists over time will be seen more and more as press officers of the party of government,” explains Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media.
“Rupert Murdoch is a supremely powerful man in British public life. In 18 months between spring and summer 2015 and the autumn of 2016, there were 20 meetings between either Murdoch or his representatives and the prime minister, the chancellor or the culture secretary. The inference for your viewers I think is pretty obvious. This is not how a democracy is run. And to me it looks like corruption. And the most tragic thing of all is it’s hidden in plain sight,” Bastani says.
Corbyn does not seem to have grasped how the media see him and therefore how he interacts with the media.
Corbyn’s difficulties with the British media are not all rooted in ideology; his determination to move his Labour Party to the political left in a country where 70 percent of the newspaper market tilts to the right.
His party is split. When he ran for Labour leader in 2015, as an outsider, few expected him to win.
He attracted record numbers of new members to the party, most of whom voted for him, but 90 percent of Labour’s parliamentary wing, his fellow MPs voted against him, with many saying he was simply unelectable.
Faced with enemies within, armed with leftist policies and a determination not to play the media game the way most British politicians do – all of that put Corbyn on a collision course with the journalists covering him.
Some believe that Jeremy Corbyn needs to brush up on his image to garner favourable press coverage.
“He is not used to having the press, TV cameras outside his front door, outside his office door. He’s not developed an easy manner with how to reply … and the public can see it,” says Andrew Pierce, journalist, Daily Mail.
Elaborating on this point, Peter Catterall, professor of history and policy at the University of Westminster, says: “Corbyn does not seem to have grasped how the media see him and, therefore, how he interacts with the media. From their point of view he’s not just the leader of the Labour Party, he is the leader of the opposition and he needs to be acting accordingly – nor has he been giving them the chunks of red meat that they need to feed on in order to do stories.”
“Yet it’s evident that many, many people find his very direct authentic way of speaking a viable antidote to the construction of popular personalities,” explains Annabelle Sreberny, professor of global media and communications, SOAS University of London. “Cults of political personalities don’t end up with the best outcome.”
Andrew Pierce, journalist, Daily Mail
Aaron Bastani, co-founder, Novara Media
Peter Catterall, professor of history and policy, University of Westminster
Annabelle Sreberny, professor of Global Media and Communications, SOAS University of London
Source: Al Jazeera