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WE KNEW in our bones that media coverage of this election would be a nasty. We haven’t been disappointed.
ElectionWatch monitors election coverage in all the Sunday and daily national newspapers. Like cleaning out fatbergs in sewers, it’s a dirty business but someone’s got to do it.
A bloc of Tory-supporting national newspapers is having a malign influence on the flow of accurate information in this election.
Just three companies control 71 per cent of national newspaper circulation — Rupert Murdoch’s News UK (The Sun, Sun on Sunday, The Times and The Sunday Times), Lord Rothermere’s Mail and Mail on Sunday, and the Barclay brothers’ Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph.
This unhealthy sway of media corporations with billionaire owners shapes and skews the priorities and view of millions of readers in Britain.
But there is a deeper, more corrosive problem. These papers amplify the lies deliberately disseminated by the Tories and they seep through, often unchallenged, into the broadcast media.
Two examples: the Tory Chancellor Sajid Javid released a 36-page dossier on November 9 which claimed to show a Labour government would increase spending by £1.2 trillion.
This figure had no basis in fact because Labour had not published its manifesto. But that figure of £1.2trn was headlined in all the Tory Sunday newspapers the next day and repeated throughout the day in broadcast news.
Home Secretary Priti Patel claimed that net migration could treble to 840,000 people a year under a Labour government.
Again, the figure was fake, based on an assumption that Labour policy would extend free movement to the whole world, but it was deliberately designed to promote scaremongering about immigration.
These tactics are reminiscent of those used by Boris Johnson’s chief strategist Dominic Cummings during the Vote Leave campaign.
In fact the cohort of 2016 Brexit campaigners who helped win the EU referendum for Leave are now at the heart of Johnson’s re-election team and responsible for the aggressive digital strategy of spoof Labour websites and rebranding the Tory Twitter account as an independent fact-checking service.
But it is the malicious intensity of the attacks on Jeremy Corbyn which is the most disturbing.
A London School of Economics report, Journalistic Representations of Jeremy Corbyn in the British Press, provides the grim evidence.
It found that 75 per cent of stories about the opposition leader were either distorted or failed to represent his actual views on subjects.
The authors assert: “Jeremy Corbyn was represented unfairly by the British press through a process of vilification that went well beyond the normal limits of fair debate and disagreement in a democracy.
“Corbyn was often denied his own voice in the reporting on him and sources that were anti-Corbyn tended to outweigh those that support him and his positions.
“He was also systematically treated with scorn and ridicule in both the broadsheet and tabloid press in a way that no other political leader is or has been.
“Even more problematic, the British press has repeatedly associated Corbyn with terrorism and positioned him as a friend of the enemies of the UK.”
ElectionWatch is a Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom (North) initiative. It attempts to monitor the flood of duplicitous reporting, downright lies and disinformation which is coming out of Tory HQ and Tory-supporting newspapers.
We have produced three issues so far and plan two more in the run-up to the election. Please promote and circulate it through your unions and networks. You can read all of the back issues of ElectionWatch at coldtype.net/MediaNorth.html.
You can also sign up to receive ElectionWatch through our email list. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Granville Williams is the editor of ElectionWatch and coordinator of CPBF (North).
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