Coffee House

Every tabloid’s worst nightmare

25 January 2013

What would George Orwell write about today? asked the Guardian. Here’s our nomination: an EU report that recommends giving the EU more powers to sack hacks, regulate the press and dole out subsidies to ‘good’ journalists, a pan-European press and failing newspapers. The report is called ‘A free and pluralistic media to sustain European democracy’. Be very afraid.

Its preamble cites the misconduct of certain British journalists, before the report recommends a set of EU-sanctioned media regulations. All EU countries should have ‘independent media councils’ set up to investigate complaints, it says, and these media councils should police newspapers to make sure they have strict codes of conduct, prominently displayed — also ownership details, all conflicts of interest declared. And so on.

These ‘media councils’ should, say the authors, have ‘real enforcement powers’. They should be able to impose fines, ‘order print and broadcast apologies’  and (most sinister) order the ‘removal of journalistic status’. An EU mandarin could soon dub Rod Liddle a non-hack. The councils themselves should ‘follow a set of European-wide standards and be monitored by the Commission to ensure that they comply with European values’.  The report urges the media councils to have a ‘politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership’ (including fascists?)

Claim your gift

The authors recommend that EU cash is doled out to ‘good’ journalists. ‘Europe-wide awards’ should go to “talented journalists and those who have made significant breakthroughs”. (No prizes for guessing what sort of breakthroughs!) Journalistic fellowships should be made available to quality investigative hacks. Note the distinction between quality journalism, which should receive more state funding, and ‘sensational (and profit-making) stories’. You can hear the author’s teeth grind as she types the words: ‘profit-making’.

And of course there are subsidies: ‘There should be a provision of state funding for media which are essential for pluralism (including geographical, linguistic, cultural and political pluralism), but are not commercially viable. The state should intervene whenever there is a market failure leading to the under-provision of pluralism.’ Why should an EU taxpayer prop up an ailing Slovakian knitting magazine?

The report also wants more money for a pan-European press: ‘Funding for cross-border European media networks (including such items as translation costs, travel and coordination costs) should be an essential component of European media policy’. Again, it doesn’t really matter if nobody buys these pan-European rags. What matters, to the top-down European thinkers, is educating citizens about the grand European project. ‘Media literacy should be taught in schools,’ recommends the report. Is the EU now enforcing the teaching of Media Studies?

This gets to the crux of the problem. All solutions require more spending and more bureaucracy. No solutions require cuts and the ceding of power. The answer is always funding: funding for reports, researchers, assessments, academics, monitoring centres: data-gathering and regulation, hand in hand. And if that doesn’t work, the answer is more data-gathering and better regulation.

The idea that freedom of the press comes from the bottom-up, that a vibrant media can’t be ordained from on high, hasn’t occurred to the authors. It’s not surprising really to find out that authors consulted politicians, professors, lobbyists in writing their report, but only very few actual journalists. Well, what would they know about the press?

Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • global city

    Under which competence was this report prepared?
    Is it one that david Cameron would demand back?

  • MrCrashHappy

    Every day the argument for an independent United Kingdom, free of the bureaucratic overreach of Brussels, gets stronger. The EU has become a tool for the destruction of national identities and paving the way for subversion by Islamists.

  • eeore

    Orwell would probably write about what a corporatist, compromised, shill organisation the Guardian is.

    As for the journalists complaining about matters of regulation, I would have more respect if they didn’t spend so much time disparaging bloggers and regurgitate so many of their stories from stuff they have read on blogs.

    But then what can we expect from a journalist bleating about the subject without ever referencing the connection between the Bilderberg group, David Bell and the Leveson inquiry.

  • Daniel Maris

    And what about this story:


    Once again our judges show their absolute contempt for victims and the public in general.

    Since when have we had to protect evil-doers from the consequences of their actions?

  • Daniel Maris

    And what about this story:


    Once again our judges show their absolute contempt for victims and the public in general.

    Since when have we had to protect evil-doers from the consequences of their actions?

  • Daniel Maris

    What better evidence could one have of why the EU really doesn’t work as a united polity.

  • Barbara Stevens

    Well the press can see what they intend doing, fight with the people to get them put in their place for good. I believe in a free and open press, and to allow this to happen will bring more problems not less and cost the industry millions. This is nothing to do with trade and an open EU its all about controlling states. I want out and I hope most of the press will fight their corner with all their might. Now we are all in it together.

    • Curnonsky

      Not those parts of the press that lose money now – they can fairly taste the subsidies already.

  • David Lindsay

    Leaving aside whether we currently have “free and pluralistic” media in Britain, of all places, you are still running a story which has already been discredited, days ago. Come on, Speccie, you can do better than this.

    Even its populariser Toby Young, one of the people against whom his father tried to warn us and who has just been replaced with Louise Mensch (oh, the shame, the shame!), must be able to see that the likelihood of this scheme’s making it to the Council of Ministers and then being passed by that body is fairly remote.

    In any case, what are “European values”? Conservatives who really are conservatives; during the furore over the nonissue of where and with whom Conservative MEPs were supposed to sit, the arch-libertarian Daniel Hannan read out on television some list of supposedly barking mad utterances by prominent Gaullists and Christian Democrats, only for his own readers on Telegraph Blogs to effuse most emphatically that they heartily approved of such sentiments and longed for British politicians to articulate them. Social Democratic opposition to, or simple bafflement at the mere concept of, enforced State secularism. Rooms-Rood-ery.

    Integral to all of which is, for example, the recognition that real agriculture is the mainstay of strong communities, environmental responsibility and animal welfare (leading to safe, healthy and inexpensive food) as against “factory farming”, and that it is a clear example of the importance of central and local government action in safeguarding and delivering social, cultural, political and environmental goods against the ravages of the “free” market. Farm subsidies, which this country had for 30 years before going into what was really always the EU, are a thoroughly excellent idea. Provided that we run them ourselves, and provided that we establish and enforce the principle that no one should own land other than in order to make use of it.

    But the Johnny-come-latelies who have colonised the cause of opposition to the EU want to abolish them completely. An important reason why there is no hope from the Conservative Party, which only the farmers really own, with everyone else as guests, often very high-paying guests in more ways than one. If the farmers thought that withdrawal from the EU would mean the end of farm subsidies, then they would block it through the Tory machine forever. Of course, it need not necessarily mean any such thing. On the contrary, it can only be brought about by a renewed British commitment to the independent embodiment of European values.

    • Rhoda Klapp2

      Could you precis that for me.

      Oh, tell us what happened in the antipodes where they got rid of farm subsdies. Do they still have farms? Wasn’t it Labour who did that in NZ?

      • David Lindsay

        Their farms have never really recovered from our accession to the Treaty of Rome, the Single European Act and the Maastricht Treaty, all under Conservative Government.

        And their Labour Parties have gone frightfully neoliberal in recent years. You would approve. Clearly, you do.

        • Rhoda Klapp2

          No, but I am not the issue, I was trying to point out that farm subsidies had been done away with yet agriculture still thrives. On principle subsidy is usually bad. Unlimited subsidy in time or amount being very bad indeed.

    • an ex-tory voter

      And your point is?

      • Noa

        Oh, quite often there isn’t a point, but occasionally the ramble can be pleasant and even informative.
        Like listening to the vicar at evensong on a hot summer day one can just drift away…

    • alabenn

      It might of been rubbished and in its current form is unacceptable, but you know it will surface again in language that will be more anodyne, but it will still mean what they want it to mean.
      As in joining a common market at the time, which now means whatever the next treaty tells you.
      Please do not respond with the actual words of the initial treaty, none of them were specific to a normal voter, only to devious anoraks and lawyers.

      • David Lindsay

        Of course they were specific (they are not very complicated) to the normal voter, to whom the6 were fully explained by Tony Benn and Enoch Powell in television footage that still exists. But you are making a very good case against referendums. Not that there is ever going to be one. Nor does there need to be.

        • Rhoda Klapp2

          I remember what they said, and I remember the lies which were put about to counter it. I remember that because it was those two that they were both characterised as nutters, which was a pretty easy sell. But most of all I remember the yes campaign having all the cards and never hesitating to lie about ever-closer union. I am seeing the lies, the same old ones and a bunch of new from EUphiles right now. I can’t imagine winning an out vote without a level playing field from the broadcat media, and I don’t think we are going to get that.

  • SmithersJones2013

    This gets to the crux of the problem

    No the crux of the problem is that Brussels is filled with jumped up two bit little despots. Thats the crux of the problem.

  • SmithersJones2013

    William Joyce would be proud. And they think people are swivel-eyed when they talk of the ‘EUSR’. Really?.

    That truly disgraceful and ominous report on its own should be enough to drive this nation out the EU. My father fought to keep this country free from that sort of oppression. We really don’t need our politicians letting foreign interests taint our shores through the back door..

    Of course such a report no doubt would be subject to QMV in Brussels I imagine so even if we opposed it (abhorrent as it is to us generally) all those countries who not that long ago existed under fascism, communism and dictatorship might not see it as such a problem.After all they would have been pretty used to it.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Very well said. The real choice is maintaining our British liberty or becoming EU slaves and it appears it is not ours to make.

  • Fergus Pickering

    I think the word they are searching for is censorship. Don’t let the people get what they want but teach them to want what they get. And they will.

  • David Barnett

    When it comes to providing grist for the UKIP mill, the Eurocrats are their own worst enemies.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Yes, it seems the inevitable result of an excess of bureaucrats and politicians on the gravy train. The remit expands and their obsession with regulation extends to more and more areas of life in ever greater levels of detail. With taxpayer funded sinecures this isn’t going to go away. You will either be part of the gravy train or oppressed by it.

  • Bruce_UK


  • Rhoda Klapp2

    and that’s why we need to be out. Not three million jobs, not some technicality regarding access to the single market, not becuase of our ‘race with Chin’ or any of the other nonsense you get from europhiles and europlastics. Because of this. And Orwell would not have needed to go beyond the EU (and the BBC where he learned about mintru) for his next several books.

  • Colonel Mustard

    Here’s the kicker:-

    “Any new regulatory frameworks must be brought into line with the new reality of a fluid media environment, covering all types of journalistic activities, regardless of the transmission medium”

    That means blogs and the internet. Both “media” and “journalistic activities” are woolly enough in definition (or lack of it) to be applied to anything. In practice that would probably be anything that the EU or its puppet “governments” disapprove of.

    This “fascism by other means” needs to be resisted rather strenuously.

  • Noa

    The Project continues onwards. Is there ant serious doubt that this report will become in due course a Directive, superseding or supplementing the Leveson implementation?

    There will then only be a need for one or maybe two, papers in the EU wide state.
    But state provided communal housing can always be made available for dissenting hacks and their dwindling band of readers.

    • foxoles

      The Guardian and the Morning Star?

  • UlyssesReturns

    Before we pass judgement on this, let’s hear the views of those self-appointed guardians of the press: Tom Watson, Chris Bryant, Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and John Prescott.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here