I first heard about the Bristol Cable as they were putting on a whole bunch of events at the Malcolm X Centre in St Pauls.
The relationship of politicians like me to the media – local or otherwise – has been in the spotlight in recent years, particularly because of the Leveson inquiry. This scandalous betrayal of journalistic integrity had us re-assessing the role that the Fourth Estate plays in British public life. Should there be limits to a free press? Should government intervene in journalistic practice, should press standards fall to an independent body, or is it somewhere in between?
For my part, I believe in a free press in the same way that I believe in a free market. I believe it could exist, but I have yet to see it.
Just as the markets are essentially controlled by a tiny elite and are never truly free (freedom being something that liberates and helps all people, not just those at the top), so are the corporate media constricted by this same corporate governance.
Indeed, the first edition of the Bristol Cable gives over an entire page to illustrating clearly how Bristol’s main newspaper, The Bristol Post (no link provided) is driven by corporate interests, the real 1% of the British commercial newspaper industry.
This is exactly the kind of information the public needs and exactly the kind of information I and the Green Party want to get out there.
In September, the leader of the Green Party of England and Wales Natalie Bennett, proposed a motion to our national conference on Media Ownership. It may be mainly because of her name, but Green Party members up and down the country placed this as motion number 1 in the prioritisation ballot. It was the first C motion to be debated, and it passed unanimously. It contained the following passage:
“The Green Party will as a matter of urgency, seek a funding mechanism to provide support to small-scale, local independent media organisations using a variety of media to ensure the local news is covered and reported.”
You can read the full policy that was adopted here: http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/culture,-media-and-sports.html#CMS660
And the Bristol Cable ensures exactly that – with a five-pronged approach to Bristol’s news:
1) It examines the miseries and injustices of today’s Bristol
Topics covered in Issue 1: low pay and what the living wage would do, unpaid overtime in the catering industry, dodgy landlords, the life expectancy differentials in Bristol’s districts, the sceptre of blacklisting, the cost of cutting youth services.
2) It speaks truth to power – political and corporate
- by calling on the Mayor, George Ferguson, to ensure that the living wage of £7.65 is paid to all workers at the Ferguson-owned Tobacco Factory
- by calling on developers Fifth Capital to be transparent about their plans for the Carriageworks site on Stokes Croft
- by investigating Bristol City Council’s links to Qatari companies that exploit construction workers
- by taking on Bristol Water for their leeching off of bill-payers
- by exposing UKIP’s links to tax-dodging companies
- by revealing the amount spent on consultancy fees for Bristol’s Arena project
- by calling Conservative MP Charlotte Leslie up on her votes on tuition fees and the scrapping of the EMA
- by getting a Bristol Rovers’ fans views on the club’s owners’ priorities
3) It reports on alternative community-led projects that show a better way
4) It interviews Bristol’s diverse BME and migrant communities, putting people’s experiences front and centre
People heard from: young female Somali political activists, a woman who works in solidarity with migrants, Kurdish Bristolians.
5) It also tailors an internationalist and historical perspective Contributions from Bristol Radical History Group, Greek workers, and an article on conscientious objectors in WW1.
AND it has a crossword!
It does all of this without the kind of sneering, untrustworthy and downright unethical methods of self-styled “muckraking” “paper”, The Bristolian (no link provided).
With Bristol 24/7 moving into the lifestyle market with their new magazine – the first edition was surprisingly light on news and political stories – and the BBC’s Bristol content remaining fairly harmless reportage (in the Bristol Cable’s words, “the boring corporate media” – ouch!), I hope that the Bristol Cable becomes thinking Bristolians’ paper of choice and acts as a catalyst for other grass roots publications in other cities, towns and villages.
If it does – and the content stays at this standard – then we will start to see a truly free press.