On the OBA’s interactive Facebook page (which, along with the BE2012 page, reminds me somewhat of the Wild West-like early days of blogging), a local journalist through out this challenge to the assembled posters:
“For all the criticism of the RG, I wonder how many would support independent alternative(s) in the media landscape…? (I mean independent of political and economic powers).”
I queried what was meant by an alternative, which led to the challenge being added to:
“…the question really is what do you, the public, mean by an alternative? And are you willing to pay for it?”
And so, the gauntlet has been thrown, the challenge made.
I invite readers to give their ideas on this; below I take a first stab at responding to the challenge!
The Problem (as I see it) – Race & Politics
By media here I mean specifically local news media.
And the main focus of criticism, locally, as noted in the original challenge, is that the ‘RG’ – the Royal Gazette.
The RG is seen by many in the community as being biased largely along the lines of old White Oligarchy interests, which often (but not always) sides with the former UBP, and now the OBA, or at least the paper is perceived to be pro-UBP/OBA.
And there is a distinct racial aspect here – the paper is seen by many to be racist. Not frothing-at-the-mouth White supremacist, but in the less obvious, even un/sub-conscious, be it in the choice of language used, the choice of graphics (photos and cartoons) and their positioning, the stories investigated and the stories not investigated and the questions asked and the questions not asked.
And yes, there is a conflation between race and politics here.
In general though the RG is thought to take it easy on the OBA (and formerly the UBP), in terms of questions, investigations and discourse, while being very aggressive and dismissive of the PLP.
It’s not easy to bring up any one example however, it’s just little things that add up over time which give people these impressions.
The Problem (as I see it) – Capitalist Media
There’s also the fact that under our capitalist system the news media are profit-seeking firms with corporate divisions of labour, products to sell – they exist to make a profit – and at another level to support the overall capitalist mode of production.
One peculiar aspect of the capitalist media is that it’s not always clear what the product the media is selling is and to whom.
To the average consumer, the ‘product’ is seen as the physical newspaper itself, the transmission of information, as well as the rather obvious advertising inside the paper and online. The average consumer could thus be excused for thinking the newspaper makes a profit through paper sales and advertising.
And to a degree it does – a paper that doesn’t sell won’t make money, either through sales itself or through attracting advertisers and selling advertising space – and profit-motives and market dynamics do indeed influence this aspect of the media.
However, the media also performs – and sells accordingly – a service on a larger scale, that of class interests.
The capitalist media is owned by private interests.
It is dependent on selling advertising spaces.
These two characteristics alone influence the media in question – anything that threatens the private interests behind the media or those of advertisers will either be censored through silence (not reported, not given an ability to be communicated) or it will be subject to hostility (which includes ridicule).
This can take on local peculiarities, such as gendered and racial tones.
In Bermuda, in as much as the private interests and bulk of advertisers in Bermuda, that is, the majority of the indigenous elite, capitalist class, are White, there is a latent hostility within the media to any challenges to White interests/idelogical perspectives (in as much as these are a product of a conflated class and racial historical reality, and the capitalist class in Bermuda is almost wholly White).
This translates to hostility and ridicule towards even moderate challenges to Whiteness – such as the PLP (which is composed of, represents and supports largely Black interests – not in the absolute sense, but in the sense that it draws membership and support almost wholly from the Black community).
This also translates into hostility and ridicule of other, mostly Black, entities, such as organised labour (in as much as the working class of Bermuda is almost wholly Black).
More radical ‘Black Power’ and anti-racist positions are subject to even more hostile treatment than the moderate ‘threats’ of the PLP and the unions.
Beyond the peculiarities of Bermudian political economy along racial lines, anything that challenges capitalist ideology itself, be it the moderate challenges of organised labour and pro-labour political organisations, or more radical positions (such as Marxism) are subject to hostility and ridicule too.
Bermuda just happens to have the added racial aspect too.
And it is not just hostility towards threats which is at play here. The media also serve as key propaganda role beyond this defensive role.
The media also serves to advocate for, to normalise, capitalist ideology.
The particular brand of capitalist ideology can of course change over time, from patronage capitalism, to Keynesian capitalism to anti-welfare, pro-austerity neoliberal capitalism. Often it can express different shades of these (and others) at the same time.
In short, news media do not only ‘sell’ a service of papers and advertising space.
The news media also ‘sells’ a service for capitalist interests – be it for local capitalist peculiarities, such as our racial political economy – or more general propaganda in support of the capitalist mode of production itself (and opposition to radical challenges to it).
Indeed, it is not unusual for news media, at least for newspapers, to be loss-leading entities – they do not, quite frankly, make a profit through selling papers or advertising space, but, rather, run at a loss.
They are instead subsidised by capitalist class interests itself – and even somewhat by the State, through the direction of Government advertising, for example (and one wouldn’t be surprised if different political parties, when in power, demonstrate different strategies in this regard).
They are subsidised for the service they provide to capitalism (local and global) in defending against challenges to the status quo and for normalising and propagandising the status quo and/or capitalist interests.
In future posts on this topic I will address:
The biases of journalist personnel themselves.
The failure of ‘Black’ media & new media opportunities
An outline for a new media approach – a non-capitalist, non-sexist, non-racial media.