The News of the World’s demise and the way forward

Labour Party

Following on from my blog yesterday on the closure of the News of the World and the need for greater media pluratity, here are some of my thoughts on what this entails in the imminent future.

Whilst what happened at the News of the World was awful and should be dealt with extremely seriously, we must remember that lots of innocent people have lost their jobs in order that Murdoch can pursue his agenda. We must be wary of what this means for the future.

The closure of NOTW should be the beginning of a media overhaul, not the end.

Labour Party

The shock and horror of the British public over the phone hacking scandal at the News of the    World is palpable. The British public may have had little sympathy with media-courting celebrities who has the boundaries of their privacy broken – but news that murder victims phones were hacked has justly provoked outrage and disgust against the tabloid.

I am not going to delve too deep into condemning the actions of News International, that pool is already murky enough and our Labour Leader is doing a fine job of fronting proper criticism and putting pressure on Mr Cameron to get his act together in dealing with this issue.

I would, however, like to talk about what this indicates of some very worrying trends in the global media market. The Murdoch empire has once again shown that it is fundamentally just too powerful. In controlling so many media outlets Murdoch was able to dictate the outcome of elections, deluge the public consciousness with his opinions and, it is now clear, force all politicians to be beholden to him to the extent where they were afraid even to try to uncover illegal activities within his company.

This situation is not unique to the UK.  Consider for example Italy where Berlusconi not only runs the country but also maintains a national media monopoly. Unsurprisingly, media coverage in Italy is overwhelmingly more Berlusconi-friendly than in the rest of the world. Italian politics now takes place within Berlusconi’s fishbowl, the walls of which distort and dim even the most lurid of the Prime Minister’s activities and those of his associates.

There are a multiplicity of problems incurred by such media monopolies. It means that the public is not afforded the option of a variety of opinions and viewpoints. Public opinion is as much informed by the media as the media is guided by it; restricting the diversity of media opinions leads to a warping of public debate. In the case of news outlets such as Fox this can stray into the territory of the deliberately misleading and the propagation of actual untruths.

The News of the World has closed but this should not be the end of the story. At any rate the closure of the NOTW was as much a market-based decision as a political appeaser: Its mass desertion by advertisers rendered the tabloid unsustainable.  Instead this should initiate a rethink of how the media should be run within the UK and elsewhere. Allowing certain companies to achieve monopolies within the media not only leads to corruption, it is harmful to democracy. A healthy media requires a plurality of voices and opinions, free to report and express but that can also be regulated in order to prevent slander and malpractice. If the News of the World crisis teaches us anything it is that the British media has become divorced from its purpose. We must find a way to get it back on track.

More older women on TV please

Labour Party

Two news items today on women gave me pause for thought.

The first was this excellent Guardian piece on women in comedy. The second was the BBC survey showing the Corporation marginalises older women.

I fully agree with Hadley Freeman when she argues that within mainstream comedy women are, on the whole, considered to be unfunny and demoted to their own special categories. Younger women are either passive benign objects of sexual desire, or the neurotic wives (apparently on their wedding day all women get an obligatory brain transplant).

For older women however….well…’s hard to say exactly….it’s not as if there’s really enough to be able to tell. In much of the media world it appears that women only live until they’re 35 and spend vast amounts of that time either shopping, putting on make up or scheming….and lacking a sense of humour.

This isn’t the world I know. In the world I live in, where I now class myself as une femme d’un certain age, plenty of women are way over 35. The overwhelming majority are functional human beings, are just as capable as men, and are very funny. While I acknowledge there has been some progress in certain genres, in much of the media women are still portrayed as one-dimensional characters, really only valuable for their aesthetic qualities.

There are still not enough women in influential media positions such as production and direction. Many people seem to be under the illusion that this is no longer a problem. Even the Guardian proudly proclaimed that 4 women were competing for the top title at the Cannes film festival. This was, you may remember against 16 men, which is not so good when you realise that more than 20% of the media industry is made up of women.

Popular media not only reflects public perceptions but also influences and to some extent determines them. This is why it’s important to change the message the media is giving out about women. Reality and the media have a symbiotic relationship. This is why I, as a female MEP, care how the media is portraying women.

The BBC does have a duty here as our public service broadcaster with the highest of reputations. The BBC must act reasonably and fairly towards women over 35 and make sure they are as fairly represented on our television screens as the Corporation’s army of middle-aged men.


Body Image, Equal Treatment, ethic minority, Evening Standard, Freedom of Speech, Gender, Immigration, Women's Rights

The often taboo topic of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was raised sensitively in the media last month.

Thousands of girls mutilated in Britain

Reversing female circumcision

I am proud that the UK is leading the way in Europe by assisting victims of this savage crime quickly and confidently via advertising a targeted NHS service to reverse female circumcision.

In the European Parliament one of the changes in attitude that the Daphne fund (one of the EU’s prime sources of funding for awareness-raising, prevention and protection of victims of FGM) sought to achieve is an end to the grimly scandal mongering tones occasionally struck by media’s coverage of FGM. Such tones often only serve to make affected women feel guilty, hence wounding them psychologically and increasing their sense of being an outsider.

I think it is an outrage that, despite 25 years of legislation, not a single person has faced prosecution for the barbarous act of female circumcision, which claims the well-being of approximately 500 girls a year in Britain.

At the end of last month I supported a resolution, put forward in the European Parliament Women’s Committee, to make all EU Member States enforce their existing laws on FGM and introduce new tough measures to stamp out cultural tolerance of this practice.

Locally everyone can make a difference by helping to integrate immigrant families more successfully. Female genital mutilation is carried out in accordance with tradition in certain communities in the UK. These traditions come from other parts of the world and flourish in other European countries.

There therefore needs to be a massive global effort to break through these barriers and protect girls from this barbaric practice.

A very good video explaining the effects and attitudes towards FGM in Somaliland can be seen here: