The "conventional media" is no longer the 4th estate. Pre Leveson and post, the establishment of rich people with vested interests in print media, satellite tv and some online "news" outlets attack dailly what has become the real fourth estate- our social media.
Over the years, and certainly more obvious today, we see the mainstream media constantly "report" what the establishment want us to read. Recent enquiries like the Bloody Sunday enquiry and the Hillsborough enquiry and the calls for enquiries into various aspects of the Miners Strike have highlighted the real lack of an independent voice reporting on reality. Instead they have reported what the authorities tell them to.
The establishment have learned through human tragedy, murder, Government defeats etc PR disasters like Vietnam, the Chavez coup, scandals etc that the fourth estate must be controlled and not be allowed to be free. Edward Bernays, back in the 1920s, wrote his book, Propaganda, that has become the bible of an establishment who want to control democracy through its press and how it influences public opinion.
The UK establishment are very good at this kind if stymeing of the press and have ensured that little of the reporting in the mainstream media strays from their line. This has been true in Northern Ireland, during the Falklands and right through to the embedded journalists reporting the great victories in Iraq and Afghanistan. Journalists who stray are always in danger of either never getting access to stories, or worse, becoming victims of "friendly fire" in theatres of war.
Shami Chakrabatti has said that if the Leveson report is implimented this will be an infringement of our human rights and will mean our press is no longer free. I would say our press needs an overhall from the top down before it can be said to be free. A press reliant on advertising cant be free, and the fact that huge corporations like Coca Cola or Nestle who infringe human rights dailly around the world are rarely confronted by our print media is testament to that. The dreadful reporting of the private take over of the English NHS by huge world wide corporations has hardly used up a typewriter ribbon across our range of media. The fact that the percentage of doctors and NHS workers etc who are against the profit making NHS plans of the Government and its billionaire friends is in the mid eighty percent is not reflected by the the broadcast media. They seem to be able to find doctor friends of Lansley and Hunt for every report, which ensures a lopsided media bias. And alternative voices -some very prominent- calling for solutions outside the conservative austerity plans are rarely heard. And the fact that 99.5% of all scientific research papers show that global warming is a fact and our current weather "difficulties" are a direct result of our use of carbon fuels etc is always cast into doubt when someone with a vested interest in us buying more and more expensive gas, coal and oil generated heating and electricity is wheeled out by the "free press" to make the strange comment that "nothing has been proved."
I would argue that this biased press reporting goes back a long way, but intensified when the staying voice of the journalist and print unions were smashed by Lonrho and Murdoch with the help of the Thatcherite Government in the eighties. The print unions regularly regulated reporting of the working class by refusing to carry derogatory stories that unfairly attacked the working class and their institutions.
This is definately not the case nowadays with the demonisation of the working class and the divisions the right wing press have created in the "types" of poor we now have.
Social media is casting light constantly on people dying after ATOS decisions to send them back to work regardless of their obvious illness or disability. The print media and our broadcast media have lapped up the new Tory words for those in need. During the Thatcher years, the Tories coined the phrase "underclass." We now have the new vermin, the "undeserving poor," a term I have yet to see a journalist challenge in the 60% of the "free media" that one, right wing billionaire, Rupert Murdoch, controls.
The recent battles over the BBC have split the left. Some, like me, have argued it needs to be separated from Government, be less of a British propaganda machine, but still independent of advertisers. Others say it should be broken up ( and sold off chunk by chunk to the wonderful Mr Branson or Murdoch?). The BBC needs reformed, as does the rest of the ownership and control of our media.
Social media, a new and very strong organ of the fourth estate, should be protected.
Lord McAlpine, the wronged multi-millionaire is currently doing what the establishment have tried to do for the past few years, stamp on the world wide conversation twitter allows. False allegations of McAlpine being involved in child abuse have been made on the internet for many years, and he has never tried to sue those making these allegations. Recent events have, it seems, smashed all of these allegations, yet it is rumoured ( and rumour is a powerful weapon!) that McAlpine will find a way to sue thousands of people who tweeted or RT'd his name on the lead up to the police admitting a mistake (the fact it was the police's mistake seems to have been wiped from the collective memory. The hounding by the tabloids of the abused man who was the patsy in all of this has been every bit as bad as anything reported by many to Leveson). I doubt that McAlpine will get much more money from twitterers. Those who have handed over cash did so in haste and fear of their jobs in the hysteria that was built up by the Mail, Express and Sun, in my opinion. All whose billionaire owners and shareholders, I may add, would profit from a BBC breakup attacked the BBC as a corporation over the newsnight aspect, but personalised the Schofield incident rather than attack the corporate ITV network.
In a proper democratic free press, social media would compliment journalism that is frank and truthful. Reports that capture the public imagination and strike a chord are tweeted across the world. Words written for a small UK readership, quite often reach across the world. A press that does not seek to profit from this, nor fear real freedom of reportage and loss of sponsorship should not fear this- but should welcome it. Human rights should be implimented before cries of "lets protect them" are made. We do not have a free press, therefore at present it does not need protected- it needs re-thought and it needs to reflect and be part of the information superhighway we live with now rather than make the pretence we live in the days of Woodward and Bernstein, which in my opinion, we never did- the story they broke was one that was fed to them- in my opinion the real investigative and brave John Pilgers of that time are the real heroes!