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The UK Press: You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘til it’s Gone

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It’s a long-held belief that you ‘don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone’, or so the Joni Mitchell song goes. But, as we step into the next decade, it appears that this saying, once reserved for discussing failed relationships, both personal and romantic, applies significantly to other elements of our life and society.

When it comes to news, and more importantly, our consumption of it, the previous decade has come with a lot of ups and downs as newspaper circulation fell, regional titles closed and huge institutions, such as the BBC, came under fire during a political debate.

A worrying time, as the importance of multiple voices in the news landscape helps to give the general public a more informed approach to what’s happening, we take a look at the past decade, and what could lie ahead for the UK and its approach at cutting away at the news landscape.

The BBC

When it comes to recent discussions concerning the BBC, we can see that the next few years could have a significant impact on the broadcasting company. Created to inform, educate and entertain, the BBC is tasked with providing unbiased, independent news to UK residents, funded by the license fee.

However, over the last few years, there has been much talk about scrapping the £154.50 annual license fee payment, with 96% of people polled by The Express saying they do not believe the license fee is worth the money. In another report, 20% of those polled by YouGov said they did not trust BBC journalists during the most recent election campaign.

But, alongside this discourse, which is often found in more right-leaning tabloids, others have come forward saying how the BBC is especially pivotal in these times, and that the government is actively trying to discredit the BBC to do away with the unbiased news source.

Talking to The Guardian, Carole Tongue, a former Labour MEP and public service broadcasting spokesperson said that the current government look as though they want to ‘move fast and break things’ when discussing the BBC. She went on to say that the BBC ‘unites’ us due to it being a public broadcasting system, while the content is made for viewers and not advertisers.

Further to this, Huw Edwards has discussed how recent public attacks by the Conservative Government are intended to cause ‘chaos and confusion’ within the public by undermining the institution.

This was in response to the way that the government criticised the BBC for covering election night, while also noting that a change could lead to similar issues faced by America during the 2016 election, such as ‘fake news’.

However, recent rumblings have indicated that the Prime Minister does want to affect the BBC for decriminalising the non-payment of the licence fee. This was something an independent review warned against several years ago, as it could cost the BBC £200 million of revenue.

The loss of the BBC isn’t something we could truly imagine, as it has been there throughout our lifetime. But, if you’re wondering how this could impact the country we live in, you only have to look at the decrease in regional news to see what could happen.

Regional news

While local newspapers once sold consistently, informing locals of what was happening in and around their area, the previous decade has all but taken away the local, regional newspaper industry.

In 2018 alone, approximately 43 local news titles closed, a trend that’s been having a significant impact across the country. It’s estimated that 58% of the country is no longer served by a regional newspaper, which has had a knock-on effect when it comes to how those living in certain areas gain their news and feel informed.

Back in 2016, a study conducted by King’s College London found the extent of this lack of local news, citing a ‘democracy deficit’, which had raised distrust of public institutions and reduced community engagement.

Mark Thompson, the former director-general of the BBC said of the situation:

“A society which fails to provide its different communities and groups with the means to listen and come to understand each other’s pasts and presents shouldn’t be surprised if mutual incomprehension and division are the consequence. If you doubt that any of this connects to real-world politics and national wellbeing, you need to pay more attention.”

This shows us just how important it is to have news available to people from all walks of life, while also ensuring there are unbiased news outlets there that don’t lean towards one view – especially in the world of politics.

The Future

When it comes to local news, in particular, it’s worth noting that the BBC has been working to help fix this. The corporation has done this by creating the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which funds journalists to cover council meetings and local public services, to share stories both with local news organisations and the corporation.

But, while the BBC is working to try and fix the ‘democracy deficit’ to those in more local areas, the BBC itself is far from safe. With some suggesting a Netflix style paid-for model, while others call for it to be abolished altogether, making room for advertisers and boardroom moguls to step in to dominate an area they almost already have a stranglehold on, it would appear that in this age of ‘fake news’ and closures, we could need the BBC more than ever. 

It really could be the difference in leaving us singing that old Joni Mitchell song and being informed across the board.

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