“Even as we unite in our efforts to defeat the virus, we must also recognise that robust scrutiny is to be welcomed. It’s the duty of the media.” – Michael Gove – April 4 2020.
Spare a thought for the struggling news mogul. Spare a thought for Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, and Jonathan Harmsworth, 4th Viscount of Rothermere. It’s tough owning a newspaper these days. Virus, riots, and cuts to the industry have made being a journalist less profitable than it was before. Advertisers are more hesitant to promote their products alongside news of a pandemic during an already trying time when ad revenue for the news media is plummeting. Hence our UK government has aired a coronavirus public information campaign across print, TV, radio, and digital media since March. Win-win, the public will stay informed and journalists can stay fed.
The government has spent £35m on the “All in, all together” campaign, which was negotiated with the government by the National Media Association – an organisation dominated by corporate newspaper fat cats. Tax money is now being given to billionaires with already questionable tax habits. Rupert Murdoch in particular, who has a reputation as a geriatric puppet master behind British politics, is being rewarded for behaviour such as allowing his employees to hack the phones of deceased people.
If all else fails, it is the duty of the government to uphold democracy. That is why the government has decided to support our newspapers – but only The Sun, The Independent, the Evening Standard, The Guardian, the Daily Mail, and other regional news. The local press and independent publishers, who are struggling the most under Covid-19 and are vital sources of information for millions of people, are left out of this sweet deal. So while local journalism is bleeding out, national news will stay with us. We can absolutely depend on them. According to Survation, only 14% of the British population completely trust the information regarding Covid-19 provided by The Sun, only 19% trust the Daily Mirror, and less than half the population (39%) trust The Guardian.
As we can see from the headlines of the articles by The Guardian, the robust scrutiny that Michael Gove called for is non-existent. There is a lot of praise for the furlough scheme, despite the concerns that once lockdown is over, there will be a massive widespread layoff to recoup profit from paying employees 80% of their wages. It’s mentioned in one of their non-sponsored articles, but it’s a grim price to pay to stay funded.
The same can be found in an article by the Daily Mail, titled “‘I worried I wouldn’t be able to put food on the table for my family’: How the Covid-19 pandemic threatened businesses – and how the Government is helping them.'” But the government isn’t helping businesses – or, to be more specific, not small businesses that need the money the most. As of now, one of the more successful pubs (Brigante) in York has been closed due to losses from the Covid-19 pandemic. The furlough will affect students in particular; sure, being paid only 80% of your wages sounds great if you’re fortunate enough to be in a high paying job. But I have rent, bills, and food to pay as a student.
In York alone, 17,500 jobs are being threatened. Most of those jobs are held by struggling university students who can’t rely on the bank of mom and dad to sustain them. Without urgent support, the less economically privileged students of the UK will miss out on vital qualifications and knowledge.
The Government’s ridiculous handling of the Covid-19 crisis has been a disaster not just for students, but for the majority of the country. It’s great that our conservative government is paying mostly conservative-leaning papers to tell us how great rich Tories are doing. It’s an affront to democracy that we’re allowing this cock-up of a government to pay wealthy men to shake their asses as they play cheerleader during a time when the government deserves all the scrutiny it can get. So, in the end, if you want to know who the government represents, look at who is benefiting the most.