PRESS BARONS: Bold new plan to get back to real news

Last night, The Slog posted in relation to the agenda-ridden mainstream media as follows: ‘There is an exciting development afoot in relation to that, on which I hope to enlarge tomorrow.’

This is it: has launched a crowd funded bid to buy The Times and The Sunday Times.

It’s now three years since the phone hacking scandal erupted, and we’ve had a high profile trial, the Leveson Inquiry and a new press regulator. But despite this the power of the press barons remains undiminished….and looks to be increasing further. A new organisation called ‘Let’s Own the News’ is putting forward a radical solution: the luanch of a crowd-funded bid to acquire The Times and The Sunday Times from Rupert Murdoch.

LOTN founder Laurie Fitzjohn observes that “Currently 5 families control 80% of the national newspapers we read. This isn’t a free press……Our politicians are still in fear of the press barons…..but now with crowdfunding, we have a unique opportunity to collectively take action to defend our democracy. A crowd acquisition of The Times and The Sunday Times would be an important and achievable step in reducing the power of the press barons”

It would be very hard for even half-awake citizens to deny that: and now, the driving force behind the Open University and the Consumers’ Association – The Young Foundation – has thrown its weight behind the LOTN campaign. Its CEO Simon Willis observes, “We’re backing this campaign because we want to tackle powerful incumbent institutions. It’s fundamentally undemocratic that such immense power lies with such a small group who can use their influence to shape public opinion in a way that suits them. The media provides an important and constructive function in society, and we hope that this innovative challenge will pique public interest, promote debate, and ultimately disrupt the disproportionate ownership of the UK’s press by a handful of people.”

Let’s Own the News are asking for pledges to invest online, offering people a chance to make a small investment and at the same time defend our democracy by helping create a truly free press.

Crowd funding is a sort of actively mutualist way to fund companies, causes and projects by lots of individuals making small investments through the internet. In 2013 it raised over £300m from more than 70k individuals in the UK. Now LOTN wants to raise £100m, to cover an acquisition of the Times titles for up to £50m, with a further £50m to be invested in taking them through to profitability. £100m is around £120 per reader of the newspapers, which is 1/3rd of an annual digital subscription, or £2 per UK adult.

While the titles are not publically for sale, under the radar Roop has been looking to flog his flagships for some time. Selling them would almost certainly raise the Newscorp share price, and if the crowd-sourcing initiative achieves enough credibility, it can launch a formal crowd funding process. Even in this second phase, donations will only be taken if the attempt is successful.

More information is available at .

Connected: Today’s ‘they would say that wouldn’t they?’ syndrome