In “Populism and media policy failure”, Des Freedman in my opinion correctly points out many issues which enable and support the growth of populist and far-right movements in the US and the UK. In particular, he cites “policy silences” and “policy failures” in four main areas where there has not been enough done by government policy to encourage a healthy environment for media and journalism. These four issues are the failure to tackle concentrated ownership, the failure to regulate tech companies, the failure to safeguard an effective fourth estate (investigative journalism), and failure to nurture independent public service media. In my opinion, Freedman’s analysis of the policy failures and silences in these four areas are spot-on and highlight real, important issues that help enable the growth of populist movements too much. However, Freedman’s solution to these problems leaves something to be desired.
Essentially, Freedman wants a total shift in the approach to media policy and calls this new approach a “redistributive” media policy. However, it’s unclear what this actually means. For instance, when Freedman correctly points out issues with commercial media (they go where profits can be found), and public service media (funding can complicate things and journalism can get too close to government), he doesn’t elaborate on how a “redistributive” policy would solve these problems. He is happy to say in his conclusion what problems would be solved by this new policy paradigm but neglects to explain how they would be solved. This paradigm would be “designed to cater to the needs above all of disaffected citizens” but it is once again unclear what that would entail. Would media companies be publicly owned, or commercial entities? How would these companies under this new paradigm operate to ensure that they properly serve the public’s interests? Perhaps it isn’t Freedman’s goal to make policy recommendations, but after he so astutely points out many areas where policy can be improved, his solutions are rather less satisfying.