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Free the Press: Monopolisation of the Media

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

Kate Byng-Hall reports on the latest Extinction Rebellion protest against the UK’s print media tycoons.

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On 27th June, Extinction Rebellion (XR) led the ‘Free the Press’ march through London to protest against print media’s handling of the climate crisis.

The organisers of the protest have explained that they are targeting the four biggest print media tycoons in the UK – Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere, Sir Frederick Barclay and Baron Evgeny Lebedev – to protest their monopolisation of the industry and what XR believe to be insufficient coverage of the climate crisis.

Free the Press

Extinction Rebellion announced a “day of protest” targeting the “four billionaire owners of 68% of the UK’s print media”, carrying effigies of the men along their route. The organisation said the protest was made “demanding an end to media corruption that suppresses the truth from the public for profit”.

“The arenas of power in this country are rotten, and where the billionaire-owned press is concerned – corruption is the business model. It’s time they cut the crap and stop acting as though they are providing a noble service to the public, while greenwashing the climate crisis and stoking the culture war to divide people.” – Gully Bujak, Extinction Rebellion

Six activists were arrested after dumping seven tonnes of horse manure on the pavement outside the offices of the Daily Mail in Kensington on the morning of the 27th. Protestors allegedly scaled scaffolding outside the building and hung ‘Free the Press’ banners from it. Extinction Rebellion said that they intended to make the same protest outside the Daily Telegraph office, but we stopped before they could go ahead. The police have condemned the act as a disruption to the public.

Why Protest?

Extinction Rebellion decided that the ‘Free the Press’ protest was needed to expose the shocking power of the four billionaire tycoons who collectively own The Times, The Sunday Times and The Sun (Murdoch), The Daily Mail and The Metro (Rothermere), The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph (Barclay), The Evening Standard and The Independent (Lebedev). Essentially, the entirety of the country’s mainstream print media is owned by four individuals, none of whom pay UK tax.

The organisation opposes the extent of these individuals’ influence over the rest of the media, especially TV news. XR claims they “scapegoat minorities” and “obscure the truth on the climate crisis”, controlling the dialogue on nationally important topics.

“Whilst we become even more divided and disillusioned, they grow in power and wealth. They have unfettered access to our elected officials and they undermine our democracy with their propaganda and hate. We are in desperate need of a free, fair and democratic press that serves the public interest.” – Extinction Rebellion online

Reports have claimed that these individuals consistently have close relationships with government officials, meaning they have the potential to control coverage on various issues to favour certain people or messages. XR deplores this, saying “independent, unbiased journalism is vital to a functioning democracy”.

Extinction Rebellion has stated that none of the papers owned by the four tycoons give adequate coverage to the severity of the climate crisis, even going so far as to accuse Rupert Murdoch of giving a platform to climate change deniers.

“We are experiencing an existential crisis. The climate emergency is the biggest threat to have ever faced humanity. But our press barons – who pretend to speak for us, to represent us, to fight for us – have failed again and again to equip us with the facts to help us understand the reality and act accordingly. They have done so cynically, failing in their duty to their readership and to the public.” – Extinction Rebellion online

While it is essential that there are multiple sources of news available to the public, and the various print newspapers on sale in Britain form an incredibly substantial facet of keeping us informed, it is crucial that this is done with accurate and sufficient facts about the topics that matter. And, arguably, in the long run, climate change matters above every other subject for now.


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