A Free media – in Somerset too

Today Oliver Dowden DCMS Secretary of State, published a statement on the free media. We thought it was worth publishing some extracts. Just on the off chance that anyone from South Somerset District Council happens to be reading it:

What makes a healthy democracy? The strongest and most progressive countries share lots of qualities. But they have two vital things in common: a free and diverse media and the right to dissent.”

We need outlets and commentators who cover the range of the political spectrum. Who can speak truth to power; and who are willing to challenge dogma or orthodoxy.

Across the West, our values of tolerance and freedom of expression, for which previous generations have fought and died, increasingly risk being undermined by a small but vocal minority.”

Talking about a new media Bill, the Secretary of State goes on: “We’ve also got special safeguards for journalistic and “democratically important” content. News publishers’ content won’t be “in scope” – whether it’s on their own sites or on other online services. Journalists will also benefit from increased protections when they post on social media. The largest platforms will also have to protect political opinions on their sites, even if certain activists or campaign groups don’t agree with them.”

Oliver Dowden is not saying anything revolutionary. But when we are talking about a free press, it includes having to read things you don’t like. It includes being honest when you are caught out doing the wrong thing. It includes being open with news networks, not blanking them or refusing to respond.

It applies to the abuse of the power of social media. But it also applies to thin skinned authorities that do not like being scrutinised.


  • Good to see The Leveller is now involved, with two Community Radio Stations Gfm City of Wells Glastonbury Street and surrounding villages
    Ninespring covering Yeovil and surrounding towns and villages


    What goes around, comes around! So, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport ‘alive’ to the ‘power’ of the ‘local’ media/press, pace the ‘debacle’ of the Chesham & Amersham By-election rout, having ‘shunting’ into an ‘irrelevance’ the ‘Cairncross Review’ of local Newpapers ‘proprietorships’ wanton ‘corporate’ demise, pace, Mid Somerset Newspapers, Wells Journal, Circa:- 1851 contemporary ‘proprietorship’ of Reach Plc, replicated across the UK. R.I.P!*

    This individual attempted in vain to elicit the support of all nine Somerset MPs, to no avail, significantly the constituency MP for Wells, James Heappey not responding to my letter 20 December, consequent on his having raised the ‘issue’ of the ‘abandoned’ archive on the ‘floor’ of the H of Cs; none so deaf as those that don’t listen.

    Indeed, all power to the emergent ‘Pamphleteers’ history repeating itself, of course pre-eminent, the LEVELLER in a ‘decennial’ becoming the largest circulation Newspaper across Somerset; forensic in holding ‘ TRUTH to ‘POWER’!

    *Publish & Be Dammed: Hugh Cudlipp 1953
    Mail Men: ISBN 978 1 78239 970 4 Adrian Addison

    Dear James

    You might well remember when seeking ‘election’ to the Wells constituency you met and canvassed support from those of us UKIP members who had ‘promoted’ a candidate, which resulted in the demise of the former incumbent. The Conservative Party then and now ‘riven’ with Europhiles/Sceptics the Brexit ‘rationale’ consequent on a West Country ‘uprising’ from Penzance to the Forest of Dean by the ‘people’ Farage the ‘froth’!

    I’ve hitherto attempted without any response to elicit the support of the nine Somerset constituency MPs pre- and post-The Cairncross Review in the emasculation of the Mid Somerset Series/Bristol newspapers publications. The realisation today the price to £1.50 an insult to the readers intelligence, attributed to some Bill Martin, Marketplace Publisher, Reach South, who further compounds his ‘hypocrisy’ stating the obvious ‘Without you readers, we would not exist’! The long standing ‘professional’ local ‘conservation’ architect, John Winstone RIBA had hitherto remonstrated at the introduction of five pages of ‘pap’ as a ‘waste’ of a valuable resource; many of us mourn the late lamented, Honoured Freeman, journalist par excellence, Michael Chamberlain, when ‘journalism’ a profession not an exercise in algorithms. It’s quite extraordinary and beyond belief the ‘ownership’ culminating in Reach Plc (Trinity Mirror) of whom historically resonates with Hugh Cudlipp ‘Publish & be Dammed’ 1953, sacrificed on the ‘altar of the perceived ‘panacea’ of everything digital.

    Can you effect a meeting, with Messrs Nick Pettijohn, Chairman/Jim Mullen,CE/Helen Stephenson, Senior Independent Director, preferably here in Wells and can you give confirmation the ‘archive’ in its entirety has returned to Wells Museum against an undertaking to you of which your raised in the H of Cs?



    Your ‘succinct’ analysis ( “LEVELLER”:- MAY 2020 ‘FOURTH ESTATE/REWARDING FAILURE’.) If ever a validation of our ‘local’ newspapers ‘rooted’ in local ‘proprietorship’ an affirmation of Sir Ray Tindle ‘nonagenarian’ retiree’s ‘exhortation’ in a ‘valedictory’ message “Local news in depth is what people need” supported by someone at the opposite end of the media food chain Sir Martin Sorrell head of the worlds biggest advertising company similarly advocating advertisers should keep faith with newspapers. The success ‘The Leveller’ in its Somerset circulation ‘outreach’ holding intuitions/local governance to account.

    Simon Kelner similarly succinct ( i: 29 January: ‘Local Newspapers deserve help on a national scale’. ) You couldn’t make it up (The Times : 30 July ‘I’ll quit while I’m on top, says Mirror boss, Simon Fox, after spending spree’.) a ‘cull’ per se of ‘journalist’ without a whimper and the ‘demise’ of long established local newspapers, pace Mid Somerset Newspapers, circa 1851, presumably non disclosure agreements? To ‘ease’ the passage a salary, bonuses, pension payment & other perks in 2018 of £949k, twas always so at the top!*

    A paradox whose listening; ( i: 18 February: ‘The BIG story in the Cairncross review was the plight of local newspapers’.) I’ve alerted the nine Somerset MPs; all beneficiaries of constituency ‘reporting’ as a consequence of ‘local’ journalism. 1,737 ‘journalist’ sacrificed on the ‘altar’ of corporate proprietorship (DT: 31/07/18 ‘Mirror owner slashes value of regional papers’ Simon Fox is targeting £20m of cuts to editorial & back office functions by 2020 & said there are signs of of a broader digital audience would attract advertisers.)

    We the readership have kept the faith and it beholds the corporate ‘behemoths’ our transitory proprietors to endorse proven ‘ink’ journalism recognising ‘digital’ is not the panacea! What the writer finds inexcusable pace the Cairncross Review, HMGs dismissal and deferral to a subsequent House of Lords Inquiry; we can only ‘pray’ the Lord’s ‘Spiritual’ will emulate St Paul? Paradoxically not one of our nine Somerset MPs have acknowledged my ‘concerns’ at the ‘disenfranchisement’ of a whole ‘swathe’ of citizenry.

    Graham E Livings, Lilliput, Upper Milton, Wells. BA5 3AH

    *i: Newspaper 8 May 2020 ‘Reach reports sales down 13%’ (Another swafe of redundancies?)


    No apology to Arthur ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’!

    A succinct ‘prognosis’ from ‘journalist’ par excellence, Ian Burrell ‘Media on Monday i: Newspaper!


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