The Media in Scotland – a failure of capitalism?

A recent post by Wee Ginger Dug highlighted the terrible state of the media in Scotland.  The central thrust of the article is “that there is a breadth and depth of opinion in Scotland that our media is not reflecting.” The Ginger Dug primarily focuses on the issue of ownership of the media and how much of it is owned by companies based outwith Scotland. This is an important part of the problem and one that hopefully will be addressed once we become independent.  It is a very good article and well worth reading in full – here.

In this post however, I want to raise another aspect of the sorry state of our media. For it seems to me that the failure of any of our mainstream media outlets, whether print or broadcast, to meet the demand for pro-independence and Scotland centred commentary is a damming verdict on the state of capitalism in Scotland.  The print side of the media is in a bit of a turmoil with declining sales. Still there is money to be made from newspaper publishing, otherwise why are there so many titles?  And of course, part of the reason for the decline in Scotland may well be that all the newspapers consciously, at best, neglect a large part of their potential readership, and at worst, positively denigrate this potential readership. Not the best way to go about increasing sales and making money. This applies equally to STV which seems to have missed a great opportunity here, given that the BBC is so skewed in its support of the UK.

The potential is definitely there. As a rock bottom minimum, at least 33% of the population of Scotland are solidly in favour of independence. In addition there is the large number of people who are attracted to the idea of devo max or full scale federalism.  Many of this group have already switched to supporting independence. The key point is that there is a sizeable market of up to half the population who are likely to be interested in a newspaper which took a positive view of Scotland and offered a genuine platform for those in favour of independence.  So why has nobody tried to take advantage of this marketing opportunity?  Is this not what capitalism and the free market supposed to be about – making money by offering a product to meet a clearly expressed demand?  The demand is there, witness not just the polls, but the incredible rise in online pro-independence blogs.

Such complete failure can only be a regarded as a failure of capitalism. What kind of capitalist is it that foregoes a clear chance to make money?  It would of course be good to have some newspapers owned by people committed to an independent Scotland. However capitalists didn’t get rich by a commitment to anything other than making money, and lots of it. It is all a bit of a mystery to me. The one positive note is that this failure is proof positive that the so called free market in the media does not work.  This provides firm ground for an independent Scotland to rewrite the rules governing ownership. So that finally we get a media which reflects the diversity of political outlook within the country.


Filed under Scotland

2 responses to “The Media in Scotland – a failure of capitalism?

  1. Rab o' Ruglen

    Hi Alister,

    I think perhaps you have missed the point in this article. In my opinion ownership of the print media has never just been about making money, otherwise as you suggest we would have long-established Green newspapers and pro-Independence newspapers, to name but two, and no Tory newspapers in Scotland. It is about influence and projecting the owners’ opinions, and interests (in the broadest sense of the word) pure and simple. Some owners seem prepared to put up with extraordinary levels of losses to maintain this perceived influence.

    All of which presents a newly-Independent Scotland with a dilemma, since I think it unlikely that the current crop of proprietors will want to change the attitude of their titles towards Independence, and yet the State will not surely allow this external interference, indeed what might come to be seen as subversion, to continue as at present.

    What to do?

    Any thoughts?


    • I have no off the shelf answers to this. I wrote the post partly to highlight that media ownership isn’t really about just making money, hence the claim that it is a failure of capitalism. More to the point it is a massive failure of the whole idea of a free market. Free, that is in the sense of relatively easy for newcomers to enter. The media is a very distorted market and as such should provide a sound base both in law and politically for parliament to introduce corrective legislation. What this might look like is alas, a bit beyond my limited knowledge.

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