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The Return of the Public: Democracy, Power and the Case for Media Reform [Paperback]

Dan Hind
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

23 April 2012
WINNER: 2011 BEST BOOK OF IDEAS - FESTIVAL OF IDEAS Under the incurious gaze of the major media, the political establishment and the financial sector have become increasingly deceitful and dangerous in recent years. At the same time, journalists at Rupert Murdoch's News International and elsewhere have been breaking the law on an industrial scale. Now we are expected to stay quiet while those who presided over the shambles judge their own conduct. In The Return of the Public, Dan Hind argues for reform of the media as a necessary prelude to wider social transformation. A former commissioning editor, Hind urges us to focus on the powers of the media to instigate investigations and to publicize the results, powers that editors and owners are desperate to keep from general deliberation. Hind describes a programme of reform that is modest, simple and informed by years of experience. It is a programme that much of the media cannot bring themselves even to acknowledge, precisely because it threatens their private power. It is time the public had their say.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books (23 April 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844678636
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844678631
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 544,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A book marked by a sombre and scathing rhetoric that recalls the Frankfurt School critique of thinkers such as Adorno and Marcuse. --Boyd Tonkin, Independent

A superb analysis of the way in which citizens have lost power in a political and economic system built around the free market. --Roy Greenslade, Guardian

A persuasive and vital analysis. --Times Higher Education Supplement

About the Author

DAN HIND was a publisher for ten years. In 2009 he left the industry to develop a program of media reform centered around public commissioning. His journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Scientist, Lobster and the Times Literary Supplement. His first book, The Threat to Reason, was published to much acclaim by Verso in 2007.

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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By olivia
Format:Paperback
In the wake of the Leveson Enquiry this book should be required reading for all politicians. It is quite brilliant and so good to find a book which tackles what is happening right now. It would be easy for this room to be 'up itself' but it is so well written that it is a joy to read.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious About Democracy? 11 July 2013
By S Wood
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dan Hinds position is straightforward: actually existing democracy, particularly in the neo-liberal era, is crippled by the lack of opportunity for an informed Public to emerge and take an active role in social, political and economic policy. The current dispensation in the world of the media has been remarkably deficient in delivering the facts about the contemporary world to Public notice.

The content of the modern media is for the most part a diet of celebrity slop, lifestyle trivia, mendacious advertisements, regurgitated PR releases, in short a plethora of pointlessness. Bad enough one might think, until one considers the treatment given to important issues in the social, political and economic spheres. Here Hind makes the salient point that a media that in large part connived with the Invasion of Iraq in 2003; has provided a more or less congenial climate for thirty odd years of neo-liberal political economy and signally failed to spot the 2007-8 Financial crisis coming; signally "forgot" that the ongoing economic crisis originated in the private sector and, with a unity that would impress the North Korean dictatorship, declared it to be a problem of government spending and debt (see Kushner & Kushner's Who Needs the Cuts?: Myths of the Economic Crisis); and finally act as cheerleaders for the coalitions assault on the remnants of Britain's monument to a civilised society: the post-1945 Welfare State, has ill served the British Public.

The reasons for these failings are structural. In brief - large corporations control the majority of the media, and the media reflects the interests of the owners.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious About Democracy? 19 July 2013
By S Wood - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dan Hinds position is straightforward: actually existing democracy, particularly in the neo-liberal era, is crippled by the lack of opportunity for an informed Public to emerge and take an active role in social, political and economic policy. The current dispensation in the world of the media has been remarkably deficient in delivering the facts about the contemporary world to Public notice.

The content of the modern media is for the most part a diet of celebrity slop, lifestyle trivia, mendacious advertisements, regurgitated PR releases, in short a plethora of pointlessness. Bad enough one might think, until one considers the treatment given to important issues in the social, political and economic spheres. Here Hind makes the salient point that a media that in large part connived with the Invasion of Iraq in 2003; has provided a more or less congenial climate for thirty odd years of neo-liberal political economy and signally failed to spot the 2007-8 Financial crisis coming; signally "forgot" that the ongoing economic crisis originated in the private sector and, with a unity that would impress the North Korean dictatorship, declared it to be a problem of government spending and debt (see Kushner & Kushner's Who Needs the Cuts?: Myths of the Economic Crisis); and finally act as cheerleaders for the coalitions assault on the remnants of Britain's monument to a civilised society: the post-1945 Welfare State, has ill served the British Public.

The reasons for these failings are structural. In brief - large corporations control the majority of the media, and the media reflects the interests of the owners. The formulation of policy is regarded as a decidedly elite sport, from which the plebs must be firmly excluded, though once policy has been decided they are subjected to the deception and distortions, fairy tales and fallacies that always go hand in hand with injustice. At the end of the process, our leaders hoped to have manufactured a degree of legitimacy, or more likely a mute and hardly enthusiastic acceptance, for policies that are frequently damaging to the Public at large.

Hind's solution to this impasse is to cut out the middlemen and make the Public the commissioning editor. In his hypothesis a relatively small sum of money would be put in the hands of the Public, who would consider proposals by journalists for investigations, then vote for the investigations they would like to see carried out. The resulting stories would be made available, including to the existing corporate media for a fee, or perhaps - after a further round of voting - they would be compelled to print them. As the process matured so the sum of money available for Public Commissioning would increase, and an alternative to a system of media production that has demonstrably and repeatedly failed the Public would emerge. The Public would begin, step by step, to collectively create a representation of the world that chimed with reality, and be empowered to move onto the political stage and have an informed say in the policies by which they are governed.

The strengths of "The Return of the Public" are considerably greater than my short summary of Hind's arguments allows. Beyond the wonderfully dry wit is a first-rate writer and thinker who writes a comfortable and coherent prose about Democracy and Power, the proper role of the Public, as well as the historical thinking behind concepts of a Public and its proper role in the affairs of state. It also provides a coherent blue print for a good part of any halfway decent progressive and democratic parties media policy. A thoroughly stimulating and utterly essential work.
4.0 out of 5 stars Democracy as if people mattered 31 Oct 2012
By T Dunlop - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A genuine must read in my opinion. Useful analysis of why ordinary people are excluded from decision making in democratic societies and the way in which public opinion is actually formed. Also very good on trying to get to grips with the role of the media. My only concern is that, to me at least, the offered solution -- public commissioning -- sounds a bit wishy-washy. I mean, it's a great idea, I just didn't understand the mechanism by which it was meant to come into effect. This could just be me of course, and I will re-read it. Regardless, an excellent book and it's just nice to read something that takes the lay public seriously.
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