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The Existing Alternatives in Communications

I. Communications Systemsi

It matters greatly where you start, in thinking about communications. You may start, for instance, in a mood of excitement and even congratulation that at the present stage of civilization there is a communications system incomparably more vast and efficient than could ever have been imagined: that the voice of radio, the face of television, goes into millions of homes, and that we have the most widely distributed press in the world. You can feel this excitement even if you recognize certain little local difficulties such as a cigarette advertisement appearing just before Robin Hood, or a particularly shocking series in one of the Sunday papers, or even the overnight death of the News Chronicle.

On the other hand, you may be starting from the feeling that never in the history of the world has there been so much production of bad culture. Never, it is true, has there been so much production of any kind, but the percentage of this production which is bad is now appalling. After you have surveyed this magnificent communications machine, after you have heard the voice that goes into all the homes, you may ask, after all, what the voice is saying. And you can take this attitude very far. You can even be thrown back on one of those perennial springs of English reform, that shout which has sounded so often through the villas of England, to call right-thinking men to action, “the people are at it again.” What the people are at now, according to this point of view, is a sort of dangerous self-indulgence which is spoken about morally in much the same tones as drink, dancing, stage plays, and so on, were spoken about in the past. Many people, good people, have this image of a depraved, or largely depraved, population, whom they call the masses. The people are not profiting by the gleaming machine of communication, but are being reduced to what is usually called a near-moronic mass.

My own starting point is distinct from either of these attitudes. In my view you cannot understand the communications system unless you look at it historically, and this as yet we have not really enough evidence for. Very few people have been working on it. It is still not studied in any British university. This is probably the only country with a major communications system which has no organized research in relation to it, and because of this, such history of the communications system as exists is mostly bad history, bad history which hides from us the factors which could lead to an understanding of the contemporary situation.

The extension of communications, as I see it, was inseparable from the extension of democracy and the whole process that we call the Industrial Revolution. You cannot, historically, separate any of those movements out from the other two. And I would like to reaffirm my own position that each of these movements is something one must really support, without any reservations of spirit. This might seem a commonplace, but I know that I had to work through ten or fifteen years of familiar English thinking before I could really say that this enormous process, which has transformed and is transforming our society and our world, is a thing one wants. Yet to see it in only that way is, of course, to see it too simply. There have been contradictions within various stages of this process, and at the moment we are faced with a particularly severe one.

A Market System

Broadly speaking, our communications system grew up as part of a market society. At a certain point it passed from this simple liberalism, which most people still attribute to it, to a quite different system which has been establishing itself over the last sixty years and yet which, somehow, we are all still reluctant to recognize. In the early stages of a market society a liberal theory of communication is sensible and admirable, because the theories it is challenging, the theories it is replacing, are so bad. A simple market liberalism is then replacing a system of the monopoly of communication by some ruling group, either a ruling group which is determined to maintain its own power by controlling communications, or a ruling group which has paternal intentions towards its people and believes that its own standards are the absolute standards of civilization. This paternalist group proposes to lead the people gently towards those standards, but meanwhile will allow nothing to appear that might harm them or divert them, or that will fail to inculcate the values of the minority. Each of these systems has existed in Britain. Each still exists, today, in other parts of the world. And the remnants of both are still with us, in Britain. The market system, the commercial system, was so powerful and useful a challenge to the authorities and the paternalists that I must pay it its due before going on to criticize it. What it said was that communication must not be subject to that kind of control, that kind of monopoly. The sort of thing that communication is, rules out from the beginning the position of a minority deciding what can be communicated and how. The commercial system said quite simply that people should be able to write what they like and read what they like, and that the market should be the test; anything can be offered for sale, anything can be freely bought. And in a way, emotionally, people are still living like this. If you ask anybody what they think about communications, that is usually what they manage to say.

Yet the system they are describing has in fact long since ceased to exist. Throughout the nineteenth century it was the main and dominant trend. The newspapers became independent enterprises, and if you wanted to start a newspaper or a magazine, you could do so with comparatively little difficulty. The characteristic ownership of a newspaper or a magazine was by one man, one family, one small group which wanted to do a piece of work, and the distribution system, though imperfect, on the whole ensured that what was actually published could compete on relatively equal terms.

The Profit Motive

This situation lasted, with all its imperfections, until the 1890s, when it began to be replaced by a system which is still only approaching its full strength. New methods of financing newspapers, new kinds of ownership, and from these, a development of wholly new attitudes towards the public and a whole new kind of communications system came into being. The old principle “anything can be said, anything offered for sale” ran into major difficulties, difficulties which, practically and theoretically, we have not yet been able to get beyond. What emerged in practice in this new system was a new principle: “anything can be said, providing it can be said profitably.” For sixty years now, this, on the whole, has been the situation.

In contemporary Britain almost all the large circulation magazines are owned by one man. Four out of five of the daily newspapers read by the British people are controlled by two men. The groups controlled by these men not only have these large stakes of ownership in daily papers and in magazines, but extend out into the Sunday press, into the so-called local press (it is a great rarity now to find a local paper locally owned) and into the new and powerful system of commercial television, where considerable holdings are in their hands.

This situation is occasionally highlighted by some spectacular event, some take-over battle, which gets into the papers. The sudden disappearance of some respected newspaper or magazine brings, for a month or two, a flurry of discussion and agitation, and then the thing is quietly forgotten. What most of us seem to be doing is hoping that the situation will somehow go away: that it is a sort of accident, an unpleasant business but it won’t happen again. As the number of national papers decreases yet farther, as the number of London evenings papers drops to two, as papers still existing shake on the edge of disappearance, as new television contracts go again to the same financial groups, people still hope that the situation will go away. All I would say, with all the emphasis I can command, is that this is not in any way a temporary situation. It is a situation which anybody looking at the history could have seen coming over the last fifty years. My own view is that, so far from its having reached its climax, it is still in a very incomplete and active stage. We can be quite certain that, unless positive action is taken, over the next ten years, the control of the means of communication will pass into still fewer hands, and that the range of choice, the actual variety of newspapers and magazines and books (to which this process is also now beginning to extend) will steadily diminish.

If you look back in many other fields of life you usually find, by comparison with contemporary Britain, an evidently inferior democracy. But if you look back in the field of communications, you find a situation in which there were many more organs of opinion, in which many more of them were independently owned, and the real history of our own century has been a contraction of ownership, and a diminution of alternatives and real choices. This is a process which, as I see it, is bound to continue, because the economic pressures behind it are enormous.

II. The Effect on Society

Now if this is the situation, what are the existing alternatives? What are the things which are open as social policies? One of them is the hope that the problem will somehow solve itself. This is something that I hear more often than I like. Some of my friends in the Labour Party are pleased that in the last few years questions like this have been brought up for discussion on the left. We haven’t, they say, been discussing them enough. But when they come down to what they call political realities, they go on to say that this is not an issue on which you can do anything quickly. It’s the sort of issue you can postpone. Indeed, as one of my friends said, “when we have got a Labour government, in about its fourth year we could look at some of these issues, or perhaps the fourth would be a bit late; say, the third.”

What impresses me about this is its incredible lack of contact with the very political reality it apparently appeals to. For it suggests that you can discuss the probability or otherwise of a Labour government as if it were a separate issue from the system of communication that you can say, “let this roll until we get our sort of government with our sort of priorities.” This seems to me to be a complete misreading of the evidence of recent years. Many politicians have got over one common error and have then fallen into a bigger one. They have got over the common error of supposing that the Daily Mirror or the Daily Express has only to say “go out and vote Labour” or “go out and vote Tory”, and everybody will immediately go. This is what people used to say about the power of the press and once the thing was analyzed it was found, of course, that it didn’t happen, that people don’t go out and vote as their newspaper tells them. But the influence which is overlooked by that conclusion is something much more persuasive than the decision on which side to vote, although I don’t doubt that in the end it has its own indirect effects on voting or on not voting.

Advertising

The communication system, as it has developed, is creating a way of life, a way of feeling and a way of thinking, which, once analyzed, is wholly appropriate to the kind of society we have. Everything we see in it, its economic structure, its characteristic content, its controllers’ own version of what they are doing, corresponds exactly to the sort of society which we have been experiencing over the last ten years. The economic structure is not an accident, it is precisely related to what is being said.

Perhaps the most useful way of drawing attention to this is simply to remind you of the position of advertising in the communication system now. Most people know, I think, that most of the press would go out of business tomorrow if there were even a substantial fall in advertising revenue, let alone its disappearance. Our majority television service would also go out of existence if the advertising revenue were not there, and most of our magazines likewise.

This dependence on advertising is sometimes discussed as if it were a thing in itself, a sort of economic technicality, but I think that once you look at the whole situation you can’t stop at that point. It is quite true that there is this dependence. It works in a very interesting way. Take the death of the News Chronicle as an example. This was discussed so often at the time, yet it seems to me the real conclusions were not drawn. The News Chronicle had well over a million purchasers, which on average would mean between three and four million readers. It is a truly fantastic situation that a newspaper which is wanted by three or four million readers can be economically not viable.

Nor was it some accidental factor about the News Chronicle; in fact over the last three years, four national papers have disappeared, the other three being Sundays. In each of these cases there was no sale below a million, no readership below three million. Yet in other countries, in France for example, you will see one of the papers boasting of the largest circulation in France, 750,000 and you wonder, why are the economic imperatives here not the economic imperatives there? Is it more expensive here? What is the key? And then you remember that the circulation of The Times is 250,000, the circulation of The Guardian is about 250,000, so how do they survive?

The Economic Imperative

The answer some of you will know, but it is worth repeating. It matters if you are running a newspaper, either that you have a leading circulation in the mass field, as it is called, that is to say, a readership in the ten to fifteen million bracket, or that you have (and I quote, because I would hesitate to use such terms myself) “an adequate percentage of readers in socioeconomic group A/B.” This novel democratic criterion needs just one word of explanation. Socioeconomic groups A/B are arrived at by a combination of income and way of life. Income is not precise enough because as is pointed out in compiling these groups, you can be a miner earning high wages and yet have different tastes from a teacher perhaps earning less, and this still often decides which side of the line in these groups you go. But if a paper has enough readers of socioeconomic group A/B, then it can survive on a smaller circulation.

Why? Because these are such nice people? Because they have money? Because also, and this is another of the criteria which is looked at, if a sufficient number of them are below thirty-five, they are, as used to be said in another context, in an interesting condition. They have the major purchases of their life in front of them and this is a very interesting condition to be found in. If you have a paper like The Guardian, with a big readership below thirty-five and with enough socioeconomic groups A/B, then you can forget that ten or fifteen million. If, however, you happen to be stranded in the middle, like the poor old News Chronicle, with an ageing readership and not enough A/B, and yet not a really big circulation either, or like the Daily Herald now, or like other papers in that middle group, then you can’t win in either field. The decisions on whether these papers will be continued are taken cold-bloodedly, by such calculations.

It is very difficult indeed to say to the present owners and controller of the papers that they should decide on any other criteria, because unless you are well-placed in either of these ways you are going to lose a great deal of money, and this is what in this society you can’t do. So the tie with advertising is important and does relate to something in the whole of society. Moreover, this kind of division replaces even that simple democratic criterion which some defenders of the present press introduce. This is the bluff commonsense argument that if people don’t want the paper they won’t buy it; if enough of them don’t buy it, it will disappear; if they want it so much, why don’t more of them buy it?

This is in fact demagogic nonsense. It is not talking about the real situation at all. You can be well below mass circulation in the readers you get, you can be with the New Statesman on 80,000 or with The Spectator on 40,000 and yet you can still be for the advertisers in an interesting condition. You have in fact a criterion which is totally different from either any theoretical account of democracy, or the demagoguery which has so often replaced it. The real situation is that there is now no equal competition. There is only a graded competition, within specialized areas of the market, and the market has replaced political democracy as the center to which decisions about a free press are referred.

Similar Methods

What I would like to go on to show is the increasing resemblance which I think any historian of the press must notice, between the methods of newspapers and the methods of advertising. Take the use of pictures, which are no longer consistently what they once were: news pictures, illustrating the news or having some direct relation to it. Very often now, in the newspapers, they are pictures which are part of a total and planned emotional effect, and the newspaper headline is often quite indistinguishable from the advertising slogan, or the slogan from the headline. The point about all this is not that as a result of it people go out and vote in a particular way. How could it be? The real result is that voting has been reduced to its proper unimportance in a market society. News and opinion, like everything else, are items in a long-range selling campaign. Voting is one of the choices that will eventually be made, but only one. The way we now more often think about choices is in relation to buying: choosing this service rather than that. This is the sort of choice—the sort of participation in society—which is constantly underwritten. And in this way certain values come through, independent of ordinary politics, quite separate from the Labour–Conservative division, distinct from the formal arguments that go on in the public forums.

These are the values summed up in success and “getting ahead” but even success is reduced to a matter of income and conspicuous consumption. It is not only in direct advertising that this vicious circle is drawn; it is drawn over a very wide field indeed. It is already increasingly applied as the test of a successful artist or successful writer, and you can mark the change by this, that specific opinions matter much less, what the writer or anyone thinks matters much less. The question is: “does he sell?,” “is he in demand?” One looks back with a certain nostalgia on the Beaverbrook kind of communications tycoon, who quite frankly bought up all the papers he could afford in order to propagate his own political views. Looking back it seems to be a relatively healthy thing for a man to buy up papers to propagate his own political views. The normal thing now is not that. That is now a very old-fashioned policy in the communications business. You could say “Victorian,” I suppose, and have done with it. Because now, this business of views and opinions has been reduced to its strictly relative and secondary importance. Mr. Thomson, for instance, says he is not interested in the views of his papers, he is interested in how many copies they sell. Some people have greeted this as a refreshingly liberal statement. But in fact it is an alarming statement. For it marks the reduction of every kind of social interest and decision to a selling decision and a buying decision. Increasingly the questions we are supposed to ask about our common life are questions only in terms of buying and selling. And though many of us have some skepticism about this, still it eats very deep into the consciousness. Even if we are completely aware of it, to the point of wanting to resist it, to keep it out, it can lock up so much energy which could otherwise be used, that the effect is still substantial.

The Purpose of Communications

The economic structure of the press is, then, not random nor accidental, but is related to what has increasingly become the purpose of communication itself. When we discuss communications theoretically or academically, or when young writers and young painters talk about it, we still talk in traditional terms. We are talking about something we need to say, about how we are to say it and whether it will get through to people. This is one of the traditional problems of the world, yet the assumption that it is central to communication, as in human terms it undoubtedly is, is an assumption you can no longer practically make. The question that matters, in the system we now have, is “will it sell?,” “does it go?” And success is defined in the same way. Selling validates what is sold. This is probably the first generation in Britain which is able, without even momentary hesitation, to talk of selling itself, of being in demand, of putting forward a good shop window, of being in a lively way in the market, of having a buoyant stock. We have gone so far that we can use these phrases not about commercial operations at all, but about all sorts of traditional activities, such as painting, thinking and writing. The phrases now come so naturally that we forget what we are really saying about communication itself.

The questions I ask then are not at all: “are the people at it again?,” “are they depraved?,” “must we save them from it?” These are pointless and stupid questions. The British people have had to put up with a lot of being saved over the centuries, and the central fact about present British society is that for the first time in history the working people are in a position where they can afford not to be saved. This is a profoundly important and encouraging fact. There is no way out of our communication problems through some new kind of salvation army, although some people seem to have ambitions that way. Nor is there any way out by capitulating to the dazzle and the glitter of our wonderfully extended and dynamic communications system. It is the end of democracy, not its beginning, where you say: “How marvelous it is that people can read the papers; that the news of the world comes straight to them; that through television they can see their leaders face to face and look at the places where decisions are made.” This is not democracy, but its market substitute, and it is time and overtime that it was challenged.

III. Communications in a Democracy

What would be the conditions of a communications system in a genuine democracy? First, it is fundamental that no group within the society would have the right to control what can or cannot be said, and that there should be no control by fear, by censorship, or by physical liquidation. We are aware of these dangers because they happened in our country a long time ago, and are still happening in other countries today. But they are still present and still dangerous when the control is financial rather than political and administrative, when the bank and the chain shop have taken over from the Star Chamber and the censor. The situation in which a group of people could go out and start a newspaper, get some readers and put forward a particular opinion, has virtually ceased to exist. The capital involved in the development of these services has increased so much that access to it is only possible to very small groups within the society, who by that very factor are unrepresentative, and it is not only in production that this is so. It is equally true of distribution, and not only with newspapers. Try starting a magazine and getting a national distribution for it. Just try getting it put on bookstalls throughout the country, so that people could buy it if they felt like it—that old commercial or democratic idea. I assure you that it will be a very chastening experience indeed. Because the ordinary kind of distributor we now have is not interested in selling below a certain quantity, and until that quantity’s there, you usually can’t even try.

This is like the situation in the cinema, where this test applies even before the point of production. As most people know, before a film can be made now, it has usually got to have a distribution contract (given on the basis of what it is likely to be). This contract is usually the guarantee for financing the film itself. Such a test is often quite unrelated to what the filmmaker himself may want to do. The market, the quantity test, has come in even before the point of production. There can be very little doubt that it is harder, much harder, to express minority opinion now than it was in the nineteenth century. It is harder, not because anybody will stop you—“we like you to have opinions”—but because they just won’t give the money, and there is no other way of breaking into their tight market, where they look after the whole of society’s communications.

Two Courses of Action

Now you can drift on with this situation, or you can face two possible courses of action. You can say there are certain fairly obvious, fairly limited reforms which we could try to get agreement on, which would go some way towards improving this situation. For example, we could make sure that as many future services as possible are kept out of this particular system, and are given some other kind of definition. A critical decision is going to be taken soon about broadcasting. I think it may be a decisive one for this generation as far as the whole climate of communication goes. The very strong pressure, not only for another commercial television service but for commercial local broadcasting, is all too easily discounted. If you remember the argument before commercial television came in in the 1950s, the public debate that preceded it can be fairly summed up as almost all the weight of public opinion, of expert comment, against it, but a few people still going on in what seemed one of those cranky causes, a little minority group working away towards its own ideal of a free and commercial vision service. Then, suddenly, the decision was made, and we were reminded of how things really happen in this sort of society, how different it all is from what looks like the process of public decision.

It is the same situation now. You see occasional reports of this little group that wants commercial broadcasting. Meanwhile you can read in most of the papers and most of the magazines, the reassuring sentiment that public service is a principle we can’t abandon. Quite frankly, it is extremely dangerous, in this society, for anybody to think that intellectual debate makes much difference to real decisions. Whoever seems to win the intellectual argument is not necessarily going to affect the ultimate decision at all. I think we had better, as a matter of urgency, attend to the real centers where this decision will be made. Then there is the whole question of the disappearance of national newspapers, and the fact that local papers are likely to go on diminishing, particularly if local broadcasting goes commercial.

In this situation it is extremely difficult to produce precise proposals because once you start on this analysis you see how far the thing goes. But I would like to see as an immediate measure a campaign to get the majority recommendations of the Royal Commission on the Press, the Commission which sat back in the 1940s, implemented. We have forgotten, of course, that it was the majority recommendation that the Press Council should have an independent chairman and should have lay members. This would be important simply in the way of day-to-day business, but it would be much more important as a public forum in which the whole question of the closing of newspapers could be discussed and to which it could be referred. The constitution of such a council which could, if changed in that way, claim to represent something of the public interest, would at least prevent the sort of situation we now get, in which four or five million readers and a whole group of working journalists can suddenly find that what they wanted can’t be had, and that the decision is taken behind closed doors, is only announced when it is too late, and that there is very little that one can do about it.

A strengthened Press council would be of some advantage. But it is also high time that we had an Advertising council of the same kind, because the running debate on advertising between its critics and its defenders is at the moment much too scattered and much too scrappy. I think one needs an advertising council to which could be referred the sort of questions which have been referred to the Press Council, about the press. The council could authoritatively examine the tendencies in advertising which sometimes, without the conscious will of those behind them, have produced the present chaotic system. Further, I would repeat a proposal I made a couple of years ago, for a Books Council. To someone who lives by books this is very urgent. The processes now occurring in the publishing industry are depressingly reminiscent of the processes which occurred in the newspaper business in the 1890s. It is a very similar economic situation, and the same sort of economic answers are being made: reduction in the number of independent producers; organization of the majority of the remainder into combines, which won’t necessarily be recognized as combines by the public, because they will often go under their own names. It is already true in publishing that a good many apparently independent imprints on the spines of books all run back in the end to one center. Twenty years ago someone, before his time evidently, said that publishing was not a business at all, it was a sort of chaos. People got interested in some book that had just come out, and then another came along, and there could be no sustained interest. “This is no way to sell anything,” he said. “What you must do is reduce the number of items so that people can concentrate, and then you can back it up with some effective promotion.”

Selling Books

This, with the extension of paperbacks, is now economically attractive also, because you can sell paperbacks in a lot of places where you could not sell hardcover books, and you have got to sell them quickly. To hold stock is very uneconomic with the margins in paperback production, so the book has got to sell quickly. If there is pressure for it to sell quickly, then this advice makes sense. It is anti-British and derogatory to literature, but on the whole, as you know, these things make sense. So you reduce the number of items, and make sure in advance that these are the things for which markets exist. Now the facts of all this must be brought into the open. The genuine commercial and financial difficulties must be looked at and the whole question submitted to public debate. The whole point about all these processes that I have been describing is that in no obvious sense are they decided by society, they are only decided by that process of remote control which operates in a market society like this, that eventually the profitable will survive, especially if it is quickly profitable. I think that in open public debate we could get a quite substantial amount of agreement about the measures which are now important, and also for similar local reforms such as, for example, the separation of the newsprint industry from the newspaper proprietors. I have never seen a clearer candidate for public ownership than this, because here is a crucial commodity in this whole business, and we need to ask very detailed questions about its control and its price. These immediate measures, I think, would go some of the way.

The Socialist Alternative

But I think that in the end we are going to be faced with probably the most critical social decision in our recent history, not just on an incidental issue, but on a central issue. The decision we make here will not be simply a decision about newspapers and advertising and television and so on; it will be a decision about the kind of society we want. It happens that the study of communications now illuminates in a number of ways social problems which seem to be of a quite new kind, social problems which traditional economics did not raise and did not touch. People have often asked me: “What’s wrong with this system?”; “Is there any alternative?”; “Is there a socialist alternative?” And at that point of the socialist alternative, three-quarters of the people involved in the discussion go away, physically or mentally. I am not sure that I blame them. A socialist alternative in this field, as we have traditionally understood it, is almost as bad as the present disease. The idea that the state should intervene, that there should be public ownership, in its traditional forms, of the means of communication is so obviously wrong, so much against the whole idea of what communication is, that it is not worth discussion. It might keep the whole press which happened to be right-wing off the street. What would happen to the rest of the press, I am not sure.

I do not think this idea of control and even censorship is a slander on us as socialists. The plain fact is that we have not produced anything else. When people think of a socialist answer they think of bureaucracy and censorship, and so far, on the evidence, they are right. Yet I am convinced that the only way in which the communications service can be made adequate to the kind of democracy I want to live in, what I would define as an educative and a participating democracy, is through the idea of a public system. I have no doubts about this, I have gone over it again and again, until I can see no other way through. It is a plain matter of money, and the amounts of capital involved are so large that you have a straight choice. The existing alternatives are these, and as I see them, there are no others. You can have control by a minority of very rich men whose interest is a communications service which is profitable, which will sell—control of the kind we now know. Or, on the other hand some form of public ownership. Now I have watched, and whenever I say this people go away. But I do not think we have got to rest with the socialist solution—the definition of a public system—that first occurred. I think the principle that is important is a quite simple one, but a principle so difficult to conceive in this society, in a way, that one almost hesitates to put it forward. It is this: that where the means of communication are too expensive to be owned by those who are using them, that is to say, all the big communication services, television, broadcasting, and all the big papers, they should as means be held in trust by the society for use by the people directly concerned in their production. This is a system which I have tried to describe in detail, as yet inadequate detail, elsewhere. At the moment, I can only describe what seems to me to be the principle. We have to work out a system in which there is a reliance on public money, but where this reliance does not bring with it any centralized control of the real contributors and producers. I think that it is possible to conceive such a system although all the blocks in our mind are against it. The means must be held in trust, and leased to the people using them, who would constitute independent professional companies and themselves provide the services. The amount of detailed planning that has to be done on this idea is enormous. All I can urge is the principle. I want objections to it, I want criticism of it, but you can be quite sure that in discussion here or anywhere else I shall be firm and even rude about one thing: that this is the choice, these are the existing alternatives, and there is no point in trying to evade these facts. It is either the system we have now, or it is a system of this new public kind.

Conclusion

If we can screw ourselves up to facing the fact of choice, if we can finally realize that the situation will not go away, then I think we may be able, quite quickly, to make real and detailed progress. I should like to see the Labour Party, as a matter of urgency, setting up its own working party on this, bringing together the writers, the critics, and the historians who have been working on the general problem, and the politicians, the economists, and the sociologists. We could make contact with the many professional organizations of people working in communications, and try to get them in on the detailed planning from the start. The conditions are right for this. There is a very widespread concern and insecurity and yet also a fund of creative ideas and possibilities. It is the business of a political party to bring all this together, to give it focus and to go over every aspect of it in quite practical terms, so that there might be some real prospect of a program of change. I believe that this issue is now at the center of change of any kind, and that a radical or socialist party which neglects it is simply not living in our actual world. That, at any rate, is what I came here to say, to you and other socialists and members of the Labour Party. If I can give you a sense of the urgency of these issues, of the very hard choices which simply have to be made, then perhaps, together, we can get something done.

Footnotes

  1. Originally published as a Fabian Society pamphlet in June 1962 as part of the “Socialism in the Sixties” series. Reprinted with permission from the Fabian Society, © 2008.
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