Tomorrow, 21 May 2011, at Goldsmiths College in New Cross, south London, there is a one-day conference considering the co-operative model as an alternative to the corporate one for media ownership.
Sponsored jointly by the National Union of Journalists, Goldsmiths College and the UK Co-Operative movement, the conference is considering something that corporate media (‘old media, old models’) don’t usually consider.
The issue really is whether or not we have to create structures just to ensure that some people will continue to reap all the benefits of the work that has contributed to the success of an operation. For example, the sale of the Huffington Post raised concerns because of the free labour of the bloggers and other contributors that made it what it was (i.e. something that someone, or rather some corporation, was willing to pay money for – over US$ 300 million – that which owes a lot to these contributors).
What we should be talking about is precisely this ‘new’ (rather actually ‘old’ – even ‘ancient’) model of organising all sorts of enterprises. In Nanaimo, BC, Canada, a pulp and paper mill was organised along lines whereby employees (including former laid-off employees) were able to purchase and control the Harmac mill (with help from a very few wealthy individuals) and it has been extremely successful through the economic downturn, even as other pulp and paper mills were shut down elsewhere in that province.
That is, while strictly speaking not a ‘co-op’ in the strict sense of the word, it has been successful enough to be hiring back laid-off workers and competing. The difference is, is that the mill is run for the benefit of its workers NOT for a few executives who live half-way around the world and would sooner run the mill into the ground than pay workers a decent wage.
(In Victoria, BC, there was an attempt to take over a TV station by the employees when it was being sold off, along similar lines to the Harmac pulp and paper mill. Unfortunately, it came to nought.)
At the same time, rabble.ca, Canada’s leading alternative, progressive new media outlet/website and now more than ten years old, continues to expand the possibilities of what new media can do where print media failed to do. However, it needs financial support, as do all progressive media. Hopefully, we will see the day when many of these corporate models will be turned around into media that support their ‘owners’, including those that work there and those that read, listen and/or watch them.
I am looking forward to hearing from a range of speakers, including Granville Williams and Natalie Fenton, amongst others from the co-op movement, NUJ and academia. It’s at the New Academic Building, Goldsmiths College, London SE14, from 10:30 to 4:30 pm.