Gary Younge is editor-at-large for The Guardian and author of Another Day in the Death of America. In this interview, Younge discusses media’s role within a democracy, how a polarized political climate can make media appear to be more radical than they actually are, and how the press can contribute to a better world. The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Vaios Triantafyllou: The media are often seen as the backbone of democracy in the sense that they hold politicians accountable and uncover actions of Big Business that might affect the environment or the consumers, etc. Do you agree with that? Do you believe that this is something that the Big Media, primarily in the U.S. and the U.K., have managed to do effectively?
Gary Younge: I think that can be true. I don’t think it always is true. For that to be true, there has to be freedom of press. But actually, within a democracy, there also has to be a distribution of power. Not necessarily an equal distribution of power, but a fair distribution of power. So, if you look at Rupert Murdoch, or Silvio Berlusconi, they are both good examples. You cannot talk about media being the backbone of democracy without talking about media ownership. Then you have, as we saw, the hacking scandal in particular, and in general how these kinds of editors are firmly intertwined with the state, and how the government can actually have a huge impact on democracy by spreading this information, by spreading the propaganda of the most powerful people.
So, I think it’s very important to understand whether there is freedom of press, and I don’t think you can have a democracy without a free press. America and the U.K. both have freedom of the press, and although Trump is doing his best to restrict this freedom, he is still not there yet. But there is a distinction between there being a free press and how the power is distributed within the democracy, i.e., who owns the press. Both in Britain and America, the press does…