Vice video: Corbyn lets down electorate and supporters by not engaging with the mainstream media

Lanour leader Jeremy Corbyn's rant against mainstream media in a recent Vice News video shows a major flaw in his comms strategy, writes Labour activist and now FleishmanHillard Fishburn executive Ben Craig.

Corbyn: Shunning mainstream media opportunities (Credit: David Holt via Flickr)
Corbyn: Shunning mainstream media opportunities (Credit: David Holt via Flickr)

In a 30-minute film released this week by Vice News, Jeremy Corbyn raged against the BBC and respected Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland. His head of strategy and comms, Seumas Milne, who is currently 'on leave' from The Guardian, also made allegations that someone in Corbyn's inner circle was leaking information to David Cameron.

It was not the piece that the Labour leader would have been hoping for.

The rationale for why they let Vice make this film is obvious. Their audience is as close to Corbyn’s base of voters as you can get. The director, Ben Ferguson, is a Labour Party member who voted for Corbyn and, theoretically, was more likely to sympathise with the project than to push a negative agenda, but this was no hagiography.

In reality, the film confirmed what we already knew – the Labour leader and his team despise the mainstream media.

Throughout his leadership, Corbyn has regularly refused to co-operate with major broadcasters and dropped out of agenda-setting current affairs programmes, including The Andrew Marr Show, at the last minute. It’s no secret that he’s made a habit of refusing to brief the Westminster lobby or give comment to news crews.

I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn but, unlike some, I respect and acknowledge the mandate he was given by Labour members. I sympathise with the view that New Labour became too obsessed with the news cycle and that social media means that tabloid press isn’t as powerful as it used to be.

But like it or not, the BBC is more influential than ever. The latest Ofcom report shows that nearly half the population now get their news from BBC1 alone, with nearly a quarter saying they use the BBC website and apps, while newspaper circulation figures continue to fall.

So even if you think the media are a bunch of malevolent, spiteful, and spineless degenerates, guess what? If you want to make an argument, you’re going to have to engage with journalists. Because, by and large, the general public couldn’t care less about perceived biases in the media. This is a topic obsessed over by political nerds and not the majority of the population.

The most frustrating part? By failing to properly make his arguments, Jeremy Corbyn is not only letting the electorate down, but the people who elected him too. The media ‘establishment’ exists and it isn’t going away by 2020.

So you can hate the BBC, you can despise The Guardian, and you can point at the ‘Blairite’ actors colluding with the ‘neo-liberal elites’ all you like. But if you don’t make your argument loudly, no one will hear you.

Ben Craig is a senior account manager at FleishmanHillard Fishburn and a former Labour Party parliamentary staffer. 

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