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Date: 06/07/11

"A Simple Act Of Public Hygiene"

In 1993, shortly before the onset of what turned out to be terminal illness, the English playwright Dennis Potter delivered the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

In the lecture - to which he gave the title Occupying Powers - he tore into the owners and controllers of the mass media (mostly television, but also the press) for their cowardice, cupidity and ethical corruption.

It was a witty, powerful and heartfelt address which included the following words, which we almost certainly need today even more than when Potter uttered them nearly two decades ago. I warmly recommend them as a statement of policy for any political party or movement which is serious about the health of public discourse and what we continue to be told is 'democracy':

"We must protect ourselves and our democracy, first by properly exercising the cross-ownership provisions currently in place, and then by erecting further checks and balances against dangerous concentrations of the media power which plays such a large part in our lives. No individual, group or company should be allowed to own more than one daily, one evening and one weekly newspaper. No newspaper should be allowed to own a television station, and vice-versa. A simple act of public hygiene, tempering abuse, widening choice, and maybe even returning broadcasting to its makers."