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TUC Congress debates arts, media and culture

Michelle Stanistreet at TUC Congress 2011

Michelle Stanistreet at TUC Congress 2011  -  © Jess Hurd/

5 September 2011

Day two of the TUC Congress debated arts, media and culture including media regulation, Lost Arts, the digital economy and the BBC licence fee.

During the debate on the media this afternoon, NUJ delegate Barry White spoke in favour on the NUJ  motion on media regulation.

Barry White said:

"It is not often that you can come to congress and announce that we have won something. But we have. In the past couple of months we have achieved a great victory over the abuse of power, corruption and cronyism.
"The most powerful media mogul in the world has been rumbled and humbled.
"Lets dedicate that victory to the women and men of Wapping who 25 years ago had the vision and courage to stand up to Murdoch and lost after a year of struggle.
"This summer, the media and political landscapes have witnessed some amazing events. The world's most powerful media company was stopped in its tracts, not by government or the media regulator but by popular protest.
"And although a certain type of journalism has been discredited by the phone hacking scandal, let us not forget that it was good investigative journalists led by Nick Davies at the Guardian, who did so much to expose the abuses of power, rottenness and corruption inside the management of News International and the police, which gave encouragement and ammunition to the wider coalition of campaigners.
"We have an opportunity to change the media for the better so that the public interest and not the commercial interests of the few can dominate."

Motion 67 on media regulation

Congress is appalled at the culture of journalism fostered at News Corporation and condemns the use of illegal methods to intrude into the lives of members of the public in pursuit of profit rather than quality journalism.

Congress welcomes the inquiry into media ethics and believes that genuine investigative journalism, freedom of expression, diversity and plurality, limits on cross-media ownership and trade union recognition must be key principles underlying media regulation.

Congress agrees that the PCC be wound up and replaced with an independent body which can earn the respect of readers, the general public and journalists alike. It should have clear powers to order meaningful recompense and ensure that the right of reply is established.

Congress notes that the UK government has opened consultations on a new Communications Bill and opposes the Culture Secretary's stated aims that this legislation should further lift regulations across the media industries and weaken the institutions of public service broadcasting.

In the light of these developments, Congress calls on the General Council to work with affiliated media trades unions and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom to:

  1. Organise a one-day conference by the end of February 2012 on media ownership and regulation with a view to developing TUC policy and influencing future Labour Party policy
  2. Establish a working group to organise policy and public interventions around the new Communications Bill
  3. Publicise this media policy widely amongst affiliates and the general public.

Proposed by the National Union of Journalists

NUJ Emergency motion

The NUJ submitted an emergency motion about far-right attacks on media workers.

NUJ delegate Anita Halpin spoke to the motion and said:

"Journalists like all workers have a right to work without threats.
"But the English Defence League and other far-right groups and websites have abused our members verbally and physically.
"One far-right website says 'Scum photographers are attending our marches, with the express intention of taking photos they hope will incriminate or badly portray our members… For this reason, anyone taking photos or filming our members, unless we have invited them, should be treated as hostile.'
"The Redwatch website has a picture of an NUJ member on its front page and lists the personal details of many of our members.
"Attacks on journalists are not isolated incidents. At an EDL event in Leeds, an NUJ member was punched in the head and, afterwards, another NUJ member received an email death threat.
"The latest EDL protest in London one journalist was sexually assaulted and another NUJ member was torched and was treated for minor burns in hospital.
"We are asking Congress and affiliate unions to support the motion and call on the police to take action to identify and prosecute EDL supporters who attack trade unionists.
"We want the TUC to show solidarity and support unions when far-right groups threaten and attack trade union members.
"And we urge delegates to celebrate the 75 year after the battle of Cable Street and attend the anniversary events on Sunday 2 October."

Emergency motion 3

Congress is appalled at the treatment of NUJ members in East London on Saturday 3 September 2011.

Journalists were carrying out their work, reporting the EDL event, taking photographs and recording eye witness accounts on behalf of a wide range of media outlets.

Journalists were subjected to harassment, threats and abuse including physical assaults, racist abuse and bottles and fireworks being thrown at the press. One journalist was subjected to a sexual assault and another suffered burns after an EDL protestor set the journalist on fire.

Congress publically condemns the actions of the EDL and the ways in which they target media workers and Congress will continue to support all trade unionists that are targeted by the far-right.

Far right attacks on media workers are aimed at deterring them from carrying out their work and are designed to intimidate trade union members and stop the media reporting on far-right activity.

Such attacks are a violation of press freedom and an attack on our democracy.

Congress expresses solidarity with NUJ members and calls on the General Council to campaign publically against far-right groups.

Congress urges the General Council to –

  1. Call on the police to take action to identify and prosecute EDL supporters who attack trade unionists.
  2. Support and assist affiliate unions when far-right groups threaten the health and safety of their members.

Monday at Congress

During day one of Congress 2011, the NUJ spoke out on anti-trade union legislation, the News International Staff Association, and offering support for the TUC alternative economic strategy.

As the conference began, delegates voted unanimously for an NUJ resolution that journalists should be covered by a legally-binding conscience clause to enable them to abide by their union's ethical code, following the phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World.

Employment rights and economics debate

Speaking in support of the first composite at TUC Congress this year, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary said:

"Just last week Rupert Murdoch wrote a letter in News Corporation's annual report and spoke of the 'major black eye' the company has received from the phone hacking scandal.
"I can think of many who might like to dispense rather more than a black eye to the man ultimately responsible for the cynical closure of a newspaper in a desperate act of damage limitation. Not least, the 280 staff who lost their jobs and the many scores more freelances and casuals whose income was slashed overnight.
"Murdoch has used the full force of his influence to brutally break the unions, with the backing of the courts, the police and the government as instruments of his will.
"Journalists at Wapping have been denied the collective protection and representation of an independent trade union. There is a clear parallel between the effect of union-busting and the moral vacuum that has been allowed to proliferate at News International. Collective trade union representation is a moral, human right and it's high time Murdoch was forced to let the NUJ back in.
"The NUJ's Code of Conduct governs all our members and is at the heart of what we stand for as a union. We have been long campaigning for journalists have the right to a conscience clause, in law, so that when they stand up for a principle of journalistic ethics they have a protection against being dismissed.
"This is another Wapping moment in our history and we want Congress to lead the way and ensure that we right the wrongs of union busting at News International, that we deliver recognition back to the unions and that ethical journalism is protected from meddling proprietors with the introduction in law of a Conscience Clause."

The composite notes:

Twenty-five years after the Wapping dispute, Congress remembers the shameful role News International played on behalf of the Thatcher government in weakening unions throughout the print media industry.

Congress notes the failure of recognition laws to protect unions in anti-union companies, leaving workers vulnerable to the pressures of unprincipled employers.

The in-house News International Staff Association (NISA), set up and funded by News International, failed to win a certificate of independence from the Certification Officer. Yet, under UK recognition laws, Murdoch was able to use NISA to block legitimate attempts of unions seeking recognition.

Congress therefore calls for the recognition laws to be amended to remove this barrier.

Congress also calls for the introduction of a conscience clause in law to ensure that journalists standing up on a principle of journalistic ethics have protection against dismissal, and for Congress to support the broadest dissemination of the NUJ Code of Conduct.

Alternative economic strategy

Anita Halpin at TUC Congress 2011
Anita Halpin at TUC Congress 2011
© Jess Hurd/

NUJ delegate Anita Halpin also spoke this morning on composite 4, saying the union is pleased to support the adoption of an alternative economic strategy and that one of the most important resources for the movement are union members themselves.

Anita Halpin highlighted the latest NUJ disputes including the BBC strike against compulsory redundancies at the Corportation and also the strike action at South Yorkshire Newspapers. Anita Halpin further went on the ask the General Council to consider the best use of resources especially for small unions so that we can maximise our effectiveness across the movement.

Composite 4 notes:

People also expect and deserve a radical and plausible alternative economic strategy based on sustainable growth resolving the crisis while putting people's needs for jobs, homes, decent pensions and secure living standards first.

The free market, neo-liberal model that has dominated for the past three decades has been exposed as a failure; a major change of direction is needed.

Congress calls on the TUC to continue to lobby both government and the Opposition to produce active industrial policies to stimulate economic growth and to safeguard and develop jobs and skills.

TUC Congress is the policy making body of the trade union movement in the UK.

The annual Congress meets every year during September and each trade union can send delegates to Congress and motions are proposed and discussed. These form the basis of the TUC's work for the next year.

Key documents for Congress 2011.

Tags: , tuc, tuc congress, regulation, rupert murdoch, wapping, phone hacking, nick davies, guardian, news corp, communications bill, public service broadcasting, cpbf, far right, edl, redwatch, journalists injured, press freedom, london, law, news international, news of the world, economy