A free press cannot be free. A press that is given away to its readers for nothing cannot be impartial and free from undue influence.
We pride ourselves in this country that we have a free press and that it fulfills the important role of holding governments and other institutions to account. We convince ourselves that our free press is the cornerstone of our political system. In the mother of democracy we have bought into the myth that our journalism is there to uncover corruption, highlight inequity and fight on the side of righteousness.
But this is simply not true. Our press, indeed all of our official media is in the hands of large corporates who use their mouth pieces to either further their own ends or to make money. Over the last decade or so the circulation of the printed press has been in decline. Fewer people are reading a paper and even fewer are buying one. Many newspapers are now given away for free.
As the saying goes there is no such thing as a free lunch and there is no such thing as a free newspaper either. Such organs are not given away for the good of our health but are instead paid for by advertising revenue. The companies that support these papers want to get their products and services in front of you so that you will buy them.
When a product is free then you are the product.
Because of this it is not possible for the free press to bite the hand that feeds it. It must always come down on the side of the status quo in order to survive. Being contentious may sell more papers but won’t help those that are given away for free.
A press that is given away for free cannot separate itself ultimately from its corporate masters.