Novara Media

Novara Media (often shortened to Novara)[1][2][3][4] is an independent,[5] left-wing alternative media organisation based in the United Kingdom.[2]

Novara Media
Novara Media logo.jpg
Type of site
Political commentary
URLnovaramedia.com
Launched2011; 11 years ago (2011)
Current statusActive

Novara Media was founded in 2011 by James Butler and Aaron Bastani, who met in the same year during the protests against the increase in UK university tuition fees. Novara Media is a trading name of Thousand Hands Ltd, and its office and studio is in south-east London.

HistoryEdit

Early yearsEdit

Novara was founded in June 2011 by James Butler and Aaron Bastani. Butler was educated at the London Oratory School, followed by Brasenose College, Oxford from where he graduated with a degree in English. Bastani was educated at University College London. Initially, Bastani and Butler hosted an hour-long live show and podcast, called Novara FM, on community radio station Resonance FM[6] as a kind of 'socialist night school.'[7] The intention was to feed into the leftist movement that had resulted in the student protests.[7] They named the show after the Italian town, Novara, in Elio Petri's 1971 film The Working Class Goes to Heaven.[2][7] The venture developed into Novara Media in 2013 with the involvement of others engaged in direct action in the student movement.[6] Novara diversified and, in addition to audio, written and video content were produced,[3][8] and Novara Media established itself as a multimedia project.[6]

Corbyn's Labour leadershipEdit

At its inception, Novara Media's attitude towards the Labour Party "veered between sceptical and hostile – but certainly not hopeful".[6] The media outlet's affinities, however, were drawn towards the Labour Party by the interest generated by Jeremy Corbyn's 2015 bid to be the leader of the party—unlike many within Labour, Corbyn and his allies, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, were seen by those at Novara to be allies of extra-parliamentary political movements on the left, like those in which Novara Media's team were involved.[6] Novara was supportive of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party[2] and obtained a July 2015 interview with Jeremy Corbyn on the day he became the bookmakers' favourite to win the 2015 Labour Party leadership election.[7] A number of other interviews with Corbyn and McDonnell followed.[6] Other guests on Novara included Labour Party Chairman Ian Lavery, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, the Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, and Chris Williamson.[7] Novara offered varied perspectives on the 2016 EU membership referendum, with Bastani initially advocating the UK's withdrawal from the EU,[9] and James Butler advocating a pro-remain argument.[10] Novara later hosted multiple debates on Brexit related issues from a left wing viewpoint.[11][12][13]

Following the Labour party's better-than-expected result at the 2017 general election, Novara Media, like other independent left-wing news organisations, received growing outside media interest.[2][7] By this time, the organisation's YouTube videos were frequently gaining 100,000 views, and, according to its self-reported figures, it had reached 3 million Facebook users over the election period.[2] One incident in 2018 which received particular attention was when Novara Media contributor Ash Sarkar said during a discussion on Good Morning Britain of protests against US President Donald Trump's visit to the UK that she had also criticised Barack Obama and the Democratic Party because she was 'literally a communist'.[14][15][16] The copy of this clip on Novara's Youtube channel achieved more than 6 million views and members of Novara media's leadership team were invited on Newsnight to discuss the incident.[17][18] It was also reported during 2018 that Novara staff regularly took briefings from the Labour Party via WhatsApp.[19] During the 2019 election, Novara campaigned enthusiastically for the party, with co-founder Aaron Bastani suggesting on social media that the party's vote share would exceed 36% on the eve of the ballot, however the actual figure was 32.1%.[20][21]

2020sEdit

After the end of Corbyn's leadership of Labour and Keir Starmer's victory in the 2020 leadership contest, Novara, like various other left-wing alternative media outlets in the UK, again took a far more critical view on the party's leadership.[22] Bastani himself resigned from the Labour Party in February 2021.[23][24]

Novara media saw significant expansion during the COVID-19 pandemic with its YouTube channel seeing an increase in subscribers from 65,000 in March 2020 to 170,000 in October 2021 and in cumulative views from 10 million a month prior to the pandemic to 40 million by autumn 2021. Research associate at the Cardiff University School of Journalism, media and culture Declan McDowell Naylor said in 2021 that out of all the alternative left-wing media organisations he had examined he believed that Novara Media had the greatest chance of surviving into the long-term but that the organisation was attempting a balancing act as "Everyone I interviewed there was talking about professionalisation and the tensions that brings with being a political project."[25]

Editorial positionEdit

Novara has a left-wing editorial position. The organisation has frequently advocated the political idea of "fully automated luxury communism", "a political vision which advocates a transition to post-work society where abundance is held in common",[6] or as Bastani puts it, "the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated".[26] Ash Sarkar has defined communism as being "about the desire to see the coercive structures of state dismantled, while also having fun".[27]

Novara dissents from what it views as biased "mainstream media".[28] Its staff and editorial team believe traditional media outlets express a narrow view of politics and are out of touch with a segment of the UK public,[2] have missed a shift in the UK's political mood,[4] and has a corrupting influence on the UK's democracy.[29] In a 2017 Guardian article, BBC Radio 4's Today programme presenter Nick Robinson said Novara Media, along with other alternative media organisations, were involved in a "guerrilla war" on the BBC and mainstream media as part of an attack on what they saw as the establishment—and that this was undermining public trust in mainstream news outlets.[30] Sarkar responded that Robinson had incorrectly identified the reasons people were losing trust in mainstream media, stating that the "political classes"—including the "establishment political media"—had been trying for a number of years to assure the public that they (i.e., the political classes) were "still responsible custodians of power, which after a disastrous intervention in the Middle East and a financial calamity people aren't feeling any more".[31]

Staff and contributorsEdit

 
Michael Walker hosts TyskySour.

The list of contributors grew to include Ash Sarkar,[32] Dalia Gebrial and Shon Faye.[33] Michael Walker hosts TyskySour, the network's news and political live streams on its YouTube channel.[34] By September 2017, Novara was run by a core team of 15 volunteers, and had about 200 paid contributing writers.[2] The writers are external to the organisation.[6]

ReadershipEdit

A July 2015 interview with Jeremy Corbyn on the day he became the bookmakers' favourite to win the 2015 Labour Party leadership election attracted 60,000 views in its week of publication.[7] Novara's self-reported site traffic statistics for the period of the 2015 UK general election were "modest": their election liveblog attracting 5,500 readers and their most popular election-related article 3,700 readers. This increased during the 2017 general election: the Novara website received a quarter of a million hits; their videos on Facebook received 2.3 million views; and on the day of the election Novara reached 1.2 million people via Facebook.[6]

Along with other left-wing UK media outlets founded in the early 21st century, Novara Media's growth was in part due to a lack of trust, on the part of people in the UK who identify as left-wing, in mainstream media organisations.[2] Novara's readership is typically 18 to 30-year-olds[3] and left-leaning people dissatisfied with more traditional news outlets.[1][2]

ResponsesEdit

In 2015, the Institute for Public Policy Research described Novara Media as "innovative" within a "narrowed ... media landscape" that needed further reform as part of the UK's "architecture of democracy" to ensure "that all voices are heard in the political system".[35]

2018 Poppy appealEdit

Bastani attracted controversy in November 2018 for his position on the poppy appeal, an annual fundraising campaign run by the Royal British Legion for veterans of the British armed forces. In an episode of Novara Media podcast "The Bastani Factor", Bastani described the poppy appeal as "racist" and "white supremacist" because, in his opinion, the appeal "has a kind of triumphalist militarism to it".[36] The comments attracted widespread criticism in the national media, including from the Labour Party's Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, who suggested Bastani should be expelled from the Party.[37]

2021 YouTube deletionEdit

On 26 October 2021, Novara Media's YouTube channel was deleted without explanation, and Novara called on YouTube to reinstate it. YouTube initially claimed that Novara had violated the platform's community standards without specifying the offenses.[38] On 29 October, the social media platform reinstated Novara's channel and apologised, stating that they had made the "wrong call" after a member of the public incorrectly flagged the channel for spam.[39] In response, advocacy group Big Brother Watch, Chief executive Ed Proctor of the Independent Monitor for the Press, and Novara contributor Ash Sarkar criticised YouTube for online censorship.[38][40] Libertarian journalist and columnist Brendan O'Neill opined that Novara Media was a victim of the "cancel culture" that he argued the left had helped create.[41] Both O'Neill and James Bloodworth of the New Statesman pointed out that in 2020, Gary McQuiggin, Novara's head of video, defended Twitter's right as a private company to remove accounts.[42]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Jane Martinson, 'A question for a dystopian age: what counts as fake news? Archived 2018-12-15 at the Wayback Machine' (18/06/17) On The Guardian
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Chakelian, Anoosh (25 September 2017). ""Luxury communism now!" The rise of the pro-Corbyn media". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 10 January 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Ash Sarkar in A. Lobb, 'Novara: "Building a social majority is about negotiating differences" Archived 2018-12-15 at the Wayback Machine' (07/07/17) in The Big Issue
  4. ^ a b Khomami, Nadia (2 October 2017). "Fund launched to create independent media free from rightwing bias". The Guardian. Media. Archived from the original on 13 June 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  5. ^ F. Mayhew, 'The Media Fund offers 'democratic' alternative to billionaire press owners and BBC Archived 2018-12-15 at the Wayback Machine' (11/10/17) in Press Gazette
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i C. Gent and M. Walker, 'Alternative Media: A new factor in electoral politics?' in D. Wring, R. Mortimore and S. Atkinson (eds), Political Communication in Britain (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018),p. 117-128: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-00822-2_8 Archived 20 April 2022 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Judah, Ben (27 April 2018). "Momentum: inside Labour's revolutionary movement". Financial Times. Archived from the original on 3 January 2020. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  8. ^ "Novara Media". euroalter.com. European Alternatives. Archived from the original on 3 July 2018. Retrieved 5 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Why the left should vote to leave the EU". novaramedia.com. 18 April 2016. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  10. ^ Novara Media (4 July 2016). I voted remain, but ignoring the outcome would be terrible for democracy. Archived from the original on 2 November 2017. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  11. ^ "#EUref – Can there be a left-wing Brexit?". Novara Media. Archived from the original on 26 September 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  12. ^ "Soft Brexit:Not so EEAsy?". Novara Media. Archived from the original on 21 September 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  13. ^ "A Second Referendum: the Debate". Novara Media. Archived from the original on 5 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  14. ^ "Piers Morgan clashes with Trump protester in fiery debate". itv.com. ITV. 12 July 2018. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  15. ^ "Meet the Communist Who Destroyed Piers Morgan on TV". Teen Vogue. 15 July 2018. Archived from the original on 22 November 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  16. ^ Phillips, Melanie (23 July 2018). "Communism isn't cool, it's a murderous creed". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Archived from the original on 1 November 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  17. ^ I'm Literally a Communist You Idiot, archived from the original on 1 November 2021, retrieved 1 November 2021
  18. ^ Aaron Bastani - Why I am literally a communist, archived from the original on 1 November 2021, retrieved 1 November 2021
  19. ^ "Corbyn marshals support via WhatsApp". The Times. London. 5 June 2018. Archived from the original on 2 January 2020. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  20. ^ @aaronbastani (11 December 2019). "It'll Go Higher" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  21. ^ "General Election 2019: results and analysis" (PDF). House of Commons Library. 28 January 2020. Archived (PDF) from the original on 18 November 2021. Retrieved 6 November 2021.
  22. ^ McDowell-Naylor, Declan; Thomas, Richard; Cushion, Stephen (15 July 2020). "How left-wing media sites have changed their coverage of the Labour Party under Keir Starmer". The Conversation. Archived from the original on 15 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  23. ^ Harpin, Lee (5 February 2021). "Jeremy Corbyn's 'attack dog' quits Labour - allegedly ahead of an investigation into his conduct". www.thejc.com. Archived from the original on 9 February 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  24. ^ "In light of claims I was suspended from Labour, which are complete nonsense, here is an email I sent to my local CLP Secretary after ending my membership a while back.
    This is the reality of politics in real life, mostly civilised & cordial. A million miles away from Twitter!"
    . Twitter. Archived from the original on 13 February 2021. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  25. ^ Clarke-Ezzidio, Harry (29 October 2021). "In the post-Corbyn world, what next for alternative left media?". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 1 November 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  26. ^ Merchant, Brian (18 March 2015). "Fully automated luxury communism". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 November 2015. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  27. ^ Hogan, Michael (22 July 2018). "'That's when I lost my temper': Ash Sarkar on her clash with Piers Morgan". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 27 November 2018.
  28. ^ A. Panjwani, 'Novara Media pulls video wrongly using clip from 2012 strike in report on Catalonia independence vote violence Archived 2018-12-19 at the Wayback Machine (11/10/17) on Press Gazette
  29. ^ Aaron Bastani, interviewed on The Listening Post, 'British media's coverage of Corbyn: Balanced or biased? Archived 2018-12-19 at the Wayback Machine' (20/05/17) on Al Jazeera English
  30. ^ Nick Robinson (27 September 2017). "If mainstream news wants to win back trust, it cannot silence dissident voices | Nick Robinson". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  31. ^ Ruddick, Graham; Khomami, Nadia (28 September 2017). "Alternative news sites attack Nick Robinson's claim of 'guerrilla war' on BBC". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  32. ^ L. Diavolo, 'Meet Ash Sarkar, the Communist Who Called Piers Morgan an "Idiot" Archived 2018-11-22 at the Wayback Machine (15/07/18) in Teen Vogue
  33. ^ L. Corner, 'Olly Alexander says it will take a while for a queer popstar to be as big as Beyoncé Archived 2018-12-15 at the Wayback Machine' (15/08/17) in Gay Times
  34. ^ "Michael Walker". Jacobin. Archived from the original on 6 May 2021. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  35. ^ M. Lawrence and S. Birch, The Democracy Commission: Reforming democracy to combat political inequality Archived 2018-12-14 at the Wayback Machine (Aug. 2015), Institute for Public Policy Research, p. 29-30
  36. ^ Murphy, Neil (8 November 2018). "Outrage as Labour supporter brands poppies RACIST in online rant". The Mirror. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  37. ^ "Sophy Ridge on Sunday Interview with Nia Griffith Shadow Defence Secretary". skygroup.sky. Sky News. 11 November 2018. Archived from the original on 26 November 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  38. ^ a b Satariano, Adam (29 October 2021). "How a Mistake by YouTube Shows Its Power Over Media". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  39. ^ Tobitt, Charlotte (29 October 2021). "Youtube reinstates Novara Media channel after removing it 'without warning or explanation'". Press Gazette. Archived from the original on 8 November 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  40. ^ "Novara Media has YouTube channel briefly deleted". BBC News. 27 October 2021. Archived from the original on 28 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  41. ^ O'Neill, Brendan (27 October 2021). "Novara Media and the fight for free speech". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 27 October 2021. Retrieved 30 October 2021.
  42. ^ Bloodworth, James (2 November 2021). "It's the tech giants, not socialist politicians, who are coming for our liberty". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 8 November 2021. Retrieved 8 November 2021.

External linksEdit