Issue 237 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published January 2000 Copyright © Socialist Review

The future

PRESENT TENSE, FUTURE PERFECT?

We asked a number of contributors to look at prospects for social and cultural change in the new century. Here are some of their ideas

'Alternatives are gaining quite a strong voice' Mark Thomas: media

You can see changes in television quite clearly in places like Channel 4 where a lot of the programming is geared towards cheap production and high ratings. These are little signals that Channel 4 might be privatised. If they do privatise Channel 4 the real question is, will it fulfil any of its original remit, will it then have that drive down to the lowest common denominator? The important question becomes, is the press doing a good job-- because it all ties up with the downsizing of intellect, of dumbing down as people call it. I think people are quite angry about that. The idea that the press can be privatised and will serve people better is wholly abhorrent, because then what you do is you treat information as a commodity rather than a right. And information is a right if you're going to have a democracy. How can you have people making informed decisions if they do not have the information?

Alternative media is beginning to gain a really strong foothold and quite a strong voice. The internet is really interesting in relation to that. There's a capacity to put information out, but again that's financially based as you need to have the wherewithal to get a computer and run it, and you need to have the skills . The internet is only serving people who can afford to run it or have an active interest in it. The really interesting time will come when anyone can get access to it.

With globalisation, democracy is going to change enormously because power will not reside so much within elected bodies, and what will happen then is anyone's guess. It may be you suddenly see a complete realigning of things. It may be that we are on the verge of the new industrial revolution-- the technological revolution. Just as the industrial revolution brought out various conditions and social practices, and ideas and ideologies, it might be that the technological revolution brings forward these as well.

The real chance is going to be when Blair gets elected for the second term. People will just feel a lot more confident about taking on the Labour government. People are confident but it's only to a degree. Thousands of people get involved in things every single day and it's just not reported. Our role is to be the cheerleaders for change. People are very disillusioned with the Labour government but they still have this really amazing support, and the support is in part due to the self destructiveness of the Tory Party. As the implications of PFI and PPP become apparent, as people experience it more, people will become a lot angrier about it.

Charles Shaar Murray: music

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