The Guardian newspaper has frightened itself away from taking what could have been a radical and transformative step forward in British media ownership. It could have empowered its readers by giving them a formal voice in its ownership and management structures. There are a whole variety of different ways in which the Guardian’s parent Scott Trust could have been turned itself into a genuinely cooperative undertaking, in partnership with its readers.
It did, I understand, ponder this sort of step. Instead, it is now inviting its readers to become ‘members’. “If you read the Guardian, join the Guardian,” says Polly Toynbee in today’s paper.
You can for example become a Founding Patron (£540 a year) or Partner (£135) or just a Friend (for nothing). But what are you a member of? The answer unfortunately is that you are a member of nothing more than a glorified loyalty scheme: the right to priority booking and discounts for Guardian seminars and the like. Guardian ‘members’, when it comes down to it, are no different from Boots loyalty card members.
This is, dear Guardian, a missed opportunity.