Screenshot of Novara Media homepage on a mobile device
Type of site
|Alexa rank||~13,677 (UK 12/2018)|
Novara was founded in June 2011 by James Butler and Aaron Bastani. Initially, Bastani and Butler hosted an hour-long live show and podcast, called Novara FM, on community radio station Resonance FM as a kind of 'socialist night school.' The intention was to feed into the leftist movement that had resulted in the student protests. They named the show after the Italian town in Elio Petri's 1971 film The Working Class Goes to Heaven. The venture developed into Novara Media in 2013 with the involvement of others engaged in direct action in the student movement. Novara diversified and, in addition to audio, written and video content were produced, and Novara Media established itself as a multimedia project.
In October 2017, Novara Media joined The Media Fund, a cooperative organisation which aims to help digital platforms counteract an "old media system" by creating an "independent media free from rightwing bias".
Novara Media Ltd was dissolved in January 2018 for failing to file required documents by Companies House. Novara Media is now owned by Thousand Hands Ltd; it has been sponsored by the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust. The company's office and studio is in Peckham, south London.
At its inception, Novara Media's attitude towards the Labour Party "veered between sceptical and hostile – but certainly not hopeful". 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.
It generally has a left-wing editorial position and is supportive of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of the Labour Party. 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" – or, as Bastani puts it, "the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated". Ash Sarkar, who described herself as "literally a communist" during an appearance on Good Morning Britain, subsequently defined communism being "about the desire to see the coercive structures of state dismantled, while also having fun".
Novara "sets itself in opposition to what it sees as biased "mainstream media". 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, have missed a shift in the UK's political mood, and has a corrupting influence on the UK's democracy. In a 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. Ash 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".
The list of contributors grew to include Ash Sarkar and Shon Faye. By September 2017, Novara was run by a core team of 15 volunteers, and had about 200 paid contributing writers. The writers are external to the organisation.
A breakthrough for Novara took place with a July 2015 interview with Jeremy Corbyn on the day he became the bookmakers' favourite to win the 2015 Labour Party leadership election; the interview attracted 60,000 views in its week of publication. Those at Novara Media believe Corbyn was willing to give interviews to them because they—in contrast to a mainstream media largely hostile towards him—took his policies seriously and believed them worthy of scrutiny. A number of other interviews with Corbyn and McDonnell followed. Other guests on Novara have included Labour Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott, the Green Party’s former co-leader Caroline Lucas, and Chris Williamson.
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 elections: 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 elections Novara reached 1.2 million people via Facebook.
Along with other left-wing UK media outlets founded in the early-to-mid-2000s, 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, of mainstream media organisations. Novara's readership is typically 18 to 30-year-olds and left-leaning people dissatisfied with mainstream media news outlets.
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".
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". 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.
- novaramedia.com Traffic Statistics (12/2018) from Alexa
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- 'About' on Novara Media
- 'Novara Media' (2016) on the Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust website
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- Aaron Bastani, interviewed on The Listening Post, 'British media's coverage of Corbyn: Balanced or biased?' (20/05/17) on Al Jazeera English
- N. Robinson, 'If mainstream news wants to win back trust, it cannot silence dissident voices (27/09/17) on The Guardian
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- L. Diavolo, 'Meet Ash Sarkar, the Communist Who Called Piers Morgan an "Idiot" (15/07/18) in Teen Vogue
- L. Corner, 'Olly Alexander says it will take a while for a queer popstar to be as big as Beyoncé' (15/08/17) in Gay Times
- M. Lawrence and S. Birch, The Democracy Commission: Reforming democracy to combat political inequality (Aug. 2015), Institute for Public Policy Research, p. 29-30
- Murphy, Neil (8 November 2018). "Outrage as Labour supporter brands poppies RACIST in online rant". The Mirror. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
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