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Stop Funding Hate Campaign

How is the campaign against bigotry and racism in the media going?  Simon Birch finds out.

The groundbreaking Stop Funding Hate campaign was launched back in the summer of 2016. Its aim was to tackle the appallingly racist headlines directed at Muslims and refugees which were appearing in the tabloid press on a depressingly regular basis.

“The campaign’s core focus was on the Daily Mail, Daily Express and The Sun, as there was widespread concern that the hate in our media was fuelling hate on our streets,” explains Richard Wilson one of the campaign’s founders.

The group’s key tactic was simple: by persuading companies to pull their advertising from the likes of The Sun, the campaign wanted to put the financial squeeze on the tabloids’ bottom-line, something that had never been attempted before.

“Our aim was to persuade these newspapers that it no longer made good business sense to use anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric on their front pages as a way of selling their newspapers,” explains Wilson.

Incredible success with all three papers

Just over two years on, the welcome good news is that the campaign has been a whopping success with a marked reduction in the number of extreme racist stories being published by the tabloids. The biggest change has been from the Daily Express which has had a change of ownership this spring and, with it, a new editor.

“In 2016, there were over 70 front pages featuring migrants, the majority of which were negative, whilst this year there have been just three and none since the new editor began,” says Wilson. “There’s been a massive change in the way they report, particularly on migrants, which was a core issue of our campaign.” 

In fact, there’s been such a dramatic turnaround at the Express regarding the way that it reports on migrants and other minorities that Stop Funding Hate is now not actively targeting the paper, but instead has placed it ‘under review’.

There’s also been progress with the Daily Mail, which itself has a new editor who has been given the job of ‘detoxifying the Mail’ after the departure of its previous controversial editor Paul Dacre. “There’s been a marked change of tone with the Mail’s reporting and we’ve heard from industry insiders that our campaign is a headache to them,” says Wilson.

And, amazingly, The Sun has publicly apologised for one of its most notorious columnists who, in the past, likened migrants to cockroaches, and is now engaging with Muslim and transgender groups over how The Sun reports on these issues.

The result is that The Sun has now significantly toned down its attack-dog headlines that were a regular feature in the past.

Defensiveness from the papers

By persuading sufficient numbers of companies to pull their advertising, the campaign has been effective in hitting the tabloids’ financial bottom-line.

Just how threatening the papers found it is suggested by the massive onslaught of negative publicity which all three tabloids hurled at the campaign last December, something which even included an attack from Boris Johnson in The Sun.

“The problem for the tabloids was that by attacking us they proved that we were actually having a significant impact because they weren’t ignoring us,” says Wilson. “Ultimately the attacks backfired and were a big boost for us as more people began donating money to us. Being attacked by the Daily Mail showed that the campaign was working.”

The next stage

Having achieved a large part of their initial objective, Wilson and his team are now looking at the next stage of the campaign.

“Our new goal is to get the principle that companies shouldn’t advertise with media organisations peddling hate speech recognised as a global business ethical issue, just like any other corporate social responsibility issue,” says Wilson. 

Significantly this goal has just had a major endorsement from the UN which has recently adopted this approach to ethical advertising as a way of tackling racism.

“The commitment from the UN will set a precedent for businesses and is another major step towards a world where media hate is no longer profitable,” concludes Wilson.

Stop Funding Hate are currently crowdfunding for £45,000 to fund the campaign for the next 6 months. Support the crowdfunder now

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