@ Matt Bryant
I've cut this down as far as I can (sorry, mod). Your points deserved replies, but I don't want to clog up the forums.
[Abolishing the party system] "Nice idea, but people tend to group together[...]"
I'd expect people would have to agree in order to make a representative system work at all. The point is that they express their constituents' views, not those of a party.
[Pay by constituency] "Actually, they're paid out of central funds, otherwise you'd have the problem of wealthy areas just paying extra to get the better representatives, and poor areas struggling to get someone capable. And seeing as the wealthier areas usually vote Tory, pretty soon you'd have Tory domination"
*Only if there was a Tory party*. But no: one constituency - one MP - one centrally set salary. No option for more MPs, or higher salary. If anything, such a system will likely discourage the wealthier candidates. And capability is nothing to do with wealth.
[Freeing the press] "Actually it is free - anyone can start a newspaper. The problem is it costs a lot to run a national newspaper, let alone one that wants to cover international news, and as they are facing a shrinking market due to the encroachment of the Internet and cable/satellite news channels, they seem to have jettisoned any idea of being newsworthy for simply spewing out whatever they think will get readers."
Precisely. So the news we hear is what makes the most money. So is skewed, unreliable, profit-driven news better than little or no news? Especially considering the last point:
[Press obligation to report truthfully] "Hmmm, how are they being untruthful? If they are lying then there are legal and professional ways to seek redress."
Redress is generally limited to fines and payouts. A huge, profitable 'news' corporation needn't fear some aggrieved little upstart being indulged by some court somewhere. Pay the peanuts and move on.
I recommend sites such as fullfact.org, mailwatch.co.uk, or flatearthnews.net (the latter is in effect a big plug for a book, but the site and the book do contain some thought-provoking material).
I'm not suggesting that journalists set out to lie. They may, or they may be mistaken, unconsciously biased or just plain ignorant (as a pagan, some of the claims I've seen in the DM about us are just downright baffling). But whichever's the case, news quality suffers.
[How to ensure balance in news] "Then there's the problem of how do you make sure they are bias free, do you outlaw opinion pieces or expert analysis (or just the analysts that your bias means you disagree with)?"
Opinion pieces are fine as long as they're balanced, clearly labelled as such and are kept out of 'news' reports.
Newspapers shouldn't have a 'position'. If you want your paper to have a political position then you make sure you label it as what it is: a political paper. Don't pretend - or allow readers to believe - that it's unbiased.
Too many people still honestly believe that "they wouldn't be allowed to say it if it wasn't true". You could argue that such people already believe and accept that there are certain controls on the press.
As for experts, you suggest that control might enable papers to give room only the experts they agree with. I'd argue that that's what happens now, and it's one of the things I'd like to see addressed.
"And how do you know if they're telling the whole truth - if it's already known then it's not news!"
Can't be helped. News reporting depends on there being something to report. Like witch-hunting depends on there being witches to hunt. When the witches run out, an honest witch-hunter (bear with me here) will accept it, hang up his pitchfork and put his ducking stool into mothballs. A dishonest one will try to manufacture more witches so he can keep charging to get rid of them. (Bad analogy from someone with a number of witches as friends, but you take my point, I'm sure.)
Journalism, on the other hand, only really means recording what's happened, and doesn't actually carry any connotation of 'exclusives' or 'breaking news'.
[Controlling the press] "Attempting to control the press in any way other than obliging them to follow the libel laws and criminal laws (such as in the case of phone voicemail "hacking") seems an impractical and possibly dangerous idea to me."
Dangerous it certainly is. But that's my point exactly: the press is *already* controlled to the point of being unhealthy and even - in some cases - touching on useless. It makes no difference that it's controlled by corporate interests rather than political ones. And in any case, just shouting and complaining and whipping up fear and hysteria (seriously: look at those websites), a news outlet isn't fulfilling the idealised purpose of the free press in protecting freedoms. In fact, it's socially damaging.