Friday, 8 July 2011


The sadly painfully short demise of the News of the World (soon no doubt to be replaced by the Sun On Sunday (coincidently both and were registered a few days ago) within a few months) has little to do with bringing any measure of comfort to those ordinary decent people (Celebs to one side for the moment) who have had their lives violated for the sake of tabloid headlines. It has everything to do with the Dirty Digger's desire to gain complete control of BSKYB and perhaps a little to do with the fall in the value of News Corp's share price.

I have to be brutally honest, personally I am not interested in the petty unimportant lives of celebrities or who or what they are sleeping with - as far as I am concerned they can sleep with consenting domestic livestock or even consenting hedgehogs - I honestly don't care! That aside as far as I am aware the pretty public breaking the Telecommunications Acts and the payment of money to police officers for information remain criminal offences.

Celebs aside, the final straw in the whole sorry business for most reasonable people's was no doubt the revelation that some tabloid journalists had been hacking the voice mails of murder victims (and their families), the victims (and their relatives) of the 7/7 terrorist atrocities and the widows and family members of service personal killed on active service in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) if that was not enough to make most people wonder what moral cesspit the journalists inhabited then nothing else would (a rough estimate suggests that there could be at least 4,000 hacking victims). No wonder a host of advertisers pulled their adds from the News of the World and various organisations from Mums Net to the British Legion began severing their connections with the Murdoch media empire.

More than a few serious issues have emerged - the fact that for the last twenty years some tabloid journalists no doubt encouraged by their editors have run riot and certainly broken various Telecommunications Act's is one key issue, the fact that Press self regulation has proved to be almost worthless along with the Press Complaints Commission which has proved to be almost entirely toothless. The exposure of the scale of the hacking of voice mails which in itself is serious and which also may have directly or indirectly interfered with serious police investigations (including murder enquiries) is worth of serious police investigation to say the least (not to mention a full and extensive public enquiry).

The spotlight light also needs to be shone on the relationship (commercial or otherwise) between the press and the police, especially as it appears that money may have changed hands for information. While we are at it the relationship between police press and communication staff and the press is also worth investigation as I colleague said to me 'let me know how that one goes!'Here I think in the interests of transparency it would be worth bringing in a Scottish Judge and a Scottish Police Force to investigate the admissions made by the now almost defunct News of the World. Why this has not been seriously investigated previously is one question that needs to be asked, especially as Rebekah Brooks admitted to the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in April 2003 that police officers had been paid for information.

David Cameron and friend (Photo: Dafydd Jones)
What's also been exposed is David Cameron's judgement not to mention his choice of friends, spin doctors (Andy Coulson) and his fairly limited social circle (the Chipping Norton set), even the Daily Telegraph has in this case correctly questioned his judgement:

"In the careers of all prime ministers there comes a turning point. He or she makes a fatal mistake from which there is no ultimate recovery. With Tony Blair it was the Iraq war and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. With John Major it was Black Wednesday and sterling’s eviction from the Exchange Rate Mechanism. With Harold Wilson, the pound’s devaluation in 1967 wrecked his reputation. Each time the pattern is strikingly similar. Before, there is a new leader with dynamism, integrity and carrying the faith of the nation. Afterwards, the prime minister can stagger on for years, but as increasingly damaged goods: never is it glad, confident morning again."

The relationship between News Corp and the Politicians has also been exposed (and the desperate desire on the part of those who want to obtain or retain power) and the length to which they will go to appease News Corp (it is worth remembering that Blair flew half-way around the world to get the Dirty Digger on board) and this is no bad thing. Although incidentally at the last Westminster General Election the Sun certainly did not win it for Cameron or entirely batter fading New Labour into complete electoral oblivion.

David Cameron's links in employing ex-News International staff such as Andy Coulson and his friendship with other high ranking officials in the company needs investigation. There is a need for an explanation of how David Cameron came to hire Mr Coulson (a then employee of News Corp), not to mention what checks were made, and what advice was taken before the appointment. They raise a fair point when asking for a check-list of those no longer so innocent social meetings with Rebekah Brooks (an employee of News Corp).

So far Downing Street has been more than a little reticent about Mr Cameron's meetings with Rupert Murdoch (owner of News Corp) who is thought to be one of the very first visitors that Cameron received once he emerged as Prime Minister. All these things have a different context because of the Dirty Digger's attempts to secure monopoly control over the British media by purchasing the remaining 61% of the satellite broadcaster BSkyB that he does not yet own.

No doubt there will be much continued speculation on the survival time of Rebekah Brooks the former editor of the News of the World and the Sun and currently chief executive of News International - it was she who edited the newspaper during some of its most controversial years and who must surely by now have moved from being an asset to that of a liability for News Corp. Yesterday we all saw the sacrifice of the the News of the World and its staff at the News of the World - possibly in a desperate effort to save the BSKYB deal and also Rebekah Brooks. Never have so many been sacrificed to save so few is one phrase that comes to mind.

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson (Photo: BBC)

Before we get too carried away some words of caution, we must be very warry of over regulation (or over regulation) of the press as the forth estate serves a useful purpose as does investigative journalism, while no doubt some of those MPS who were caught with their hands in the till may think otherwise. The News of the World is now doubt merely on of the more prominent tabloids and its spectacular misdemeanour's (and ultimate demise). Not all newspapers are the same as the News of the World - we need a vigorous free press. We should remember that there is a world of difference between honest investigative journalism and the world of illegality and sleaze that has grown up (and been encouraged by editors and sub-editors) amongst certain sections of the tabloid press.

One final thought, one thing is certain New Labour's almost joyful attacks on Cameron (and News Corp) should be taken with a significant pinch of salt as it was New Labour spin that laid the groundwork for the war Iraq and sent too many of our service personnel to their untimely deaths. This has been going on for over twenty years politicians of all parties were desperate for coverage in the tabloids, promises were made blind eyes turned in return for tabloid support in election campaigns. The police looked the over way for similar media coverage of investigations (or for cash) and all of this gave a degree of entirely unacceptable protection from the law to the tabloid press.

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