The End of The (News of the) World as we know it…

Like many with uneasy feelings towards giant, hydra-headed, global media conglomerates with immense, unaccountable power and influence, the deafening collective squawk of chickens arriving home to roost in the last 48 hours offers cautious grounds for optimism and, yes, a little satisfaction, but not much.

The most important issue at stake here is that the smokescreen of the summary execution of an instantly recognisable (if now thoroughly toxic) brand is, to all intents, irrelevant. As, I would venture to say, is the actual issue of the phone hacking itself. As with pretty much every major public scandal, the issue at stake is how, why and by whom the attempts to cover up the complicity and extent of the criminality involved. The announcement of a public inquiry is welcome, although the the turgid pace at which such processes move will, one feels, allow for sufficient time to have passed for individuals called to testify to get stories straight, have convenient lapses of memory or textual evidence to have been “lost in the move”.

Important questions accumulate with the closing of the NOTW rather than being answered by it, and the following must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

1) What was the role of Andy Hayman, the officer in charge of the original phone hacking inquiry, who left the Met in 2007 after expenses and other misdeeds, only to be, subsequently employed by News International?

2) Given the arrest of Andy Coulsen and Clive Goodman in relation to the corruption inquiry, is it not inconceivable that Rebekkah Brooks should not also be arrested given that she ADMITTED during the select committee hearing in March 2003 that the paper had paid police officers for information?

3) What was the role of the last Labour government, given their position at the time of the offences being committed (i.e. why was a public inquiry not mooted, and indeed blocked it seems, by Gordon Brown in 2005)?

Amongst many many others. Answers on a post card? (In a sealed brown envelope stuffed with cash…..)

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “The End of The (News of the) World as we know it…

  1. There’s a bit of a tightrope being walked here – while the actions of various people involved with NOTW were highly distasteful at best, and seriously illegal at worst, this is a good opportunity for the government to bring the media to heel. They’ll be very keen to do so, on both sides of the house, following the Telegraph’s expenses campaign and open support for Wikileaks from several UK papers. The fact that everyone is shouting and angry is a good smokescreen for wholesale restrictions on the media that could turn out to be a bad thing in the long run.

  2. This is an interesting point. The press in the UK has, up until now, been working under a rubric of self-regulation, with the Press Complaints Commission acting as an ad-hoc kind of ombudsman, to the satisfaction of very few I would venture to say.

    The issue with News International and NOTW is not that further regulation or press governance could have prevented this from happening, as there were people here engaged in criminal enterprise and conspiracy (The private investigator and Clive Goodman), that’s a fact, if they weren’t going to obey the laws of the land, they sure didn’t give a damn about the press code of conduct. How far the senior staff, management and executives can feasibly shield themselves behind claims of ignorance remains to be seen.

    You’re right then, in the sense that this shouldn’t lead to any calls for regulation on journalism, being that it was pure, old fashioned and exemplary investigative journalism by Nick Davies at the Guardian which kept this story from being buried. I think journalism, and the press, should take great heart from this story and if anything it should help make the case for more rigorous press scrutiny of the actions of large public and private institutions.

    The question of how to respond to this scandal lies in addressing the market share of NI in the UK media (and, if we’re honest, the world) as a response to what are clearly, at best, serious ethical and managerial failures which have become part of the ethos of the organization itself, and whether this particular organization has any place in taking over the entire stake of a broadcaster with the reach and influence of BSkyB. Ofcom are looking into this now (better late than never but hey), there are guidelines and procedures precisely to deal with this kind of thing. All that needs to happen is that the institutions concerned apply them, as they hitherto seem to have been either unwilling or unable to with regards the role of NewsCorp and NI in the UK.

    No new laws needed, just the enforcement of existing ones without fear or favour.

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