What do we do about the press, not just Murdoch?

Too much attention has focused on Murdoch’s cussed personality, not enough on what kind of press we want to see in this country. At present there is no nationality requirement for ownership. There is no limit on the share of any media market controleed by any one proprietor. There is no constraint on owners’ power to take over parts of other media domains. There is no control to prevent market dominance. There is no right of reply. There is no provision to increase diversity and improve balance in the press. Self-regulation has patently failed, but there are no measures to ensure that, consistent with freedom of the press, newspapers do not abuse their role in the manner highlighted by, but no confined to, the phone-hacking scandal. All of these need to be corrected. Continue reading

No end of a retreat

Slowly but surely, inch by inch, Murdoch is being forced back. His withdrawal of his promise to hive off Sky News, which he had previously used as a device to avoid referral to the Competition Commission, was motivated solely by the pressing need to allow time for the present crescendo of anger over phone-hacking to die down, and his fear that if the Government were forced to take a decision now, he would be forced to withdraw his bid for BSkyB as Ed Miliband has already demanded or be humiliated by the Government finding some way to pull the plug on him. He’s banking on the atmosphere looking very different in 6 months’ time when the Competition Commission reports. But will it, when only some 40 of the 4,000 hacking victims on Mulcaire’s 11,000 pages of notes have so far been revealed and when the recent consultation produced an unprecedented 150,000 responses, almost all hostile? Continue reading

The net tightens on News International

Sales of the doomed News of the World increased by 30% we are reliably informed on the day the newspaper closed, and on the day Rupert Murdoch flew in dressed in an open neck shirt and a panama hat.

The ‘Dirty Digger’ as Murdoch used to be known affected not to have a care in the World. He said that his first priority was Rebekah Brooks, his Chief Executive of News  Corporation operations in London and who edited the News of the World when clearly documented cases of phone hacking were taking place. Just another day then, Rupe? Just another squall to deal with? Continue reading

Murdoch’s power tentacles are gradually exposed

There’s still a great deal more murkiness to the phone hacking scandal than has yet come out. The latest revelation is that Sir Gus O’Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, took it upon himself to tell Gordon Brown in autumn 2009 that it would be ‘inappropriate’ to hold a judicial inquiry not long before an election into evidence that Brown’s phone and that of other Cabinet Ministers had been hacked into by News of the World reporters. The word ‘inappropriate’ is the term always used by the civil service when there is something they want to block, but they can’t think of any publicly plausible argument to justify blocking it. But even more importantly, what the hell’s it got to do with the civil service as to what may or may not be appropriate before an election? Continue reading

We need a Murdoch-free press

It’s been a bad week for Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corporation. The ‘apology’ for its phone-hacking  antics are set to open the floodgates on other such claims but few readers will worry about that. Indeed, News Corps plight isn’t worth even a note from the world’s smallest violin. The problems that underpin the story, however, are worthy of concern and deliberation. If we want to understand the origins of this problem then we need look no further than the overweening power and political influence of News Corp. Impregnability quickly generates a culture of impunity and neither Labour, Conservative nor even the Liberal Democrats are really prepared to challenge the power of Murdoch. This is a shame because if any were too all the indications are that, contrary to their paranoid fears, they would enjoy the overwhelming backing of the public. Continue reading