Why media conglomerates should be broken up

based on a WEF photo of Media tycoon Rupert Murdoch addresses a session of the World Economic Forum in DavosThe hacking trials aren’t even half the issue. The hard, unavoidable fact remains that the power of the Murdoch press – the real unspoken stain behind the Brooks-Coulson trials – is undiminished and has still not been broken. It is best illustrated by the run-up of events to the long-planned Murdoch campaign to take over BSkyB, a scheme that would have added some £8bn to the Murdoch empire as well as giving him a virtual stranglehold over the British media.

It began with Murdoch’s calculation in 2009 that a switch of the Sun to the Tories would make them indebted to him – perhaps even outlined in an informal deal – over his BSkyB objective. The game plan then began with James Murdoch meeting Cameron at a hotel in London in September 2009 to tell him that the Sun was switching sides. Continue reading

Dealing with the Murdoch empire requires far more than jailing Coulson

rupert-murdochCoulson is only a medium-sized cog in the web of industrial scale phone-hacking, lying, deceit, and intimidation that is Murdoch’s News International. If this was any other company rather than one of themselves, the newspapers would be raising a hue and cry demanding a full public inquiry, resignations or sackings of key executives in the boardroom, and the break-up and restructuring of a disgraced and discredited corporation. Continue reading

Hunt’s referral on ministerial code should be decided by Parliament, not PM

On the face of it the evidence for referring Hunt to the independent adviser on the Ministerial code seems overwhelming. Hunt has always maintained his role was “quasi-judicial”, i.e. he should act like a judge in keeping his distance from all interested parties and certainly not showing favour to one of them. Yet, almost incredibly, there were 191 phone calls, 158 emails and 799 texts between DCMS (more than nine-tenths of them with Adam Smith, Hunt’s special adviser) and Frederic Michel, Murdoch’s main lobbyist. Continue reading

How does one stop over-cosy relationships between politicians and media moguls?

Andy Coulson’s arrest for alleged perjury in the Tommy Sheridan trial isn’t just an embarrassment for Cameron. It raises a much wider and more difficult issue: how can a deeply insidious, unhealthy and toxic relationship between politicians and media proprietors – specifically the Tories (Thatcher), New Labour (Blair), the Tories again (Cameron) and Murdoch – be prevented from developing to the point where it contaminates politics and secretly corrupts the whole democratic process? Continue reading

It’s not Hunt’s neck that’s now on the line, it’s Cameron’s

The evidence revealing the inappropriately close relationship between Cameron and News International in the run-up to the BSkyB bid gathered pace in the last two days with the appearance of Coulson and Brooks before Leveson. First, there was Cameron’s insouciance about hiring Coulson to No.10 without thorough checks on what he may have known about phone-hacking at the News of the World where he had been editor, even when the Guardian later indicated in 2009 that phone hacking at the tabloid was rife. This suggests that the Prime Minister was so determined to get as close as possible to the Murdoch outfit that he was quite ready to gloss over any embarrassing details that might incriminate Coulson, and never raised the subject with him more than once even while the hacking saga was steadily unfolding. Continue reading