I could hardly detain my excitement in the past two weeks; the spotlight is back on the papers – and namely some journalists – to start changing it’s act!
Firstly, Rebekah Brooks, chief executive of News International, shrunk to a not-so boastful corner when she backtracked on her 2003 comments exclaiming she had “specific knowledge” that journalists “had paid police for information in the past.” Like a teenage school girl declaring she personally knows the hottest new rapper Rebekah, who was back then editor of The Sun newspaper, sheepishly replied she was just “comment[ing] generally.”
At an attempt to apologise, you can almost picture the disapproving shaking head from Papa Murdoch when Rebekah explains; “If, in doing so, I gave the impression that I had knowledge of any specific cases, I can assure you that this was not my intention.” Oh dear Rebekah, I wonder if you’ll be grounded for that comment.
Which brings me to the next media extravaganza of the News of the World phone hacking incident. When this story was exposed last year the British public paid little attention to sympathise with the hurt and anger of celebrities having their private life invaded by tabloid mutts. (Charlie Brooker wrote a brilliant article in the Guardian this week about this particular breed of journalists – if you haven’t read it you really should – click here!)
But what really made my lunch break last week was how Ian Edmondson (NoW’s former assistant editor) and Neville Thurlbeck (chief reporter) voluntarily, (yes voluntarily!), presented themselves to the police for arrest. Although later released on bail (until September) another two of Murdoch’s star pupils had to attend detention. Outstanding!
This all leads to Labour’s new kid on the block, Ed Miliband, to comment on the “very bad” behavior of NoW’s journalists as he called for an inquiry into the press this week. To what some might believe could be the start of “Ed-mania” (this time last year Cleggmania was rife!); Mr Miliband quite bravely put it out there; “I think it is in the interests of protecting the reputation of the British press that these matters should not simply be left to rest, and lessons have to be learned.”
Three cheers for Eddy!
No sarcasm intended. Ed strummed the strings of my own heart when he went on to criticise the current self-regulatory body of the press “My strong instincts are that we do not want governmental regulation of these issues, but I don’t think the Press Complaints Commission has covered itself in glory.”
Ed explains; “It is not about government imposing this on the press, but I think the review needs to have some independence, both from government and from those involved in the day-to-day running of newspapers. I think that would help the industry. There has to be a sense that the future is not going to be like the past. Wider lessons have to be learned.”
And who knows, one day soon it could be a whole new ball game in the playground of the British newspaper industry. You really couldn’t make this stuff up!
Government gave the go ahead to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation to takeover 61% of BSkyB , earlier this month.
News Corp currently own 39% of BSkyB – as well as the Sun, the News of the World, the Times and the Sunday Times.
Culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, is intending to approve News Corp’s buyout of BSkyB providing it becomes an independent company. Press baron Rupert Murdoch himself, or his son James Murdoch presently chair the BSkyB, although not owning it completely.
“What everyone wants, what the public wants is … to have a free media in which no one person has too much control of our news outlets,” Hunt has said.
So, is it just me or does this statement from Jeremy contradicts his actions?
So yes, I do realise Rupert Murdoch created BSkyB, and that his or his son’s chairmanship will stand down if full ownership is brought. I’m also aware that this would set Rupert back several billion pounds (yes billions). But this doesn’t calm my anger.
Freedom of the press was a main topic, and indeed my main focus in my dissertation. I looked into the history of the freedom of the press, how newspapers broke away form government and how today’s capitalist society injected it’s own constraints into the media’s freedom, but more specifically to this new story – is how ownership in the British press is one it’s main monumental concerns.
Rupert’s empire owned 39.6% of the UK’s circulation, of printed press, in 2008. (McNair, B 1994). I shan’t go into any case studies about how Rupert cradled New Labour’s image before they won the 1997 election, or how after the fall of New Labour’s popularity Murdoch snapped his political alignment right back to conservative, with his paper’s following suit, especially in last year’s elections. (However, and I do think it’s worth adding here – purely for comedic value – how the Independent’s headline story – “Rupert Murdoch won’t decide this election – you will” – published last year caused a very flustered James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks to storm into the Independent’s offices to have a rant at the editor – seriously – click here!)
The point is, and Jeremy has agreed with me on this one, you can’t have one man controlling most of the news. However Jeremy has gone on to say;- “I’m minded to accept the undertakings that News Corp have made which I do believe address that many people had…about the concentration of media ownership…and what this does is ensure is actually more independent than it is at the moment.”
By giving Rupert Murdoch 100% of the whole company? Continue Jeremy…
“These are legally binding and legally enforcing undertakings that are being made – they do things that, for example, insist that SkyNews has an independent Chairman…” Well, there was no legal contravention when Murdoch extended his reigns into many UK publications in the 1980’s, when the Press Complaints Commission vowed to maintain the British press freedom.
“News Corporation has decided that in order to gain control of the rest of Sky they are prepared to relinquish a significant degree of control on Sky News – and I think that will persuade some of the concerns of plurality that people have…”
Rupert Murdoch is notoriously known for intervening with his newspapers, let alone other news outlets. David Yellend, former editor for a Murdoch paper, told the Evening Standard last year explained all Murdoch editors have a “mantra” in their head on how to think, and publish, what Murdoch wants. And Murdoch even said himself he didn’t come all this way “not to interfere”, back in 1981.
This has not persuaded my concerns, and I very much doubt it has persuaded anyone else’s. Would you accept a promise from Rupert Murdoch that swears he’ll back down from a company he has just obtained complete ownership off? We are talking about the same guy who built Wapping Jeremy…
26th April is the date Jeremy will give his final verdict…