As The Fallout Continues Over Hacking, What Next For The Media?

Posted: July 6, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Over the past few days we have seen a quite frankly staggering series of claims regarding the ongoing investigations into the allegations of “hacking” at the News Of The World. The allegations began in 2006, when charges were made against Clive Goodman, the Royal Editor at the newspaper at that time, and Glenn Mulcaire, a private investigator hired by the paper. At the time nobody really understood the extent of the situation, and the Met (having locked up two people) left it at that.

But it turned out that they had only scratched the surface.

This week has seen a new wave of allegations over the “hacking” of mobile phone voicemails, notably those of the relatives of Milly Dowler, and the relatives of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Until now, public interest in this case had been nothing more than the level of gossip columns. It was pretty much about celebrities, and nobody really cares about them. But relatives of murdered people…too far. Public outrage all over the place!

I’m glad that the case is out in the open, and these allegations are being investigated, but I can’t help but think that the paper that broke the latest allegations, The Guardian, were banking on public outcry as a way of selling newspapers. That’s just the cynic in me, but that niggling doubt is still there. What saddens me is that by next week people will be back to not really caring about the outcome of this case. It’s still just a quirk of media to most people.

But what if this behaviour is endemic in Fleet Street?

There is absolutely no suggestion that other papers have sunk to the level of the News Of The World, but what do we have that guarantees something like this will never happen again? We have the PCC, a toothless self-regulation organisation with no real powers to punish papers that do wrong – see the case of Jan Moir’s flagrant disregard for common decency when dealing with Stephen Gately’s death. Other than that, we have to rely on the media policing itself. Is it any wonder we have a case like this, when there is no real preventative measures?

It’s time for the self-policing to stop. It’s time for David Cameron to take positive action, and commission an independent regulatory body along the lines of OFCOM. The media has proved it cannot look after itself, so it is time to give the media the nanny treatment.

The next few months will give a good guideline as to what action Cameron and his Government will take. Hopefully we’ll see the police investigation bring more criminal convictions, and an inquiry give us the answers as to how this was allowed to happen at all. I’m not confident though. Rupert Murdoch has already protected Rebekah Brooks, editor of the News Of The World at the time of the alleged hackings of Dowler’s parents and the Soham girls’ parents, and stated her job is safe.

On the subject of Rebekah Brooks, there have been several little weaselly excuses coming out about her; firstly, that she was on holiday at the time of the Dowler hacking; secondly, her little statement on Tuesday stating:

I hope that you all realise it is inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.

Personally, when I saw that, the first thing I thought was that she was attempting to cover her own back. As editor of the paper at that time, she was responsible for all actions that that paper took. And even if she was on holiday, it is inconceivable that she would not have received proofs of the paper whilst away. There are many questions to be answered by many different people at the organisation. Ms Brooks will apparently be leading the internal inquiry at News International over this issue.

There are also allegations of payments from the paper to the police to divulge certain bits of information – Tom Watson MP also accused James Murdoch of perverting justice.

The whole thing stinks to high heaven, and although it will be out of the public eye by next week as the next big shock story comes along (the Daily Mail slid out a horrid piece by Brian Sewell today that went hardly noticed – had it been next week that’s all people would be talking about). But underneath the public eye, the rumblings will continue. And at the end of it, I hope we have a cleaner, more honest press.

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