Mark Coles discusses the ever evolving News Corp- Government love fest
As the Leveson inquiry rattles on into goings-on at News Corporation and its subsidiaries, implicating an ever growing network of politicians, journalists and celebrities in one way or another, now perhaps seems an apt time to take a step back and look at the wider picture.
One is not a trained lawyer but presumably the path of defence people have taken is to try and exonerate themselves of as much blame as possible and only admit facts, when they are truly forced to, the idea of the “rogue reporter” line was used until, it was obvious that a little more was going on then peoples tunes changed. From then on, the question became about who knew and when became the focal point, which brings to the foreground the claim that Andy Coulson, Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch knew nothing about this seem incredulous, given they occupied senior editorial positions. Either they did, and have not been straight about the extent of their knowledge, or you have to question how they did not, when these methods were allegedly standard policy for news gathering.
If Mark Zuckerberg does not know the big issues going on inside Facebook, then you would have to question his effectiveness as the CEO, the same applies here.
Up until now, this would of been a solely News Corporation issue, but the web of involvement widens. The BSkyB takeover deal which ultimately collapsed was also ongoing with Secretary Of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt being given the power to decide if this goes ahead. From the outset, before the email evidence was leaked this week, Hunt was a keen supporter of the bid, so to give the final say to him, would be a gift for Murdoch, when a much more objective Minister would have been better. Hunt and David Cameron both met the Murdoch’s or had close ties informally, so for them to think the Murdoch empire wanted to meet them for anything other than lobbying, is naivety on a scale not seen since Neville Chamberlain came back waving a piece of paper in 1938, proclaiming peace. Hunt’s private opinion should be immaterial; his judgement should be made on the basis of facts in question and the plurality of the media post-takeover, rather than pander to his own views.
Why else would one seek out Ministers of State, with briefs covering media? For the friendship and banter?
One would hardly have thought so, so appalling judgement was shown here. When a leading politician and businessman are sat around a table in relative privacy away from official records, it is clear topics of mutual interest will come up, so for both parties to deny this again seems to be taking the public for idiots. Hunts advisor, Adam Smith has already fallen upon his sword for being too keen in his dealings with News Corp, but taking the flack for your boss has its limits. Hunt should also be sacked, for his role in the affair, simultaneously giving the Prime Minister a way of distancing himself from the scandal after the dithering over whether to sack Andy Coulson (he eventually walked before he was pushed) or not.
The Metropolitan Police have also been dragged into this, with allegations of bribery for stories refusing to go away, striking at the heart of police integrity, so no party implicated has come out smelling of roses. Is this the result then, of a cut throat industry were anything went in the pursuit for stories to gain an advantage over other media groups. Rival company Associated Newspapers (owners of the Telegraph and Daily Mail) have predictably made much of this whole episode, but one would assume that similarly dubious methods may have been used in their retrospective collection if the industry was so brutal. Therefore would it not seem sane for Parliament and our political classes to be arguing over the boundaries of celebrities and those of interest (Dowler’s, McCann’s etc) right to privacy, with clear and concise guidelines. For the ultra capitalist Murdoch, it seems the excesses of the market have come home to roost in the news print industry. By debating these issues, we would have a Government set up to do what is right, not the spent time gracing the airwaves and pages with a story that to a large degree has been blown up by its own mismanagement.