Monday, 14 November 2011

Kicking off the week

So it's the jourknow's first proper week social networking, and it proves to be a busy one. What with the continued financial crisis, Olympic security fears and is Russell going to get to Wembley on Strictly all playing on my mind - so many questions need answering on the news of the week.

Now, every Monday, I plan to do a feature called Monday Madness - where I look and analyse the biggest news story of the day, and what looks to be top of the news agenda for the coming week ahead. One particular item that caught my eye was the continued fiasco between the 'Murdoch's', the 'government' and the 'news industry'.

Quite appropriately I feel, this story has thrown up so many issues it promises to change the newspaper industry forever. With one national paper gone and more rumours of others to follow, the landscape of the British papers is in for a rocky ride. And with the Leveson Inquiry kicking off today by declaring "phone hacking " may well had been a widely-used tool by all newspapers, it will certainly be controversial!

It was a few months ago that I wrote a report on the Newspaper hacking story, delving into all the facts and rumours spinning their way across bulletins and pages. It was published on my former college website, and is well worth a read (if I may say so), if you need a brush up on what's really going on!*

*apologies if there are any outdated sources/ facts in my article - with so many developments it's hard to keep up!


If you have not been glued to the various news sites over the last month, you may be wondering what the words ‘hacking’, ‘tapping’ and ‘Rupert Murdoch’ all have in common. And why suddenly there is a gap on the shelf next to the Sunday Mirror when you go to buy your Sunday paper? Well here is a guide to one of the biggest stories that has rocked the start of the summer in its simplest form.

A man named Rupert:So, a man named Rupert Murdoch, an Australian at the grand old age of 80, and his company, News Corporation own a company called News International, which owns The Times, The Sunday Times, The Sun, and the now defunct News of the World. Lost already? Think of him as an octopus who has his long, somewhat deadly tentacles in some of the UK’s, not to mention the worlds best media companies (Fox Network, The Wall Street Journal and publisher Harper Collins to name a few). He also owns a controlling 39% share in BSkyB, the TV giant, which until recently he planned to fully control.

The Scandal:
Despite condemnation of his conglomerate controlling many a company, his own reputation and ideology has come into immense criticism in the last few months as it has come to attention of the full extent of the ‘Phone Hacking’ scandal. The scandal actually happened in 2006/7, when a first enquiry was set up by the Metropolitan Police, which concluded little evidence available and closed the case. The scandal involves a man called Glen Mulcaire, a private investigator working for the News of the World to uncover stories through a process called Phone Hacking. It basically means the investigator can access the voicemails and phone calls of various different people, which have amassed into politicians, the Royal Family, celebrities, PR guru’s, and perhaps the most shocking, victims and families of those killed in events like the 7/7 bombings. Mulcaire, and the former Royal Correspondent Clive Goodman, have already served sentences for their roles, but since the latest outbreak of scandals and headlines, more and more names are being called to the ‘witness stand’.

So who is involved now?

Well, really there are five separate parties involved. They include:

1. News International & News Corporation - Perhaps the most complicated party, News International have ultimately been the main source for blame since the scandal broke out again. The News of the World, the paper who had been publishing the phone-hacking stories, was at the forefront of the blame - and has subsequently been shut down by News Corporation bosses. News International then CEO, Rebekah Brooks, has subsequently resigned from her post - despite the praises and fight put up by the Murdoch’s. She was alleged to have known about the hacking as CEO, which she has denied. Both Brooks, Murdoch and his son, James Murdoch - CEO of News Corporation in Europe, have all denied involvement and been fighting their innocence in parliament in front of MP’s - despite growing anger from a range of celebrities, politicians and the greater British public.

2. The Government - The Conservative Party have been criticised for their role in the scandal. Former News of the World editor Andy Coulson, who was at the centre of the scandal when editor but denied any involvement in the illegal activity, was employed by the Conservatives as their ‘spin doctor’, a decision which David Cameron, Prime Minister, has now admitted as wrong and a ‘misjudgement’ on his behalf, although not fully apologising! So apart from employing the wrong bloke, the Conservatives, and to some extent other political parties, have been condemned by other media outlets for their cosy relationship with News Corporation and the Murdoch’s, and for ‘turning a blind eye’ over the scandal.

3. The Metropolitan Police - Another complicating factor is the Met Police’s role in the scandal. In the original review of the scandal, the Met were the ones who decided there was no case on phone hacking - which has subsequently been founded wrong. Apparently the police were too keen for secret payouts and money in their pocket to worry about issuing a sense of justice, and two senior officers and commissioners have subsequently quit their posts in response to the condemnation from the media, government and public.

4. The Press - Undoubtedly, this hasn’t come at a worse time for the newspaper industry. With declining profits and the rise of the internet, anymore problems could be considered a ticking time bomb for the industry - which is possibly why the effects of the phone hacking could prove a mighty blow for the industry. Already, the scandal has led to other papers, including The Sun (owned by, yes you guessed it, Rupert Murdoch), The Mirror and the Daily Mail being linked to the scandal - and with the power of companies providing revenue for the newspapers, who ultimately played the biggest factor in the closure of the News of the World, could another newspaper fall in the near future? In addition, an even bigger issue is the matter of self-regulation. The papers ultimately look after themselves, providing them with the freedom they wish for - another factor now under scrutiny. The PCC, the Press Complaints Commission, who should have been watching over the News of the World and other companies to that matter, did not do their job and, like News International/ Corporation, are under immense scrutiny and a possible closure in the upcoming enquiry.

5. The Victims - The biggest party who really are just innocent victims in this shocking story and perhaps the people the press and media organisations forget about. Sienna Miller, Andy Gray, Gordon Brown, Milly Dowler, Prince William, families of those who died in the 7/7 bombings and hundreds of others who have all fallen fowl to the hacking and publication of their personal and intimate details which should not have been published. Despite the lawsuits, the money settlements and A4 apologies printed, they are still the ones innocently exploited for the sake of a few dirty tabloid articles and money in the pockets of guilty editors.

So what happens now?

Well one thing for sure, this is not going to go away quietly. The upcoming enquiry and review of the case into the company, the editors, the police and the reporters; hastily arranged by an under-pressure PM last month in front of a glitzy press conference, is something that is not going to be over in a few weeks - in fact, I would predict the end of the year when we might get a result. It’s going to be complicated no doubt, and strenuous, and lots of finger pointing and blame are going to be passed between parties - but hopefully, if the enquiry works, the results will not only provide the victims with a sense of justice, but put a stop to the illegal undertakings of News International and help provide a positive outcome for the Newspaper Industry.
As for News Corporation and the Murdoch’s, I expect a rather turbulent few months for him. With his bid for control at BSkyB now vanished to thin air, and with his 39% stake also under scrutiny, along with his assets in other companies and in other countries, not to mention his families stance and condemnation, the Mr Nasty media title has a new master at the helm (apologies to Simon Cowell). Although the public do not really love to hate him, I believe it is a simple hate thing - judging by the recent ‘Pie in the Face’ incident that resulted in laughs and jeers, not criticism from the public. Could be worse - could be cold porridge instead, by the way things are going!

And the government? Well the sooner this case disappears, the sooner the smile returns to David Cameron’s face. His role in it all seems to be one that in the next few weeks, we will get to know a little bit more about - and you never know, we might see another departure in the papers.

(Pictures Courtesy of Wikipedia)

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