Why demonise Murdoch?
Don’t be surprised if, from now on, stories in newspapers (and perhaps television channels) come with sanctimonious disclaimers along the lines of those in Hollywood films. (My personal favourite is from The Simpsons: “No dogs were harmed during the production of this episode. A cat threw up and somebody shot a duck, but that’s it.”)
They would run along the lines of: ‘No laws were broken and no whistleblowers were heard or contacted in the writing/making of this story.’
The allegations against Rupert Murdoch’s four British newspapers have led to ideas being thrown about on how to control Britain’s runaway press. And Prime Minister David Cameron wants all ministers (and presumably civil servants?) to log every meeting with a senior journalist or media executive.
This is an absurd idea, which can kill off the free press. I don’t know if it will be supported by the Labour party’s leader Ed Miliband, but he has seen his personal poll ratings shoot up because of the stronger position he has taken over hacking. Cameron, however, is confusing issues, perhaps because in the midst of this hate-fest he wants to be seen as even more anti-Murdoch than his opportunistic Labour rival.
Hacking into someone’s voicemail is illegal and therefore unethical – plain and simple. You hack into someone’s phone, you break the law, and you ought to be punished. There are no two ways about it.
Quite how this then translates to a blanket rule for logging meetings with journalists and media executives is difficult to understand. And what happens to the lobby correspondents who are briefed purely on a background basis (i.e. they are not allowed to name the sources)?
Clearly Cameron has his back against the wall. Unlike the apparently clean Miliband, he has been close to the two journalists who are at the centre of the hacking allegations: ex-News of the World editors Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks.
But hacking is not something that began with Rupert Murdoch. We don’t even know that he personally encouraged it in any manner. It wasn’t Rupert or James Murdoch who dreamed up the notion of entering into a relationship between the press and politicians. And they weren’t the only ones in town with such ties.
The legal aspects of corruption and telephone-hacking aside (which are rightly being probed by police and are the subject of an independent inquiry), there’s something strange about this sudden moralistic attack on Murdoch and I think I know what it is: it’s being launched by the very political parties and politicians, who, as long as it worked for them, were more than happy to cuddle up.