Campaign against Corruption in the Regulation of the UK's Mass News Media
I am concerned about Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp buying the remaining 61% shares in BSkyB. Not only will this deal increase his already considerable stranglehold on the UK news media, but also, in light of the phone hacking revelations, sends out a clear message: if you are rich and powerful and an ally of the Conservative Party then the law is there to protect your interests, not hold you to account. News International, a subsidiary of News Corp, have admitted liability for phone hacking that extends far beyond their initial cover story and are currently being investigated by Scotland Yard for hacking into the phones of serving government ministers and the families of victims of crime. The information they obtained illegally not only provided them with stories, but also information to use against their opponents. Jeremy Hunt says he cannot block the takeover on the grounds that Murdoch is not a fit person to be awarded such a huge slice of the UK media as this needed to be raised at the start of the process. However, the Met sat on important information and, when Gordon Brown attempted to launch an enquiry into phone hacking before the 2010 General Election (not that New Labour did anything to curtail Murdoch’s power whilst he supported them), he was blocked by the Cabinet Secretary on the grounds that it was inappropriate:
Inappropriate for whom? Rupert Murdoch and his puppet, David Cameron. Vince Cable should have been able to oppose the bid on the fit person criteria but was unable to because News International lied about the crimes being restricted to one rogue reporter and because Brown could not expose this in time. The buyout of BSkyB has thus been aided and abetted by Conservative politicians, the police and members of the Civil Service. Aside from The Guardian and, occasionally, The Independent, the UK Press has been largely silent over this issue. Why? Perhaps because many of the other titles have deployed similarly unethical and illegal tactics?
I think that it is now time to face the facts: David Cameron, close friends with senior figures in News Corp, offered Murdoch’s support in closed meetings with the media mogul (in exchange for...), employer of Andy Coulson the editor at the heart of The News of the World’s phone hacking scandal, who stripped Vince Cable of responsibility for the takeover because he was caught in an illegal sting operation and handed it over to the openly pro-Murdoch Jeremy Hunt, is a PM who governs on behalf of News Corp, not the people of the UK. In the past, we have relied on the fourth estate to expose corruption, but now they too are guilty of exploiting their power for commercial and political ends. Politicians from all parties have proven to be utterly spineless over this issue; the only way to stop this is to build a grassroots movement that holds them to account and cleans up the UK’s toxic news media. To begin with, I suggest that we do the following:
1. Firmly link David Cameron's Conservatives, the BSkyB deal and phone hacking in a single campaign against corruption in the British mass news media.
2. Having done this, then organize a petition against this corruption by asking people to cancel their Sky subscriptions and to stop buying News International papers (The Sun, The News of the World, The Times, and The Sunday Times).
3. Create a poster campaign presenting Rupert Murdoch as the puppet master behind the Conservatives.
4. If and when it becomes clear that Murdoch is funding the Conservatives, once again highlight how the deal involved the Conservatives putting their own party's interests above those of a free and healthy news media.
The ultimate aim should be the complete separation of politicians and media moguls: it should be illegal for politicians to rule on media ownership- this should be the province of a highly regulated body with very sharp teeth. Furthermore, the public should be protected from hate and smear campaigns driven by the mass news media, designed to discredit their opponents and this same body should be in a position to discipline them.
Dave Hindle commented
The government is currently trying to avoid doing what Levison has suggested. The British press and news media are currently permitted to please their owners by putting spin on their news reports that they believe will please the boss. This allows newspaper and news media owners to influence the beliefs of the electorate and thereby the laws of the nation. The news media must not be allowed to use the electorate as their means to shaping the laws and culture of the states in which their publications are distributed. This practice is undemocratic and dangerous. Editors should be responsible for veracity and be bound by law to ensure that any news for which they are the identified moderator is neither untrue nor biased to any political, religious or social opinion.
Linda Jones commented
Couldnt agree more. The Murdock empire has been shown to be corrupt with criminal intent surely, therefore, the rules have been broken and their takeover bid invalid.
In view of yesterday's (Monday 26th March) Panorma programme relating to News Corporation, 38 Degrees must double their efforts in removing this company from the UK, if not removing, then curtailing any further efforts they may use to take over our 'airways'. Tom Watson, MP has indeed shown himself to be very courageous in pursuing his campaign, and humiliates our leaders in not stopping this company much earlier. BSkyB still have intentions of a takeover and it is an absolute disgrace that our politicians, aside from one lone voice, should permit this disgraceful situation to continue.
I am now even more curious about the amount of lobbying within parliamentary circles to allow this discredited organisation to exist within the UK.
If anyone still has any doubts over whether ministers should be stripped of the responsibility to regulate media ownership, just watch David Cameron's blustering performance at PMQs yesterday. He is determined to separate the BSkyB bid from the phone hacking scandal, saying that there will be a public enquiry after the police investigations. If he is allowed to do this then Murdoch could own the entirety of BSkyB for several years before his position is challenged, by which time his power will be even greater.
Cameron made reference to Jeremy Hunt's quasi-judicial role in this matter, - does anyone know what this means? Certainly, I think that most cases would collapse if the presiding judge was a political ally of one of the parties, owed them a favour and held private, unminuted meetings with them. Perhaps this is where the 'quasi' comes in: he presents the image of impartiality whilst disavowing the obvious conflict of interests in his role.
Dianne Kelly commented
It will be an utter disgrace if News International is allowed to go ahead with the BskyB takeover.
Glyn Morgan commented
Here's another campaign with a similar scope that is starting to snowball:
I'm amazed at the audacity shown by those who wish to pretend that the phone hacking scandal and the proposed BSkyB buyout have nothing to do with one another. I will be addressing this in my submission to the public consultation, which I now feel has genuine scope for halting the deal. Here's a quote from the current draft:
'Dear Mr. Hunt,
One of the key reasons why media plurality is essential for the proper functioning of a democracy is to ensure that titles are free to investigate and expose corruption. If you allow News Corp to increase its stranglehold on the British mass news media you will make investigative journalism by non-Murdoch titles into the company’s practices far more difficult, as these newspapers will most likely rely in part on News Corp for advertising revenue, given that Sky is already by far and away the most wealthy media company in the UK. Furthermore, when publications owned by News Corp break the law, the relative silence about these issues in their other titles shows the lie at the heart of any argument that they have editorial independence (although even they have had to report on the alleged hacking of a murdered child’s phone). As they are all part of the same company, they rely on the sales of each other to support their income, with the highly profitable News of the World currently subsidizing the loss-making Times. You need to send a clear message now: newspapers and their owners are not above the law and will not be given preferential treatment because they are allies of the Conservative party. To do this you must either block the deal or wait for Ofcom to rule on whether News Corp is a fit and proper organization to wield such tremendous power. The very least you could do is refer the bid to the Competition Commission.'
38 Degrees are collecting signatures for a new petition asking Hunt and Cameron to halt the deal. If you haven't already, please sign it:
Dave Clark commented
I am not the most politically aware person on the planet, to my shame, but it seems clear to me that the actions of Newscorp journalists that have come to light are reprehensible and there should be lengthy jail terms involved. Murdoch is slowly turning himself into a dictator, controlling the flow of information is this country at a time when information is the most powerful resource. Someone needs to bring him and Newscorp down, preferably by exposing the breaches of legislation that I suspect are happening daily in their offices.
Glyn Morgan commented
No one human being, or even single organisation, should have so much media power in a society that claims to value freedom of the press and freedom of thought. Our politicians are, if anything, *too* media savvy and conscious that the media can make or break a political career. With Newscorp having such domination appeasing the media means appeasing Newscorp which means we get a large collection of politicians who are pandering to what are essentially the personal politics of one man: Mr. R. Murdoch to the exclusion of everything else - including their constituents. Start the break-up now.
Anna Schiffer commented
Even those of us who did not need telling must be appalled by the new depths that have been revealed today.
The monster that is the Murdoch press must be stopped in the interests of all of us and of our nation's credibility and moral/ethical standing.
It appears that Jeremy Hunt's hands are not tied as much as he has led the public to believe; he could still defer the decision until Ofcom determines whether News Corp is a fit and proper owner of such significant news media assets. For more information visit the DemocracyFail blog at...
murdoch media too powerful - clip its wings!
Timothy Franklin commented
Proof if any needed that a free media is the greatest contributor to a free state: http://www.boingboing.net/2011/07/02/peruvian-tv-station.html - TV executives warrant bigger bribes than high court judges.
Laura Bettney commented
Add interfering with police investigations into the disappearance of a schoolgirl to the list...
It's getting hard to keep up with the revelations of News Corp's malpractice. Jeremy Hunt seriously needs to rethink his stance on giving this company even more power.
NoW hacking away - enough said?
I'd also recommend that anyone who is concerned about this deal write in to the public consultation by midday on Friday 8th July. Otherwise, they will claim that their minor amendments have met with our approval. You can find out more about the consultation here:
James Morrison commented
Plurality of media voice is essential in any functioning democracy. If Rupert Murdoch is allowed to go ahead with the full purchase of BSkyB - without being forced to divest any of his other media interests - there is a danger of this plurality being fatally compromised.