Does Murdochgate spell the end of oldstream media?


 
The News of the World/News International scandal (or Murdochgate as it has been dubbed by the UK media) continues to grow amid allegations that NI’s The Sun newspaper illegally obtained information on the former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s newborn child while he was still in office.

This broadens out the problems in three ways. Firstly, while the information on Brown’s child may not have been hacked necessarily (as is being reported) it was still possibly obtained illegally, through the process of blagging, or obtaining classified information under false pretences. Ironically Brown’s Labour government introduced heavier punishment for blagging while still in power. Secondly, it brings into doubt the old red-tops’ excuse that they only investigate or dig dirt on people who “deserve it” (the argument wheeled out by Paul McMullan on Newsnight last week). As Prime Minister, Brown did deserve to be investigated of possible wrong doing, but exposing private medical details about his new born child just seems like a nasty step too far with no real journalistic purpose other than to put the PM on a Murdoch-controlled leash. 

Thirdly it proves, as many people had previously speculated, that the rot within NI has spread much further than simply one or two rogue investigators or even one particular publication. It’s getting harder and harder for the Murdoch organisation to claim that these incidents are isolated, as opposed to part of a broader culture at NI. As more and more salacious details leak out and more journalists, politicians and police are implicated, Murdochgate is shaping up to be he biggest scandal in British public life since the Profumo affair. News Corporation lost $3.4 billion in market capitalization yesterday, and now even the American media is interested, which is really saying something.

So, are these crimes going to be the undoing of the oldstream, printed press? Perhaps, but not fully. Yes News International are up to their necks in a sea of shit, but what is really sounding the death knell for newspapers to my ears is the fact that this is a scandal that is breaking and being consumed on the internet. I can’t remember this being the case before, but the web seems to be the only place to keep track on the ever evolving story, as more and more facts and bizarre twists emerge that prove too much to be neatly encapsulated by traditional news narratives.

Television and newspaper reportage just doesn’t seem adequate in this particular case - it took three to four days of issues being covered by a select few sources before the mainstream media deemed them newsworthy, by which time the public was already well aware of what was going on. The delay in reportage was indeed a bit of a gaffe, but more seriously it also brings up the question of media trustworthiness. Why now trust what the media says when the media themselves are directly implicated in a scandal? Press impartiality is out the window, as evidenced by the lack of coverage of Murdochgate in Murdoch’s biggest UK title The Sun.

While it’s ironic that a newspaper broke this story of press misdoings, what’s more telling is the traffic being directed not to the printed Guardian newspaper itself, but to the paper’s website. This paper’s news blog and its live feed is the premier source for keeping up with the scandal as new elements emerge. It’s also highly ironic that the story that sees internet news coverage really come into its own is the story of the major failings of the mainstream media. The author Will Self, in a slightly verbose but incisive article for the Guardian, calls this a tectonic shift in the media. I think he’s right, and I don’t see how the oldstream press can recover from these multiple knocks in confidence and consumption.

Thanks to Richard Metzger for the financial information.

Written by Niall O'Conghaile | Discussion
Who benefits by Rupert Murdoch sacrificing the ‘News of the World’?

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The demise of the News of the World, the paper at the center of the UK’s ‘phone hacking scandal, has less to do with guilt, remorse or even people power, and everything to do Rupert Murdoch’s desire for power - no matter the cost.

Tonight Murdoch’s son, James announced the end of the 168-year-old tabloid, claiming it had been “sullied by behaviour that was wrong” and that “wrongdoers turned a good newsroom bad”.

He went on to say:

“Indeed, if recent allegations are true, it was inhuman and has no place in our company.

“The News Of The World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself.”

James Murdoch also echoed his father in giving his full support to the former NOTW editor, Rebekah Brooks, saying:

“She has a good standard of ethics and her leadership is the right thing for the company.”

Brooks was editor at the time when it is alleged a private detective, employed by the paper, hacked into the voice mail messages of the murdered teenager, Milly Dowler.

Brooks stated earlier this week that it was

“inconceivable that I knew or worse, sanctioned these appalling allegations.”

In light of this week’s revelations, what is truly inconceivable is the fact Brooks has not either

a) resigned

or

b) been sacked.

If she did not know that a private detective had been employed to hack ‘phones, then she failed in her role as editor, and should be sacked.

If she did know about it, then she should resign.

Whichever way you look at it, Brooks has to go.

Instead the Murdochs have pulled together and sacrificed a best-selling tabloid to defend Ms. Brooks.

The question is: Why?

Tonight, it was also announced that another former editor, Andy Coulson, who resigned in 2007 over the NOTW ‘phone-hacking, will be arrested by the police tomorrow.

Why protect Brooks and not Coulson?

What is disturbing about the whole NOTW ‘phone hacking scandal is the glimpse it gives of Rupert Murdoch’s power.

Since the days of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, politicians have courted Murdoch as an ally to win power.

Tony Blair met with him regularly and was a guest at a major News International party in Australia prior to Labour’s victorious election in 1997. Gordon Brown went on pilgrimage once a year to Sun Valley, to court Murdoch. Now David Cameron continues this tradition of fore-lock tugging.

This may seem like something political leaders have to do, but it takes on greater significance in light of the admission of criminal activity by Brooks during a government enquiry, eight years ago. 

It is a criminal offense to pay the British Police for information.

When questioned at a Select Committee hearing in March 2003, Brooks admitted to paying police for information.

“We have paid the police for information in the past.”

When asked if she would do so in the future, she replied:

“Depends.”

 

Rebekah Brooks admits paying the police for information - a criminal offense - in March 2003
 
If it was known back in 2003 that Brooks and the News of the World had committed a criminal offense then why wasn’t she prosecuted?

Are Britain’s politicians too frightened, too cowed, by Murdoch and his tabloid press? And if they are, why? What imaginary power does he hold over them?

And what power does Rebekah Brooks hold over Rupert Murdoch?

The question is: Who benefits by Murdoch sacrificing the News of the World? Does it make easier for Murdoch to now own BSkyB? Does it mean News International won’t have to pay out large sums to victims of ‘phone-hacking if there is no longer a News of the World?

Who benefits?

What David Cameron must do now is initiate a judge led enquiry in to the News of the World, Brooks, Coulson and Murdoch, as the police, in light of their involvement, cannot be trusted to investigate this thoroughly.

Cameron also has to stop Murdoch’s plans to take over BSkyB.

Both are a small step towards severing Murdoch’s influence over parliament. 

To stop Murdoch’s plans to take over BSkyB sign the petition here.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

The phone-hacking scandal that may finish Rupert Murdoch’s ambitions


 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion