In the phone-hacking scandal, we are told that the two promised and very necessary public inquiries cannot begin until the police have finished their investigations.
Given the many thousands of documents and computer files to be examined and the past performance of the Metropolitan Police in similar cases, that could be at least 12 to 18 months away.
But what if these police inquiries then lead to criminal prosecutions? To avoid prejudicing the trials, the public inquiries would presumably be delayed even longer, by which time some other cause celebre will have attracted the public’s interest. Maybe that is exactly what the Government would like to happen to get itself out of an awkward dilemma.
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That is the related question of media ownership, and Rupert Murdoch’s ambition to acquire the remaining 40% of BSkyB, which would give his News International company almost total domination of independent television in Britain as well as a huge share of the national press.
Until the phone-hacking scandal broke, the deal was going to be nodded through by a compliant and complacent government which is now having to think again.
Surely the obvious answer is to put the business deal on the back burner until the police investigations and any resulting criminal proceedings have been completed? If that is three or four years away, so be it. For once Mr Murdoch would not get his own way because of his close relationship with politicians and government.
One final point. Much of the recent criticism has been directed at the press in general, with calls for strict regulation to prevent investigative tactics to gain information. Not every newspaper uses private investigators and phone-hacking, or behaves with as little moral compass as the News of the World has done. Let’s remember the current scandal was only revealed because of long and patient investigative work.
Exposes are an important purpose of reputable newspapers, and are most certainly in the public interest. It is essential that we have a free press able to expose corruption and deceit in high places.
Iain AD Mann,
7 Kelvin Court, Glasgow.
David Cameron showed an arrogant lack of judgment in appointing Andy Coulson as his director of communications.
Following the recent confusions and U-turns on various policies, the authority he has now lost at a critical juncture in his Government’s programme is worrying for the UK, even if Rupert Murdoch is denied his BSkyB ambition.
Having said that, and accepting that News International is the latest example of “absolute power corrupting absolutely”, we should not forget its positive aspects: in facing down the print unions (the early 1980s equivalent of the Greeks today) which probably ensured the survival of three serious newspapers; in breaking the BBC/ITV monopoly with Sky TV; and in much of its investigative journalism.
12 Horseleys Park,
I was both saddened and annoyed to witness News of the World journalists preparing the last edition of the paper.
Saddened by loyal staff losing their jobs and annoyed that the activities of a small minority should have had such a devastating effect on the lives of honest, hard-working journalists and other staff.
Those who have broken the law should be brought to justice but this sordid business should not be used by the Government as an excuse to further curtail the freedom of a responsible media to report issues of public interest.
Without such freedom, for example, we would not have been made aware of our MPs breaking the law and cheating taxpayers out of thousands of pounds.
Therefore, no knee-jerk reaction is required but a careful assessment of what, if anything, needs to be done to preserve the integrity of the newspaper industry.