The Issues of Murdoch's Influence in British Politics Have Yet to be Addressed

Graham Bell, 20 July 2011

Categories: BBC News | The Telegraph | Democracy | Politics | News International (Murdoch) |

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The events of the past few weeks regarding the hacking scandal at the News of the World and the closure of the paper resulted in yesterday's hearing in which Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch and James Murdoch faced questioning from a panel of MPs about the phone hacking scandal. The British public was waiting to get answers from those in power. However, much like Tony Blair’s appearances at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, the hearing proved to be more of a show-piece than a genuine and independent quest for answers.

The afternoon's news coverage of the hearing focussed on the protester who threw a foam pie at the senior Murdoch, causing proceedings to be briefly suspended. The Telegraph pieced together a digestible two-and-a-half minute video of the hearing's “highlights”, the effect of which leaves the viewer with something approximating this impression:

- both Rupert and James Murdoch admit that certain things were “wrong”;
- they didn’t know about most of the scandal;
- Rupert Murdoch blames people with “agendas in trying to build this hysteria” for the scandal;
- Rupert Murdoch does not admit ultimate responsibility for the scandal.

The Telegraph's opening footage shows Murdoch saying “this is the most humble day of my life”, which became the quote of the day in the press and provides the headline of The Sun today.

It seems that the rules are different for the summarised reporting of these inquiries/hearings of the powerful. They serve in part as a response to public opinion, as a message that their feelings are being addressed by the government. A ComRes poll recently found that 80% of the population of the UK think that the reputation of tabloids in the country has been called into question, which would suggest that public opinion now has a distrust of the media.

What might be more on the minds of the public is concern that a media empire grew to have such wide access to government. There is clear anger towards Murdoch, with more than half of the public (57%) calling for him to be "disqualified by law from being a company director" (ComRes).

The Sun famously shifted its power in 2009 from the New Labour party to the Conservative party. This development was deemed so important that it was reported by the remainder rest of the UK media, with the BBC showing readers a timeline comparing Murdoch’s favoured party with that in power, showing a continuous correlation between the two since 1979. We heard in the hearing that Murdoch visited Downing Street shortly after David Cameron became Prime Minister in 2010. It recently emerged that David Cameron met with Rebekah Brookes 26 times in the first 15 months of his leadership.

The resignations of Sir Paul Stephenson and John Yates in the Metropolitan Police, and the low profile adopted by David Cameron on his African trade mission would suggest that indeed there is a high degree of embarrassment about the links between the press, police and government.

Even before yesterday's hearing, 66% of people thought it unlikely that the truth would be uncovered (ComRes). Only an independent examination of Murdoch's motives can bring justice to this scandal and pursue the truth about the links between the major institutions that are leading, policing and informing British society.

Categories in which this article appears: BBC News | The Telegraph | Democracy | Politics | News International (Murdoch) |

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