Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Hacking scandal reaches 'tipping point'

A dark brooding storm cloud is gathering over News International's imposing fortress at Wapping and senior officers at the Metropolitan Police are assumedly watching with some unease, as inappropriate relationships between the two organisations begin to be uncovered.

The revelations that Milly Dowler's phone was hacked by the News of the Screws, her messages deleted, false hope given to her distraught parents and the police enquiry hampered, have proven to be what media advisers call a 'tipping point.'  This is where a story goes from being of interest to a section of society, to universal public awareness and in this instance abhorrence.

The recent trial and conviction of the vile perverted oaf Levi Bellfield, Milly's murderer, had reopened the national consciousness of this case and the actions of the NOTW have rightly been described as grotesque and despicable.  This was then followed by the revelations that the NOTW hacked into the parents of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells, and the victims of the 7/7 terrorist attacks.  There are certain to be many, many more instances of this behaviour.

The actions of News International's staff shows such contempt for the law, basic human decency and morality, that it beggars belief.  Rupert Murdoch has today described his staffs' behavior as "deplorable and unacceptable", however he may want to look at the relentless commercial pressure and business culture that he personally has imposed onto his his executives and reporting staff, rather than pretending he is somehow removed from the implications of this scandal.

Murdoch made a huge strategic mistake by not sacking Rebekah Brooks earlier this year when he had the chance.  How Ms Brooks can head an inquiry which will have to investigate her own alleged misconduct would be comical, were it not such an insult to the public intelligence.

This scandal has a great distance to run.  It will probably extend to other news groups, it seems highly probable that it will engulf a number of police forces as well as prominent individual officers, it will highlight questionable behaviour from people in public and elected office, and it surely is the end of the toothless Press Complaints Commission.

This saga also emphasises the vital need for plurality in the Fourth Estate.  The relentless efforts of the Guardian, the Independent, the BBC, Channel 4 and the New York Times should be congratulated.  It is at least an opportunity to redress what appears to the outside observer to be a rotten culture of corruption at the top of British society.  However, I wont hold be holding my breath.

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