The Hope For British Newspapers

The News of the World, a newspaper with over 2.5m readers, has been part of the British way of life throughout its lifespan.  It has brought sleaze, titillation, filth and above all scandal to our Sunday mornings.  For almost a 150 years it has brought sleaze, scandal and outrage to people’s Sunday breakfast, but, as of the 10th of July 2011 the newspaper will end its publication over the phone-hacking scandal that has seen its advertisers run for the hills like a donkey from a Chinese abattoir.

The newspaper will see its doors close and its keys handed over to Scotland Yard who will begin to sift through all the databases and private emails, ledgers, documents and rubbish bins in the hope to bring to justice those who sort to illegally obtain information by listening to private voicemail messages.  From celebrities to members of the Royal Family, from victims of appalling crimes to soldiers of senseless wars. 

So the question is, where will people go now to get their fill of outrage.  Unlike America, which has the National Enquirer, a publication so bereft of facts and realism that it makes ‘Snow White’ look like the movie ‘Monster’ with Charlize Theron.  But in the UK a good percentage of people enjoy nothing more than reading about celebrities getting their fingers caught in another’s backside over their burnt toast.  Because while some of the facts were loosely fitted together at the best of times, we knew deep down that the stories did have some original content and more importantly, the sots who were the subject of the allegations were always people that came low down on people’s lists of popular persons, such as any footballer and/or pedophiliac pop star; Pakistani cricketers or Prince Harry.  Publicly we would openly condone these stories, saying: ‘You’d never catch me reading such twaddle,’ yada, yada, yada!  But privately we all flicked through those pages like a heroin addict with a crispy £20.

It is suggested that the News of the World is as British as fish ‘n’ chips or damp summers. And its true the British do like a good gossip, it is part of the ‘over-the-fence’ housewife culture that followed after the Second World War, when neighbours needed to be vigilant against ‘the common enemy.’  It is just an evolutionary path, but unfortunately the lines between heresy gossip and going through another’s private phone messages to get information have now been so ruined that the whole newspaper industry will have to be almost remodelled to stop such outrageous practices in the future.

On the larger scale too this affects every newspaper, especially those under the Murdoch ‘News Corp’ blanket, because with the Internet and social websites gaining more and more readers through blogs and other postings, this sort of scandal reiterates their belief that the industry is in rapid decline, when in fact it needs to be as creditable as possible, by not dealing in rumours and claptrap, but in hardened concrete facts and doing so in a manner that fits with a legal practice that doesn’t infringe on the well-being of others.  The public needs to be informed in almost educational way that encourages people to make decisions based on facts and hardened truths and not exaggerations.  Journalism is of paramount importance to Britain as we have some of the greatest freedom of press laws in the world, but just because they have the freedom does not mean that they should be free to do as they please.  Any industry that affects and relies on the public needs to be governed and monitored fairly and lawfully, with any that do not hold up such high ethical values should be relieved of their duties.  Newspapers need the honesty of Sir David Attenborough, the credibility of Sir Michael Parkinson with the leadership of Sir Winston Churchill.

Newspapers are a priority to the British media.  I implore you go and buy a few today.

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Rupert you’re a wonderful £7.8bn bear.

It’s now official, Rupert Murdoch‘s News Corp has been given the go-ahead to take over BSkyB.  Once the ‘deal’ is completed it will give Murdoch and his family unprecedented control over the news in the UK, having already in their mittens the ‘old grandma’ newspapers – The Times and Sunday Times, the politically manipulative – Sun and the, “who’s calling at this hour?” – News of the World, which in total make up 37% of consumed news in the UK.  The proposed £7.8bn take over of BSkyB, which is due to completed in at least fifteen days depending on whether or not a review is put forward, will send politicians running for the nearest exit of the Commons.

Will this deal be beneficial for the UK or will it be another merger that was allowed to go ahead because one too many politicians have ended up on the end of Senor Rupert’s nipple.  Culture Secretary – Jeremy Hunt, the unfortunate MP, who in four hours on Radio 4 was referred to twice by his alter ego – Hulture Secretary – Jeremy… has, along with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) seen no reason to refer the deal to the Competition Commission, despite it stating on the CC’s website that; “The OFT can review mergers to investigate whether there is a realistic prospect that they will lead to a substantial lessening of competition“.  Competition will be severely reduced with News Corp being able to offer its customers free online subscriptions to its newspapers and forcing more ‘left-wing’ newspapers into submission, even though The Times is currently running at a £240,000 loss per day.  No free-market news organisation will be able to match its might.  News Corps will continue to push for a more ‘right-wing’ mandate, the same that can be seen in the US on Fox television with Mr Beck and O’Reilly and also with the Wall Street Journal, which has significantly leaned, almost to tipping point.  Some will argue that having a more conservative network would be a good thing, it could then be seen as a direct opponent of the BBC, which has always been seen to be a far more liberal network.  Murdoch has often complained that the BBC is uncompetitive by offering free news subscriptions and I-player downloads for free, forcing private companies out of the market, but at least it can be said that BBC attempts to be neutral.  James Murdoch, Rupert’s son said of the BBC in 2009 that, “The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision.”  But there is no difference here or with what was said back then, only that the names had changed.

With more acquisitions comes more power and with more power you inevitably find that there are more people wanting to pal up to you.  Murdoch has always backed the winner when it comes to General Elections in the UK.  He openly backed Tony Blair in 1997 and he won by a landslide, but in 2010 he turned his back on New Labour and put his political clout behind David Cameron.  To have him in your pocket is having the Golden ticket, to not is to the grandfather left behind in bed.

“Britain’s most powerful media tycoon has managed to strike with a government apparently so desperate for the great man’s blessing that it’s willing to bend the rules to smooth his path.” Jeremy Warner – Daily Telegraph 03/03/11

Like a dictator who grabs hold of power during a revolution, the first thing to do is to get control of the media: the newspapers, the television and control all the news, then you can walk your walk 24-hours a day.  Whether or not Murdoch is like that of a dictator is neither here or there, but what is interesting were the comments of Lance Price, Tony Blair’s Deputy Director of Communications who spoke of Murdoch’s ‘man in the shadows’ persona, “He was like the 24th Member of the Cabinet.  His presence is always felt.  No big decision could ever be made inside Number 10 without taking account of the likely reaction of three men – Gordon Brown, John Prescott, and Rupert Murdoch”.

Would the OFT allow a merger to take place of other large companies? the obvious one being touted around is if Tesco and Sainsburys were to join forces.  Are the British public to think that a man like Rupert won’t potentially use all his tried and tested means at his disposal to influence, fairly or unfairly some particular piece of legislation in order to help his network?  If you think that perhaps he wouldn’t you are as stupid as the people who watch Sky.