Sodium Haze: News of the World - last one out turn off the lights

Friday, 8 July 2011

News of the World - last one out turn off the lights

So the announcement has been made - this Sunday's edition of the News Of The World will be the last. Hurrah!

The Haze reagrds the demise of the NOTW as good riddance to bad rubbish.

But what happens now?

Commenting on our headline story yesterday Peter wisely pointed out:

I agree and could not be more then [sic] delighted at the NOTW going under but I have a feeling that News International will just publish a Sunday version of the Sun.

Also, they have managed to shift all the blame away from the top players to the lowlier journalists proving that Murdoch and his crew will happily sell out their own if it means they can get what they want.

The loss of the paper may help their bid to buy the rest of BSKYB being as they can cite a loss of a paper as a loss of their power.

I am under no illusion that this isn’t over yet. As one person said: We have only cut off one of the hydra’s heads.

There are some key questions now:

(a) Will News International be allowed to complete their deeply unpopular takeover of TV channel BSkyB? Surely this cannot be allowed to go ahead at this time. The Guardian provided a useful summary of recent developements concerning News International:
The police operation has already led to several arrests and there is a distinct possibility of such charges.

Indeed, some lawyers have even mentioned the possibility of charges against company directors under section 79 of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which can be levelled if it can be shown that directors have been guilty of "neglect, consent or connivance".

Knowing of these possible outcomes, it would be extraordinary for Mr Hunt to wave through the merger now.

We have suggested that Mr Hunt should pause for a period while the police find out who did what, and who knew what, when – and at what level in the company.

That suggestion met with broad all-party support in the Commonson Wednesday. In the intervening 24 hours we have learned of NoW journalists bribing police officers; that News International's chief executive was warned by police in 2002 about the behaviour of private investigators; and that her paper hacked the phones of the relatives of 7/7 victims.
These people are not a fit and proper bunch to be running a national TV channel.

Under no circumstances should they be allowed to. As the campaign organisation 38 degrees rightly point out:
We can't trust Murdoch's “promises” about respecting UK democracy and media plurality if he takes over BSkyB, while his newspapers stand accused of immoral and criminal activities
You can join two campaigns against the takeover:

Avaaz - 24 hours to stop Murdoch's UK media takeover

38 degrees - No time to give Murdoch more power

(b) What has yet to emerge about David Cameron's relationship with this bunch of sewer rats? David Oborne writing in the Telegraph can't abandon him quickly enough saying:
Mr Cameron allowed himself to be drawn into a social coterie in which no respectable person, let alone a British prime minister, should be seen dead.
David Cameron's relationships with NOTW Editor Rebbekah Brooks and fomer NOTW senior journalist Andy Coulson (the man Cameron employed as his own communications director) will come under particular scrutiny. Andy Coulson is about to be arrested as the police investigation gathers momentum.

(c) Will the demise of the NOTW finally break the stranglehold that Rupert Murdoch and News Internationak have had over British Politics for decades?

Remember this?


Neil Kinnock's election campaign savagely attacked and some say mortally wounded by Murdoch's media empire in the run up to the 1992 general election. Kinnock blamed the papers for his defeat and it was a lesson that a generation of politicians learned well.

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and of course David Cameron did all they could to gain and retain the coveted support of the News International tabloids, so it was no surprise to see Cameron socialising with the NOTW and employing former News International staff in senior roles.

The pattern was always the same - Steve Richards writing in the Independent remembers the extraordinary lengths which politicians would go to to gain Murdoch's favour:
As a BBC political correspondent, I was the only journalist who travelled with Tony Blair in July 1995 for his famous meeting with Rupert Murdoch at a conference in Australia. The investment of political and physical energy was staggering. Murdoch issued an invitation at relatively short notice to Blair, a summons that could not be ignored. Blair, Alastair Campbell and Anji Hunter dropped all plans, flew for 24 hours, taking sleeping pills to manage the jet lag, attended the conference and returned in time for Prime Minister's Questions.
Neither was it any surprise that News International's takeover of BSKyB would go through on the nod but there is enormous public pressure to stop that now - pressure that has fresh impetus and momentum because of the NOTW debacle.

The real question is - will anything actually change?

News International will surely just reinvent the NOTW under a less tainted brand name - perhaps the 'Sun on Sunday'.

Murdoch's tabloids are still a powerful and influential force in British politics and do any of our politicians have the gumption to stand against them?

Well maybe - just maybe.

Labour's ailing leader David Milliband was quick to exploit David Cameron's close relationship with key figures at the NOTW and News International - relationships he wanted for himself but it is now very convenient he doesn't have.

If Milliband continues to demand public enquiries into the antics of NOTW then his relationship with Murdoch may be stuffed forever - not least because he couldn't be seen to be flirting with News International anymore.

The relationship between News International and the tories looks even more vexed - London's tory Mayor Boris Johnson led the cavalry charge against the 'dirty digger' Murdoch.
"I certainly think there should be a judge-led inquiry and I think it should be immediate," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, adding that the hacking allegations had left him with a "burning outrage".
"I think there should be no holds barred. Get the editors, get the proprietors in and let's hear exactly what has been going on."

Mr Johnson also said there should be "external validation" of the Metropolitan Police's inquiry into its own handling of the case, adding: "There has to be confidence that this is not just the police washing their dirty linen."
Even if Cameron wanted to return his cosy relationship with News International to the status quo - it seems unlikely his party would now let him. Murdoch has become a toxic brand in the public mind and there is nothing politicians fear more than guilt by association.

It's also true that Cameron has badly damaged his reputation through his association with the NOTW crew - damage he may never recover from - he will certainly need to distance himself well away from Murdoch in the days ahead. His current response to the hacking scandal currently looks leaden footed and compromised.

So it may be that the extraordinary and criminal activities of NOTW will release News International's choking grip on British politics - lets hope so.

Let's hope that the cocky swagger of headlines like this are a thing of the past.

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