The Great Debate UK

Press, police, politicians and public in race to the bottom

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–Laurence Copeland is a professor of finance at Cardiff University Business School. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Listening to the interminable Leveson Inquiry hearings, it is impossible not to feel revulsion at some of the antics of the hacks. How could anyone be heartless enough to hack into the phone of a murder victim, let alone to tamper with the voice messages she left behind? How could they invent stories to try to incriminate parents who have been through the nightmare that the McCanns have faced since their toddler disappeared? And, having behaved with such heartlessness, how could they present the stories they invented in such a self-righteous tone? There is nothing the tabloids like more than posing as crusaders for decency in a wicked world, yet their own behaviour was beneath contempt.

At the same time, however, you also have to ask why the press feel the urge to sink so low in the first place. Why are they willing to go to such lengths as to hack into the phone conversations of the Dowlers or the McCanns, or indeed of genuine celebs?

Clearly, newspaper editors know their own business. Their years of experience in the industry tell them that this is the kind of invasive reporting people will pay to read. Like drug dealers or pimps, they satisfy a demand which they have not created, an inexhaustible thirst for stories replete with prurient detail. They have no need to force their products on anyone because we, the Great British Public, are simply gagging for it. The truth is that the tabloids hold up a daily mirror to the hypocrisy of their readers.

from The Great Debate:

Hypocrisy taints Murdoch grilling

Watching Tony Blair appear this week before the British judicial inquiry into press standards in London has left me feeling a little queasy. What began as an open-minded investigation into how to protect individuals from the snooping of the press in the age of the Internet has turned into a show trial to shame politicians who fell under the spell of Rupert Murdoch.

Now, heaven knows, I’m no apologist for Murdoch. His cynical approach to his readers and viewers and employees belies the fact that he is descended from sternly moral Scottish Presbyterians. He declares that the buck stops with a newspaper owner when one of his papers or journalists or printers fouls up, but when widespread illegality happens in his name, right under his nose, he forgets his fine words and lets it be known he has no intention of stepping down from his dual role of CEO and chairman of News Corp.

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