The closure of a historically-prevalent UK newspaper. High profile resignations and arrests. American Congressional involvement over allegations of hacking of 9/11 victims. The Prime Minister under intense scrutiny for his hiring of shadowy media figures. The role of the Metropolitan Police questioned in the hacking and expenses investigations. Bribery allegations levelled against police officers.Rupert Murdoch serenely sailing through the maelstrom of arguments and career-breaking actions.
The Conservative Party professes ignorance of media wrong-doings. The Labour Party accuse the Conservatives of laxness; blithely ignoring their 14 year stint as media lapdogs. And the Liberal Democrats doing nothing … because that, historically, is what they have always done.
To the average bewildered member of the public, it is a glimpse behind the cloak that shrouds the vast majority of dealings between the government of the day, and the massive media machines that now control more of our lives than at any moment previous in our history. Every government leader of the last 20 years has recognised the paramount importance of gaining the support of the media in their winning campaigns; and keeping this support through their formation and running of the government. This is not a voluntary action, more a forced recognition of the deadly risks in alienating the very organisations that play huge roles in raising the winning party’s profile. The media have always been seen as having to be pacified, their support essential, and their enmity ultimately life-threatening.
The Labour Party were particularly lucky to have as their leader Tony Blair, statesman and astute politician that he was. His relationship with the media flourished with the help of his communications advisor, Alistair Campbell, explaining in part his role in enabling the Labour party to stay in power for 14 years. Rupert Murdoch, media mogul and all-round nice guy, was an influential lynchpin in Blair’s dealings with the newspapers, television and radio organisations. Murdoch’s finger sticking in various fat and juicy pies was, suffice to say, not hampered by the Labour party.
This past two years have seen the intertwining stories start to rear their ugly heads, but being nipped in the bud before having a chance to develop. The last month of ‘revelations’ have given the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition a chance to properly investigate the allegations of criminal activity by certain media-organisations. So far, a public, judge-led, inquiry is to be held, the Murdoch’s have been ‘invited’ to attend a Commons select committee inquiry, and a loss-making paper has been closed down. Big deal. When we remember that it was in fact James Murdoch who closed the News of the World, the government appears to be dancing the media tune still. David Cameron is coming under fire for his appointment of Andy Coulson, who was Editor at the time when Clive Goodman was jailed for hacking various royals.
As we desperately look beyond the government for aid in dealing with this mess, Ed Miliband, lifeless puppet and trade union man through and through, pops up. His previously lacklustre performances as Labour leader, his wooden personality and lack of humour all disappear as he adopts the aggrieved bystander’s position. He talks vehemently about the importance of enquires, Cameron’s naivety in media matters, and how Murdoch’s control over the world has reached too far. His speeches, carefully written for him, address the importance of increased media regulation, cutting corruption and avoiding cosying up with dubious media figures. It is just a shame that he can so easily ignore the Labour party’s role in Murdoch’s rise, and the subsequent lenient media regulation. This leniency gave us Ofcom, which has a limited range of powers and rarely uses even those, and the Competition Commission, which could investigate takeovers and mergers but which seldom received referrals.
Surprisingly, the Liberal Democrat party appeared the most proactive on the BskyB issue, with Vince Cable declaring open war on Murdoch and his hold on British media. Cable was immediately stripped of his powers, made to apologise and bought back to the party line. Recently, though, the familiar shadows have been sought, as the Lib Dems let the storm engulf their ruling partners, bidiing their time, waiting …
With the resignation of Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of News International, Rupert Murdoch has lost a valuable colleague and employee, who was evidently extremely talented to have attained the position she did. Should we care? No, not really. Murdoch and his son remain at the helm, and apart from swatting aside the committee’s questions on their roles, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.
And that appears to be the fate of this latest spat between politicians and the media. There will be no cutting down of the massive media organisations. The politicians and the newspapers will want Joe public to forget about all this as quickly as possible. The Conservative party will take the flak for Cameron’s mistake, then get on with leathering Labour for their downfalls regarding the economy. Rupert Murdoch will launch another bid for BskyB, unwilling to give up huge revenue potential. The readers of The Sun will get their sordity supplied by journalists imbued not with a strengthened moral resolve, but with intentions to avoid the mistakes that their ex-News of the World Colleagues made.
Ed Miliband will be unhappy, as he adopts his hangdog position once more on the opposition benches. Powerless, influence-less, only able to watch as the government cover up and make some small sacrifices on the side to satisfy the baying masses.
Then he’ll know what it’s like to be a bog-standard member of the public.