The blessing, the whelk stall and the burglar

Panorama’s sensational revelations on Monday, about email hacking by News International, received predictably scant media coverage beyond The Guardian and the other usual stalwarts.  For a change, however, Mr Murdoch’s Times decided to allot space, but only, as Roy Greenslade put it, to throw mud at the BBC and minimse the misbehaviour by News International. 

It’s fair to say that, with earth shattering events around the world, there is much competition for news space.  It’s also true that, despite the increasingly disturbing nature of the revelations,  the shock factor of the hacking saga has  receded.  We realise we probably don’t even know the half of it, but it’s hard to be surprised any longer and our expectations have sunk to an all time low.  This is a dangerous state to be in, particularly as complacency over the behaviour of the tabloids is partly why the situation arose in the first place.

As we are all aware, the timing of the Panorama programme and other recent revelations, coming in the midst of Hunt’s deliberations on the BSkyB deal, is highly sensitive.  But how can it be that a company under investigation for crimes that look more serious by the week, is receiving the government’s blessing to take control of a huge and growing chunk of the nation’s media?  Why are so few people standing up to make the connection that George Monbiot summarised so well on Twitter the other day:  “Rupert Murdoch shouldn’t be licensed to run a whelk stall in the UK, let alone an empire”?

At DemocracyFail, we want to see long overdue changes in the rules that have allowed an unhealthy concentration of media ownership in Britain. But that ain’t gonna happen between now and Monday, the final day for Jeremy Hunt’s consultation on the BSkyB deal, when he is expected to let it to go through. 

Other means must be deployed to prevent the takeover and the investigation into News International should be reason for at least a moratorium .   If there are no legal grounds – and if not there should be – there are certainly ethical and public interest considerations, let alone questions of judgement.   Somebody needs to ask Mr Hunt if he would hand the keys of his house to a suspected burglar.


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