Sky News | Phone Hacking: Second Police Resignation
One of the Metropolitan Police’s most senior officers, John Yates, has resigned over the phone-hacking scandal the day after his boss also stood down - as the police watchdog confirmed it is investigating four officers.
Sky, by the way, deserve considerable credit for going after the story so aggressively. A few myths about the organisation are having to be re-thought in the face of some pretty thorough coverage of the whole, extraordinary affair. Or affairs. As Charlie Brooker has pointed out, if it carries on like this, eventually it’ll engulf everything and have to be called ‘omnigate’.
(Full disclosure: yes, I do freelance at Sky News sometimes, but not exclusively and not since the scandal blew up).
Britain’s most senior police officer has faced criticism for hiring former News of the World executive Neil Wallis - who was questioned by police investigating hacking - as an adviser.
Sir Paul said his links to the journalist could hamper investigations.
He said there were lessons to be learned from the affair, but he was leaving with his integrity intact.
He also said he had no knowledge of the extent of the phone hacking.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she was “sorry” he had resigned and thanked him for all the work he had done during his time in office.
She said: “Sir Paul has led the force through difficult times and although current circumstances show that there are still serious issues to be addressed, I believe that the force is operationally stronger today now than it was when he took over.”
Earlier, she said she would address MPs on Monday about her “concerns” over the closeness of the relationship between News International and police…
On the American cable channel Fox Business an inexplicable whooshing noise accompanies graphics resembling the opening titles of robot wars as a grey middle-aged presenter introduces his boss live on air. “Chairman thanks very much for joining us we appreciate it sir”, “good afternoon” replies the Australian media baron. Both men smile and the presenter seems relaxed before saying “The story that is really buzzing all around the country and certainly here in New York is that the News of the World, a News Corporation newspaper in Britain used…”. Suddenly the presenter is cut off “I’m not talking about that issue at all today, sorry”. Instead of asking why and pursuing the topic (you know the kind of thing a journalist would do) he smiles awkwardly and apologizes as if he’s a minor Star Wars character scared of being telekinetically strangled for bringing Darth Vader a cold cup of coffee.
That was back in August, but since then things have gone from bad to worse for the 79 year old Rupert Murdoch and his powerful dynasty, News Corp. Since then his flagship newspaper the News of the World has come under investigation for phone hacking and his flagship news channel Fox News has been roundly condemned for the use of violent rhetoric against pro-Obama politicians after one was shot though the head. The last six months have created a perfect storm of controversy that just might rule out the biggest takeover in News Corps history, its bid to take total ownership of BSkyB. If so then we might be about to witness the decline of the biggest media empire the world has ever seen.
Rupert made his name by acquiring failing newspapers and turning them around by improving efficiency and sensationalising headlines. He has always judged himself to be somewhat of a populist revolutionary fighting against elitism. However his competitive streak began to creep into politics when he realised that if his newspapers backed a candidate then, once in power that candidate would make it easier for the Murdoch empire to grow. The Sun and the News of the Worlds support of Margret Thatcher won Murdoch privilege of being able to buy up The Times & The Sunday Times without the blessings of the Monopolies Commission. Eleven years later Labour battled the 1992 general election with a policy of introducing a ‘cross-media’ law that would force Murdoch to break up his empire. On the day of the election The Sun famously ran the headline “If Kinnock wins today will the last person in Britain please turn off the light”. The next day the same tabloid famously followed up with “It’s the sun wot won it”. Its clear that Murdoch’s endorsements are born out of convenience, not ideology and theirs certainly no room for loyalty. Tony Blair’s reward for dropping the ‘cross-media’ policy earned him ringing endorsements, running up to the 1997 Labour landslide, from the same newspapers that had bragged about sinking his party five years earlier.
At this point Rupert Murdoch was feared by the political class, but since then things have been changed. Circulation of all his British newspapers are steadily dropping and since the explosion of the Internet the print media has been slowly fading into the background of the public’s collective conscience. As a medium its largely lost on young people, more of them look at the trending list on twitter then look at the front page of The Sun.
Despite of this the Labour found itself sweating back in September 2009 when the Sun switched gears once more and declared that the party had “lost it” and that it was not backing David Cameron. The Tory leader had previously appointed, old friend and News of the World phone hacking causality Andy Coulson as his communications director. Cameron and Coulson along with his chancellor George Osborne make up what has been called the ‘Chipping Norton set’ and are joined by News Corp executive Rebekah Brooks and heir to the thrown Rupert’s son James Murdoch. With a friendly Cameron in power Rupert would be able to snap up the rest of BSkyB problem without a visit to that pesky Monopolies Commission and it would be safe bet too with the Tory party ten points ahead in the polls. So The Sun instantly turned aggressively on Gordon Brown, attacking everything from his hair to his handwriting. However something was going wrong, instead of maintaining his popularity David Camerons poll numbers were dropping and come May it was looking like the closest election in living memory. Come the big day The Sun’s front page ran with a David Cameron photohopped into Barack Obama’s famous blue & red poster under the word “change”. Perhaps the British public felt that the branding of a party called the conservatives with the paradoxical “change” was patronising or perhaps The Sun just couldn’t win them like they could in 1992 but none of their efforts stopped Cameron from crawling over the finish line with a hung parliament. Not only that but Coulson was soon forced out after his job of communicating with the media on behalf on number 10 began to predominantly consist of answering questions about his own knowledge (or lack of) of phone hacking at his old office.
That scandal continues to be thorn in Murdoch’s side and despite numerous meeting with the new Prime Minister in Downing Street it has thrown his BSkyB into serious doubt. Allowing Murdoch free reign would undermine and besmirch the coalition but history tells him that disregarding the media baron is still a dangerous and risky endeavour.
Stateside the News Corp machine is also failing to deliver. After Rupert Murdoch made his name as an entrepreneur of print in both Australia and the UK he was able to enter the US market with more then enough respect need to borrow the money to fund new operations in the new world. He started with the failing New York Post, with his classic and clinical style of enhanced efficiency and sure-fire sensationalism he turned it around. He had worked is magic all over the world and the obvious next step was the moving image. In 1986 he bought 20th Century Fox. At the time it was illegal for a non-American to buy a television channel, so Murdoch simply switched nationality.
The network struck gold with instant hits like The Simpsons and it was at this point that Rupert befriended another over-weight balding buffoon. This one was called Roger Ailes, he had been Richard Nixon’s press advisor and done a less then excellent job of making sure that Nixon wasn’t thought of as a crook by the American public. In spite of his failings Murdoch and Ailes clicked as perfectly likeminded businessmen. Alies had what he called the ‘orchestra pit theory’; he states “if you have two guys on a stage and one guy says he has a solution to the Middle East problem and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you thinks going to be on the evening news”. This outlook completely corresponded with Murdoch’s sensationalism based success, he fell in love and Fox News was conceived.
Fox News fast became the most popular 24-hour cable news channel in America, between its attractive blond female presenters and sexy graphics it pulled in millions. All it needed was a man to fall in the orchestra pit and that man was Glenn Beck. A Mormon by faith and right-wing patriot by ideal, Beck has spent every week of the Obama administration drawing spurious lines between famous names on chalkboards in ill-thought out attempts to undermine the President he calls “a racist”. Beck went as far as to redefine the entire political spectrum putting Mao, Stalin and Hitler at one end with himself and the founding fathers at the other, with Obama in the middle. Glenn is aggressively opposed to the current governments attempt at health care reform and in response he along with Sarah Palin started organising anti-big government Tea Party protests from his show on Fox News.
At his peak this time last year Glenn Beck was getting well over 3 million viewers a day, he kept his show interesting with apocalyptic predictions about Obama’s health care bill turning American in a godless socialist society. But as his rhetoric spiralled away from reality he started losing advertisers hand over fist and when Obama signed the health care bill and East Manhattan didn’t turn into East Berlin his viewers started to disappear too. Glenn Beck must have loved falling into that orchestra pit because he made no attempt to re-engage with his lost audience and instead moved further and further from reality. Unfortunately when a man is encouraged to disregard facts and be as passionately sensationalist as possible it occasionally leads to consequences, especially when he says things like he did last June. Referring to progressives he said “They believe in communism, they believe and have called for revolution, you’re going to have to shoot them in the head but warning; they might shoot you.” A few months a gunman who went on to murder six innocent people shot later progressive representative Gabrielle Giffords though the head outside a Tucson Supermarket. Nobody knows yet if Glenn Becks violent words helped motivate the incident but it shed light on other Fox News contributors like Sarah Palin who used her website to depict Gabrielle Giffords’ constituency thought the crosshairs of a sniper rifle.
Founding chairman of BSkyB and former editor of the Sunday Times, Andrew Neil believes that Rupert Murdoch has “lost control of Fox News”. The channel serves to many as a warning to what could happen if Sky fell into the hands of News Corp. The Tea party movement, born of the back of Glenn Beck’s jingoistic ‘9/12’ project was undeniably important in taking control of the senate back to the GOP in the November midterm elections and his propaganda outlets are still capable of rebranding a multi-faith community center in New York as the “ground zero mosque”. News Corp maintains the profits of some of the biggest television and film studios in the world. Rupert might be losing his power and influence faster then at any point in his career but he has always proved to be a crafty and intelligent and few have ever succeed by discounting him. His critics may accuse of being out of touch with a greedy and self-indulgent loyalty to print but they can’t say that he’s often called it wrong. This 21st century fox might be looking like 21st century dinosaur but he can still bite.