Sunday, July 17, 2011

Abuses of power, justice required

These are indeed extraordinary times. The events stemming from the phone hacking scandal continue to amaze. As I write Rebekah Brooks has been arrested. What is there to suggest that James Murdoch won't be next? The other newspapers and media organisations can smell blood. So too can the politicians who bowed and scraped to Murdoch for so long. And even though the public appetite for the story probably isn't as great as the media believe.

Phone hacking isn't difficult. Most people are daft enough not to have changed the pin on their mobile phone. So, by keying in the default codes when the voicemail kicks in, depending on the mobile company, it is so simple a child could do it. That it was done to hack the phone messages of a murdered child is a truly appalling example of the lack of perspective, but it was still bad form when it was a celebrity

It started as a savage verdict on media ethics. The constant crossing of the line of acceptable behaviour - phone hacking, bin dipping, bribing of police - and it has become a major debate over craven politics and abuses of power. The argument over standards shouldn't be allowed to fall by the wayside.

I don't subscribe to the "yes, but" argument. I think when it's used by News International journalists and apologists it is a weak attempt at distraction. But in questioning whether executives at Mirror Group, the Mail, the Guardian and the Telegraph should be answerable to the findings of the Information Commissioners report into the dodgy use of private detectives is a valid one. So too is the introduction into the discussion as to whether the leaking of "hacked" and "stolen" confidential data from MPs expense sheets and Wikileaks auctioning stolen military information is acceptable. You can't have it both ways.

If this debate is being broadened out, then there is another diversion yet to be addressed. That is the abuse of monopoly position, the bullying of the legal regulatory process and the crushing of smaller competitors that undermines a free market. No, not in media, but in retail. The big supermarkets have had their own way for too long too. And if a politician was in search of a just cause that others have feared, then this is it.

No comments: