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Friday 22 July 2011

The central theme from 'Hackgate' (how I hate that word) is 'control'

This is the post I contributed to 20:20 Vision yesterday

On the 4th July,  The Guardian first broke the news of Milly Dowler’s phone allegedly being hacked by The News of the World. Since then, every day has seen a kaleidoscope of news stories, debate, opinion, and an endless wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Yet there has been a single thread pulling all the myriad stories together - the fight to control the message.
This has taken a number of forms.
There has been a general acceptance that Murdoch has set the media agenda for 30 years or more – and a narrative has emerged that he can’t be allowed to control it any longer.
Parliament has been striving to demonstrate that after decades of following the News Corp line, it is now back in charge - hence the hosting of debates, and the drama of the Select Committees.
News Corp has tried to control the story – timing announcements to deflect attention and move the agenda. The Rebekah Brooks resignation is a great example of this as I have blogged elsewhere – it’s no coincidence, I suspect, that it happened just before the weekend, on the day the UK’s biggest news organisation had its journalists out on strike…
There has been general condemnation of the Press Complaints Commission and its failure to control the printed media – but general disagreement about whether the press should continue to be self regulated or legislation should be brought in to control it.
The politicians have argued amongst themselves who’s in charge – Cameron argues they’re all to blame, Miliband claims the moral high ground a month after going to the Murdoch summer party, Nick Clegg points out that the Lib Dems are the only major party with a clean pair of hands…
Every one of these threads is about ‘who’s in control?’
But of course the real answer is: we, the public are. And we are the ones who need to sort this mess out.
There’s a theme developing (which I don’t much care for) that seems to be beginning to blame the public at large for everything that’s gone wrong. ‘You wanted salacious gossip, we hacked phones to give you what you wanted, now you’re complaining…’ seems the tone.
This is of course nonsense. We’re not to blame. But we can take responsibility for putting things right.
By refusing to let others – especially News International – set the agenda.
By holding our politicians to account for not taking control before all this broke – let’s not forget Ed Miliband demanded Vince Cable be sacked just a few months ago for ‘declaring war on Murdoch’. He doesn’t seem too keen to discuss this now…
And by demanding answers to what went wrong – in the police, in the press generally (this isn’t just about News International) and at the PCC.
It’s only if we keep asking the right questions – and not going away until those questions get answered – that we, the public, will be in control once again.

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