I was inspired to write this, if that’s the word, on reading Fleet Street Fox on the Leveson Report: The devil is in the detail, published yesterday in the Press Gazette.
It’s a fine example of a rant as you will ever find from an MP explaining with tendentious authority why the general public have absolutely no right to know about their Parliamentary expenses and how it will ruin a free democracy if this is allowed: you would think this was an investigative journalist who sees censorship on the cards, not a fox demanding the right to be unmuzzled in the henhouse.
But the devil is in the detail, and the detail of Leveson is the bit which will muzzle the Press as effectively as Hannibal Lecter strapped to a luggage trolley.
Leveson wants this backed up by law which is plain wrong, because there’s no bill ever passed by Parliament that wasn’t tinkered with later. Hacked Off and other campaigners may feel the suggested law is fine, but it’s the law it may mutate into which is why it should never happen.
So, we can’t have laws in the UK, because however nice a law looks when it’s proposed, Parliament may change it into something unspeakable, so all laws are wrong. We should instead trust to the kindness and gentility of the likes of David Grigson.
Okay. That’s nice, Fox. We should live in a lawless society because we can’t trust Parliament.
Let me answer a simpler question.
When is muzzling the Press appropriate and can you recommend a certain kind?
By and large, muzzles are used to keep the Press from biting or causing injury. There are two types of muzzles: prohibitive (also referred to as the “tyrant’s muzzle”) and regulatory.
Whenever anyone claims that the British press has moved into a new ethical period because of Leveson and so no new legislation is required, remember David Rose of the Daily Mail and the ugly, libellous, hatchet-job he did on Steven Messham.
I wish Leveson had published his report at eight in the morning rather than lunchtime – I could have written this blog before Question Time. But Question Time was illuminating – the BBC chose four grey men in grey suits, and Michael Rosen for the BBC Extra Guest, and the only one who could speak about media sexism from her personal experience on the panel was Charlotte Church: and while better MPs had evidently fled in terror, Church shone. She was easily the most articulate and most intelligent panellist tonight: if the BBC don’t ask her back, sexism has trumped sense. (As it so often does.)
Of the other panellists, Patrick McLoughlin had reason to object to an inquisitive press: his MP expenses were exposed in 2009. Chris Bryant is another of the home-flipping MPs who decides which place is his “second home” depending on how much he can claim in expenses. Simon Jenkins used to edit the Times and the London Standard as well as write for the Guardian. And Neil Wallis used to be executive editor of News of the World, leaving a comfortable two years before Rupert Murdoch tried to shut down all the bad talk about phone hacking by sacking everyone except Rebekah Wade. Neil Wallis and Rebekah Wade were arrested in July 2011.
We firmly believe that the people best placed to take decisions about Scotland’s future are the people who choose to live and work in Scotland.
Like Donald Trump?
Like Ian Wood?
Like Rupert Murdoch?
Like Sir Brian Souter?
Like Anders Fogh Rasmussen?
This is not to argue that Labour or the Tories or the LibDems aren’t also flawed: I agree with this post at Better Nation that argues none of Scotland’s parties are properly fit to run this country right now. But the electorally-fatal flaw for each party is when their actions clearly belie their stated purpose.
There’s a story which may be an urban legend, because certainly when I heard it, it was in the form “friend of a friend”. But I haven’t found it on Snopes, and if I did, I think it would probably be “Veracity: Undetermined”.
A woman went to work for an engineering firm. She was the first woman hired on the technical staff: apart from a couple of administrators, the office had been all-men until her arrival, and several of the men had their cubicles plastered with soft porn pics of women with big breasts.
She tried complaining, because the pics made her feel uncomfortable, but this was quickly dismissed, her manager and the men involved arguing that it was none of her business what they had in their cubicles, this was just personal self-expression, if she didn’t like it, she didn’t have to look. Continue reading
So many years ago that I can’t find it on Youtube or on IMDB, Jasper Carrott, who invented the “Sun readers” jokes, did a sketch on Carrott’s Lib of himself and another stand-up putting on huge Australian accents and talking about the bloody Poms, sex, and the Royal Family.
This was about Kathleen Dee-Anne Stark, actress and photographer, stage name Koo Stark, who appeared at the age of 20 in Emily, soundtrack by Rod McKuen:
Evocative of the Roaring Twenties, “Emily” is an erotic coming-of-age film featuring meticulous period detail and music. The sharp class distinctions of British society are blurred by the universal nature of sexual desire.
You may also remember her as Lady Sabrina Mulholland-Jjones from Red Dwarf.
Emily includes full-frontal nude scenes. So when, a few years later, Prince Andrew and Stark had an affair, the British newspapers had a huge ethical decision before them. Not whether or not to report on the affair – the British have always regarded the sex lives of the British Royal Family as our own personal reality show – but whether to use stills from Emily when running stories about Prince Andrew’s latest girlfriend, headlined “Randy Andy”.
For The Sun, I suppose the ethical dilemma consisted of whether or not to use the Stark naked pics on the front page.
One of the exchanges from that Carrott sketch was “Is that what they’ll put on the stamps?”- “You never can tell with the bloody Poms!”
Repeatedly in discussions on Twitter, which admittedly is not the place for subtlety, pro-independence Scots have told me that the thing that matters is winning the Yes vote – “Everything else” can get worked out post-indy.
This is indescribably foolish.
One, because presumably they are attempting to convince me to vote Yes, and I’ll vote for status-quo devolution if they’ve got nothing more in the pot to offer but “We want you to vote yes!” Telling me that this is the “wrong attitude” to take to the independence referendum? Well, fine, but it’s my attitude: you can’t convince me to vote yes by refusing to engage with me.
Two, because realistically: I understand that the proposed timescale for independence is two years after a “yes” vote wins. Assuming that the Yes vote does win, that means four or so years from today, Scotland would be an independent nation.
That is none too much time to begin the Constitutional Convention to discuss what form and structure the new nation should have.
I wrote about the work of the Constitutional Convention in the 1990s Continue reading
Cast your mind back to the palmy early months of coalition government, back when Andy Coulson was Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street, on £140,000 a year, and Rebekah and Dave could go hacking together without a care in the world.
In mid-June reports confirmed that News Corporation, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was holding talks with BSkyB shareholders with a view to acquire the remaining 61 percent of BSkyB.
By October, a coalition of media organisations including the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the the Guardian, the BBC, and Channel 4, were pushing for government intervention. Vince Cable, then Business Secretary, would have got a letter from this coalition making the case that a merger of News Corps, the UK’s largest newspaper group, and BSkyB, the UK’s biggest subscription television service “could have serious and far-reaching consequences for media plurality”.
On Tuesday 13th March David Cameron proved himself a brilliant game-player – albeit the kind that buys cheat codes.
He left the country for a state visit with Barack Obama.
Early that morning the Metropolitan Police arrested Cameron’s life-long friend Charlie Brooks and Rebekah formerly-the-CEO-of-NI Brooks and four other News International employees. By the time anyone knew about this, David Cameron was safely on a British Airways plane, mid-Atlantic.
As Fleet Street Fox notes, the convenient timing of this arrest just when David Cameron could not be ambushed with questions about his friendship with Charlie, Rebekah, and the horse, must be purely coincidental, and:
It is entirely coincidental that a public inquiry currently scrutinising relations between the police and members of the trade under examination has heard in recent days of senior coppers who have not been doing their job properly.
What if Scotland votes Yes in autumn 2014 – would we still pay the licence fee – and would we still have the BBC?
In August 2009, at a time when News International were strenuously denying everything, James Murdoch addressed the Edinburgh Television Festival, claiming:
“The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision.”
(Twenty years earlier Rupert Murdoch had also addressed the same festival, saying much the same thing.)
In the Scotsman, Jennifer Dempsie notes that Scotland would have a larger budget specifically for radio, TV, and iPlayer services than at present: Scotsman:
The licence fee revenue in Scotland is around £325m (sadly the BBC are not too keen to publish official figures in this area). If you assume total BBC Scotland overhead and distribution costs of about £50m (including the contribution to BBC Alba costs), we are left with a public service programme budget for radio, television and online services in an independent Scotland of approximately £275m. A report showed the BBC as providing figures for their total Scottish spend as just £102m plus £70-75m of network-related spending. So, a Scottish public service broadcaster retaining the entire licence fee would have a budget of about £325m, as against the measly £175m currently. Approaching double.
Plus, we could get rid of David Dimbleby on SBC Question Time, forever.
But set against that, while we’d still be able to pick up the BBC on our channels, we’d no longer have access to the full range of programmes on BBC iPlayer. Continue reading
In the US, today is Super Tuesday – it’s the day ten states caucus to choose their state’s candidate for President: Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. For Republicans this year they get to choose between Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. (The odds of any of them actually defeating the incumbent to become President are… low.)
On Monday 20th February, Rupert Murdoch tweeted:
Portraits of Brooding Journos:
The Leveson inquiry is revealing the stranger-than-fiction culture behind how the news sausages gets made. Knowledge is power and information can be just as corrupting a currency as money or political authority. What’s incredible about the Leveson inquiry, however, isn’t just how long this power has operated unchecked and counter to the public interest, but the sheer quantity of lurid and tragic details of people who suffered in solitude while a systematic cover-up appears to have been orchestrated from the highest level. 25th February 2012