Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Poor old, frail Murdoch?

The Murdoch scandal in the UK is being examined by two select committees: Culture, Media and Sports Committee and the Home Affairs Committee. The first focuses on the role of News International and the second on the role of the police.

The report by the Home Affairs committee has already been published and they're not impressed at all. (The pdf of the report was briefly available on The Guardian, but the link to it has been removed.)

Their views on News International:

We deplore the response of News International to the original investigation into
hacking. It is almost impossible to escape the conclusion voiced by Mr Clarke that
they were deliberately trying to thwart a criminal investigation. We are astounded at
the length of time it has taken for News International to cooperate with the police
but we are appalled that this is advanced as a reason for failing to mount a robust
investigation. The failure of lawbreakers to cooperate with the police is a common
state of affairs. Indeed, it might be argued that a failure to cooperate might offer good
reason to intensify the investigations rather than being a reason for abandoning
them. None of the evidence given to us suggests that these problems were escalated
for consideration by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police or by Ministers.
The difficulties were offered to us as justifying a failure to investigate further and we
saw nothing that suggested there was a real will to tackle and overcome those
obstacles. We note that neither of these carefully-crafted responses is a categorical
denial: Ms Brooks’s denial of knowledge of hacking is limited to her time as editor of
News of the World; and on payments to police, she did not say that she had no
knowledge of specific payments but that she had not intended to give the impression
that she had knowledge of specific case.

On the police:

Leaving aside the fact that his approach to our evidence session failed to demonstrate
any sense of the public outrage at the role of the police in this scandal, we were very
concerned about Mr Hayman’s apparently lackadaisical attitude towards contacts
with those under investigation. Even if all his social contacts with News International
personnel were entirely above board, no information was exchanged and no
obligations considered to have been incurred, it seems to us extraordinary that he did
not realise what the public perception of such contacts would be—or, if he did
realise, he did not care that confidence in the impartiality of the police could be
seriously undermined. We do not expressly accuse Mr Hayman of lying to us in his
evidence, but it is difficult to escape the suspicion that he deliberately prevaricated in
order to mislead us. This is very serious.

Mr Hayman’s conduct during the investigation and during our evidence session was
both unprofessional and inappropriate. The fact that even in hindsight Mr Hayman
did not acknowledge this points to, at the very least, an attitude of complacency. We
are very concerned that such an individual was placed in charge of anti-terrorism
policing in the first place. We deplore the fact that Mr Hayman took a job with News
International within two months of his resignation and less than two years after he
was—purportedly—responsible for an investigation into employees of that company.
It has been suggested that police officers should not be able to take employment with
a company that they have been investigating, at least for a period of time.

We are seriously concerned about the allegations of payments being made to the
police by the media, whether in cash, kind or the promise of future jobs. It is
imperative that these are investigated as swiftly and thoroughly as possible, not only
because this is the way that possible corruption should always be treated but also
because of the suspicion that such payments may have had an impact on the way the
Metropolitan police may have approached the whole issue of hacking. The sooner it
is established whether or not undue influence was brought to bear upon police
investigations between December 2005 and January 2011, the better.

We are concerned about the level of social interaction which took place between
senior Metropolitan Police Officers and executives at News International while
investigations were or should have been being undertaken into the allegations of
phone hacking carried out on behalf of the News of the world. Whilst we fully accept
the necessity of interaction between officers and reporters, regardless of any ongoing
police investigations senior officers ought to be mindful of how their behaviour will
appear if placed under scrutiny. Recent events have damaged the reputation of the
Metropolitan Police and led to the resignation of two senior police officers at a time
when the security of London is paramount.

The Daily Mail has an article about the report.

The other committee has not published a report yet, but I don't think it will have much of an effect of Murdoch.

News International have very long tentacles and Murdoch said a few times yesterday that he couldn't answer some of the questions because he didn't want to interfere with the great job the police are doing on the case. It would appear that he's still pretty confident that the police investigations are going to let him off the hook.

All three main players said repeatedly how sorry and appalled they are by the conduct of their employees. They were let down by people they trusted and are not to blame for anything. Murdoch chose to appear frail and forgetful. It was an act, not terribly convincing.

One thing that became clear from the Rebekah Brooks testimony was the close relationship between News International and Tony Blair. I don't think it's a coincidence that Fox News pushed for the invasion of Iraq based on the weapons of mass destruction lies and that Blair used the same arguments to take Britain into an illegal war. Murdoch has an uncanny ability to spot narcissists and exploit their weaknessess.

A couple of MPs tried to establish some connections between News International and the government, but unfortunately, their questions fell outside the remit of the inquiry. The police will be singled out as the bad guys and politicians will be left untouched.

Murdoch has a much wider agenda, far more sinister than just hacking into people's communications for a newspaper's story. The explosive headlines and stories obtained by these methods are the things we see. What about the things we don't? How much damaging information does Murdoch have about people who make the big decisions? How much has he paid to have powerful advocates for his twisted agenda?

Murdoch's media empire provides him with revenue and gives him a platform to influence the public's perceptions. What really worries me are the power games he plays behind the scenes. They are very unlikely to become public or subject to any inquiries...

Being an opportunist, Rupert Murdoch would have jumped into bed with whoever gave him the most power. He tried to invoke his father, a fine journalist, and freedom of the press to paint himself as someone in a quest for the truth.

The truth is, he chose the corporations and those who champion their causes. The corporations run America and have unlimited power. Murdoch's quest has nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with power.

[Link to the UK Parliament website, where the pdf of the full report by the Home Affairs Committee maybe found. H/T to HS]