The churnalists are up in arms. The carefully constructed media narrative has it that the News of the World, and by extension the entire Rupert Murdoch empire, has singlehandedly ruined the reputation of journalism.
We are witnessing manipulation par excellence at play, as reports that personal details of families of war dead and serious crime victims were found in the possession of Glenn Mulcaire are spun to suggest their phone messages were intercepted – despite there being no evidence (as yet) that such actions happened. Emotions are running wild and large tracts of the British public are being herded like sheep into a mind numbing mantra against not just those who may be responsible at the News of the World, but also its owner and his future business ambitions.
Make no mistake, I carry no brief for Murdoch. But I cannot stand seeing the British people being misled by his opportunist opponents who have a self serving agenda that is not in the interest of the public.
The hypocrisy and double standards at play here are incredible. The Guardian has not pursued this story for the noble aim of getting at the truth, but in a desperate effort to undermine Rupert Murdoch, with the full connivance of its broadcast arm, the BBC. The phone hacking scandal, while criminal and disgusting, is nothing more than a rider for a campaign where something far greater is at stake – maintaining the left-liberal media consensus that holds sway in this country, ably laid bare by this 2009 column by Stephen Glover in the Mail in which he refers to this ‘intellectual tyranny’.
There is a cosy left leaning consensus in the UK media which sees reporters easily slip from the BBC to Channel 4 to ITV because they are all members of the same exclusive club. It is the same in the newspaper broadsheets, Guardian journalists are just as comfortable at the Telegraph and there is interchange between them despite the supposed politically partisan nature of two organs. The reality is the UK television media is not only part of the establishment, it is grouped firmly on the left.
There is no right-leaning television counterbalance to the output in this country. But as Fox News in the US has shown, reporting of stories from a small ‘c’ conservative perspective puts a very different gloss on things and offers viewers an alternative to the media discourse broadcast on the established channels. Fox is routinely sullied by the leftists, but it appeals to a significant audience that is no longer forced to rely on CNN or MSNBC’s liberal output, and as such it has become the dominant cable news network in the United States.
Imagine if such an alternative was to emerge in the UK, an alternative that resonates with ordinary people who can see the bias but whose only choice is to listen in or hit the off button. Sky News has the capacity to become that kind of news outlet if it is wholly owned by a conservative – even though Sky would have to spin off the channel from the rest of the BSkyB group. Sky itself could play host to current affairs and documentaries coming from a conservative viewpoint. The BBC don’t want that and the Guardian, which influences so much BBC output, doesn’t want that either. Which is why the phone hacking issue has been transformed by the Guardian and BBC into the campaign it really is – stop Murdoch from owning Sky.
The cynicism is sickening, but the stakes are the highest. This is about exerting influence over the British people. The propaganda broadcast on any number of issues, from climate change to public spending, is designed to underpin the ‘progressive’ agenda. That influence will weaken if a conservative leaning alternative is available for viewers to choose. Love him or hate him, Murdoch has the capacity to deliver that alternative which is why he is being assailed.
In the US the other media spend an inordinate amount of time attacking Fox because they recognise it as a threat to their influence. Viewers are not being served an exclusively diet left-liberal menu which omits stories or information from a conservative viewpoint. Here in the UK we now see the media attacking Murdoch because they see him as a threat to the British people continuing to be served the current diet of left-liberal output. But it was not always the case. Indeed there was no outcry against Murdoch in 1989 when Sky News was the only exclusive news channel in the UK. A trawl of the Guardian’s archives doesn’t throw up a single article criticising Sky when it was wholly owned by Murdoch in its early years. There was nothing suggesting Sky was partial and certainly nothing about media plurality. Perhaps that is because Fox was still seven years away had yet to make its breakthrough and challenge the consensus which up to then had felt unassailable.
In 1990 the left-liberal tactic of refusing to provide a spread of facts and opinions was finally challenged by the Broadcasting Bill which pushed the concept of ‘due impartiality’. What could be less benign than ensuring broadcasters are impartial? Clearly there was something because the Guardian railed against it and even called for due impartiality to be scrapped altogether – and when it passed Labour vowed to repeal it.
How things changed by 2003…
Sensing how Murdoch’s plans for Sky News could break the stranglehold of the left-liberal media consensus, we now see the Guardian championing due impartiality and using it as justification for rejecting Murdoch’s attempt to re-take control of Sky. However Murdoch wrong footed them by stating he would abide by due impartiality. This is when the Guardian and its leftist allies seized upon the notion of media plurality, arguing that the power to influence opinion and shape public debate must be in the hands of a diverse range of organisations that compete with each other.
Ironically Murdoch would actually add to media plurality because as we have seen, BBC, Channel 4 and ITV all sing from the same hymnsheet. But plurality is not the issue, for the left it is all about maintaining their dominance and biased news selection and broadcast and ability to exclude or omit news, facts or opinions that undermine their ‘progressive’ agenda. We know they do this because Labour’s Ivan Lewis, writing in the Guardian, confirmed it when he said:
While News Corp asserts that Britain’s impartiality rules mean Sky News could never adopt a political agenda akin to Fox News, there remains a real concern about the selection of news, which in itself can significantly distort coverage.
Heaven forbid some other media player should use the same techniques employed by the BBC and others to distort coverage the other way. They know full well that even under the ‘due impartiality’ laws, a Sky News with a genuinely conservative management and staff will have no problem whatsoever in justifying the broadcast of endless genuine news stories that favour the conservative perspective. Which is why Lewis was pleading for former Labour man Vince Cable to refer Murdoch takeover bid for Sky to Ofcom. You know, Ofcom, that ‘independent’ media regulator that could not possibly do anything other than make an impartial decision…
For the Guardian-BBC axis, Murdoch represents a clear and present danger to their grip on national thought. Therefore their objective is to create such widespread hostility to News International that it will become simply impossible, politically, for the Competition Commission to allow Murdoch’s plans to go through – and politically impossible for the Secretary of State to do anything about it.
This is the reason for the saturation coverage of the phone hacking story. This is the reason for the rabble rousing and concerted effort to play to people’s emotions. It is inconceivable that the Guardian, Mirror Group, Mail, Star et al, have not behaved in similarly appalling fashion to dredge up stories. But as we have seen the Guardian and BBC are maintaining a tightly focused campaign to undermine Murdoch and resisting all efforts to widen enquiries into journalistic practices in general.
Perhaps some people will finally read between the lines, consider the history to this spat, and see the Guardian and BBC’s campaign for what it is. That doesn’t mean letting journalists and editors from the News of the World get away with illegal and intrusive actions, but recognising there is something much more vital at stake, control of the messages broadcast to the public.
Update: John Coles in the comments sums it up when he says: ‘Phone hacking is a disgrace but these events must not end in the stifling supremacy of the liberal-left media.’ That is their desired endgame and that is the point of this post in a nutshell. It is exactly the reason this issue is being covered so disproportionately why stories of far greater importance and relevance are being shunted out of sight. Whose interests are they serving?