Friday, July 08, 2011

British press "hacking" and bias

The biggest news item in the UK at present is the "hacking" scandal, the illegal phone tapping by supposed journalists working for the News of the World (NoW) newspaper, always known as a sleazy rag, of the private conversations of crime victims, soldiers killed in action, politicians and the rich and famous. This came out when it was revealed that the phone messages of a young girl murdered last year were tapped by an operative of the NoW. Then a report prepared by a private detective into the phone hacking by journalists was released after several years of research. He accused the NoW of massive hacking of private phones, each one an illegal act. He listed not only crime victims, but the families of soldiers killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as several high ranking politicians. He also alleged that the police were paid off not to take any action against the hackers and the NoW. Also, it was implied that several politicians may have been blackmailed because of private information that was gleaned, but not published.

As the information came out, the NoW and its owner News International owned by Rupert Murdoch issued various soothing statements. Finally on Thursday evening Murdoch issued a statement that the NoW will cease publication after this weekend and all the proceeds from this weekend's sales would be given to charity. This is a major and sudden response to the scandal, especially since the NoW is the largest circulation Sunday newspaper in the UK and is 168 years old. This decision may also reflect the fear that they have of being sued as well as losing their advertizers. Scotland Yard issued a statement that 4,000 people have been identified whose phones were tapped and a possible 8,000 more cases are contained in information that has been obtained largely from the NoW private archives. Notably a man who sued the NoW and lost, is now reopening his case, and it appears that top NoW editors, including Andy Couslon, former editor of NoW and press advisor to PM Cameron, may have lied under oath. PM Cameron has stated that he will open investigations into these allegations as well as the general conduct of the British media.

Now what has this got to do with Israel (my favorite topic). It is well known that the British Press is strongly biased against Israel. It has been suggested that this is because of the liberal-left bias of the majority of journalists. But, another factor has been suggested, that of Arab ownership of British media and their purchasing of glossy supplements in many newspapers. When income is down due to the growth of news media on-line, all newspapers are struggling to survive, and this "contribution:" by Arabs may buy them a lot of influence, given the apparent low level of ethical conduct in the British media. No one would confuse NoW with the Times or the Guardian, but if the same culture permeates them all, no wonder they are pro-Palestinian. It is to be hoped that the Government Commission of Inquiry into the conduct of the British Press will investigate the level to which Arab funds have bought anti-Israel bias in editorial decisions.


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