Monday, July 11, 2011

A ringside seat to the UK vs. News of the World

I’m sure the British Studies program directors had no plans for a hugely important and critical moment in UK media history to occur while the journalism class was in session in London, but that is exactly what’s happened. The revelations of phone hacking, bribery and eventual death of the 168-year old News of the World has shaken the very foundation of British journalism

And we are here to see it ... firsthand.
This event has given us a peek inside the world of UK journalism, where getting the story can apparently lead to some drastic measures. We arrived July 2. On Tuesday, July 5, several newspapers, including The Guardian, reported the News of the World had hacked into the cell phone of Milly Dowler, a young British girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 2002. The revelations were “shocking,” but the best was yet to come. 

The entire week, national papers were flooded with stories of more phone hackings (including those of the families of victims in the 7/7 bombings and soldiers killed in Afghanistan), over 100,000 pounds in bribes paid by News of the World to metropolitan police for secret information, and money paid to corrupt protection officers for the Queen for information on the royal family.
However, what is perhaps most interesting is the impact this whole saga will have on the business, political and social world. For starters, Rupert Murdoch (whose media company, News International, owned News of the World) is under fire for his lack of action and ethics. This has been having a very negative effect during a time when he is bidding to become majority owner of BSkyB, the company that owns the Sky TV network. Now, Prime Minister David Cameron is calling for a delay in the decision of whether or not to award News International the ownership of Sky until criminal proceedings as a result of the phone hacking and bribery are complete.
Speaking of No. 10 and Parliament, Cameron himself is under fire for having hired former News of the World editor, Andy Coulson, as his press secretary during the first part of his administration. Coulson, who was arrested last week, was in charge of the newspaper when the alleged phone hackings and bribery were taking place.
And above all this, the way media are regulated in the UK is coming under scrutiny, as well. Cameron questioned the effectiveness of the Press Complaints Commission, a self-regulatory body for media that links consumers and their potential issues more closely with the newspapers they read. Some fear any backlash from the PM or Parliament could be a blow to free speech in the country. 

Simply put, the journalism world in Britain has a spotlight cast on it that may not go away for some time; and we, the journalism students, are currently sat front-row center to this dazzling show.
                                                                                   -- By Adam Troxtell

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