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Rupert Murdoch’s first day at #Leveson in his own words

April 25th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Newspapers, Politics

Rupert Murdoch’s first day of evidence to the Leveson inquiry covered a wide range of subjects, including his personal and professional interests, his thoughts on politicians and issues of newspaper ethics.

On newspaper ethics:

All of us regret that some of our colleagues fell far short of what is expected of them. I feel great personal regret that we did not respond more quickly or more effectively.

There have been abuses shown. I would say there are many other abuses but we can all go into that in time.

I don’t believe in using hacking. I don’t believe in using private detectives – it’s a lazy way of reporters not doing their job.

Reference to the infamous “It Woz the Sun Wot Won It” front page after the 92 election:

It was tasteless and wrong for us. We don’t have that sort of power.

Response to question on attacks made by the Sun on Neil Kinnock:

It was fair to attack his policies and even sometimes the way he expressed himself. I thought the Sun’s front page on the eve of the election was absolutely brilliant. We would have supported the Labour party if it had a different policy.

On his personal motivations:

I enjoy meeting our leaders, some impress me more than others and I meet them around the world. I could tell you one or two who have particularly impressed me.

If any politician wanted my opinion on major matters they only had to read editorials in the Sun.

It’s a myth that I used the supposed political power of the Sun to get preferable treatment.

If I had been interested in pure business I would have supported the Tory party in every election. They were always more pro-business.

On his relationship with politicians:

I’ve explained that politicians go out of their way to impress the people in the press. I think it’s part of the democratic process, all politicians of all sides like to have their views known by editors in the hopes their views will be put across and they will impress people. That’s the game.

On Thatcher:

I became [a great admirer] after she was elected and I remain a great admirer

On Gordon Brown:

He later, when the hacking scandal broke, made a totally outrageous statement that he had to know was wrong and he called us a criminal organisation, because he said we had hacked into his personal medical records, when he knew very well how the Sun had found out about his son, which was very sad.

On Alex Salmond:

I don’t know much about the SNP, I just find him an attractive person.

He’s an amusing guy and I enjoy his company; I enjoy listening to him.

On the BBC:

It’s a waste of time to speak to politicians about the BBC.

Prime ministers all hated the BBC and all gave it everything it wanted.

On The Hitler Diaries:

When the editor told me very excitedly that they’d bought these British rights to documents from a very reputable German publisher, he got [historian Hugh Trevor-Roper - Lord Dacre] to go to Switzerland to examine those diaries and after some hours with them he declared he thought they were genuine.

Very close to publication, people were debating it and Lord Dacre did show doubts. The majority of us thought we should go ahead. I take full responsibility for it – it was a major mistake I made and one I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.

For more coverage, read Journalism.co.uk’s liveblog of today’s proceedings and articles on Murdoch’s regret over phone-hacking and meetings with Thatcher about The Times.

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Ed Balls denies Telegraph accusation of ‘plot’ to overthrow Blair

June 10th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Newspapers

The Telegraph today published a series of documents including letters said to have been sent between former prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, revealing what the newspaper called “the extraordinary rift at the heart of Labour”.

The cache of documents show for the first time Mr Brown’s feelings towards Mr Blair in his own words and handwriting, material which has previously only been the subject of speculation and second-hand reports from anonymous sources.

In its report on the contents of the files, more than 30 memos reportedly belonging to Labour MP and former education secretary Ed Balls, the Telegraph accuses the MP of being involved in a “plot” to overthrow Blair, an allegation which he told the BBC today is “not true”.

Look I’m not going to deny to you there weren’t tensions, there weren’t arguments. It was hard during that period … But the allegation there was a plot, that there was nastiness, brutality, is just not true. It’s not justified either by the documents themselves or by what was actually happening at the time.

The Cabinet Office has since confirmed it is looking at whether the particular set of papers was in the possession of any government department, and only then would it look at whether a breach had occurred. Following this announcement the Guardian reports that education secretary Michael Gove said he was “confident his office will be cleared”.

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Armando Iannucci: #bigotgate turned UK media into ‘pack of shrieking gibbons’

May 4th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

Creator of TV political satire The Thick of It, Armando Iannucci on bigotgate and what it says about the UK’s media:

The journalist from Sky News was in some kind of hysterical state of tumescence as he cackled “Gordon Brown’s done a gaffe and we wondered if you’d come on to respond. You’ve got to see it!” on my answering service, and I’m sorry I deleted it rather than release it in to the public domain. The BBC was no less sensationalist in its pokey recording of Brown sitting listening to his own surreptitiously recorded voice played back to him.

It’s at these moments that you stand back and see, not a nation debating its future, but a pack of shrieking gibbons.

Thankfully, though, Bigotgate seems to have had no impact on the polls. This has restored my faith in this election as a sober, sincere and considered affair, though it’s shed a light on what the media machine can do when it’s taken too much Red Bull.

Full article at this link…

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#bigotgate: John Prescott attacks bigot gaffe as Murdoch conspiracy

April 29th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick

Following his take on the Sun’s reporting of his own recent walkabout in Southampton, former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott takes on Sky News’ broadcast of Gordon Brown’s “bigoted woman” comments, labelling them as more evidence of “the dying Murdoch empire (…) doing all it can to influence a British election”:

What Murdoch’s Sky News did today was just as bad as his paper’s phone tapping.

It was a breach of privacy, it was underhand and it was done in the pursuit of ratings and political influence.

Full post at this link….

(But it should be pointed out that Sky News was the pool broadcaster for the event…)

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#bigotgate: Would BBC rules have prevented broadcast?

April 29th, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Journalism

Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s well-reported gaffe yesterday, when he referred to a woman he had just met as “bigoted” in a conversation with an aide that he thought was off air, was broken by Sky News. It was Sky’s microphone as the pool broadcaster at yesterday’s event in Rochdale that was still on and clipped to the PM’s jacket as he let off some campaign-changing steam… As the audio and footage passed into the public domain, it was picked up and aired by other broadcasters and news organisations.

Sky is covered by Ofcom’s broadcasting code, which says in section 7.14 on “Deception, set-ups and ‘wind-up’ calls”:

7.14 Broadcasters or programme makers should not normally obtain or seek information, audio, pictures or an agreement to contribute through misrepresentation or deception. (Deception includes surreptitious filming or recording.) However:

  • it may be warranted to use material obtained through misrepresentation or deception without consent if it is in the public interest and cannot reasonably be obtained by other means.

But what if the BBC had of been the pool broadcaster for the day? – the corporation’s editorial guidelines are stricter and have a section on secret recording, in which “deliberately continuing a recording when the other party thinks it has come to an end” is listed as a definition of secret recording.

According to a Telegraph.co.uk report, Sky News said Brown left in his car before the microphone could be removed and switched off, so “deliberately continuing” perhaps doesn’t apply here if it had been the BBC’s mic instead.

But the BBC’s editorial guidelines also state:

The following rules apply to any proposal to secretly record, whether for news, factual or comedy and entertainment purposes.

  • All proposals to record secretly must be approved in advance by the relevant senior editorial figure in each Division or for Independents by the commissioning editor who may consult Editorial Policy. Each Division is responsible for maintaining these records to enable the BBC to monitor and review the use of such techniques across its output.
  • A signed record must be kept of the approval process, even if the request is turned down, and secretly recorded material must be logged. This record is required even if the material gathered isn’t broadcast.
  • The gathering and broadcast of secretly recorded material is always a two stage process. The decision to gather is always taken separately from the decision to transmit.
  • Any deception required for the purposes of obtaining material and secret recording should be the minimum necessary and proportionate to the subject matter and must be referred to the relevant senior editorial figure or for Independents to the commissioning editor.
  • The re-use of secretly recorded material must be referred to a senior editorial figure or for Independents to the commissioning editor before transmission and a record kept of the decision.

Would the outcome have been different or would public interest overrule?

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Channel 4 runs online poll after Gordon Brown makes on-air ‘bigot’ gaffe

April 28th, 2010 | 6 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting

As former Observer political editor Gaby Hinsliff (@gabyhinsliff) tweeted earlier today, Gordon Brown’s post walkabout gaffe (see video below), in which he called an elderly former Labour voter a “bigot”: “Shows how easy it is to forget the first law of broadcast: even if you’re not on air, if you’re miked up you’re effectively on record.”

Channel 4 News was quick off the mark with an online poll on its live election blog, asking: “Does Gordon Brown’s unguarded ‘bigot’ remark make you less likely to vote Labour?” At the time of writing, the ‘no’s” had a 68 per cent majority but watch that space…

Meanwhile, a spoof Twitter account @bigotedwoman and the phrase “Bigoted Woman” are currently trending on Twitter.

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Will the leader’s election debates engage first time voters?

April 16th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Broadcasting, Events

Elizabeth Davies is a freelance journalist and recent graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. She reviews the first of the Leaders’ Debates and asks: can the format engage young, first time voters? This post is also featured on her blog.

The BBC grandiosely declared Thursday 15 May to be “the day the skies went quiet”. It was not, unfortunately, because the entire population was glued to ITV’s broadcast of the first of the Leaders’ Debates. It was because a great plume of plane-endangering volcanic ash was infiltrating our airspace, just at a time when news organisations were doing their best to provide audiences with nothing but wall-to-wall debate ‘preview’ pieces.

I was not glued to my television, but only because I don’t have one. Like a significant fraction of the population – a fraction dominated by young first-time voters like myself – I chose to watch the debate online. Unfortunately the quality of ITV’s live stream made it difficult to remain captivated for long. It’s one thing to engage with social media to encourage meaningful online discussion, but quite another to slap so many cursory widgets on the page that no-one is able to load anything.

I’m not a great case study for a first-time voter, merely because I am such a political geek that I watched all of the US presidential primary debates live online back in those days before anyone had heard of Sarah Palin. That does, however, make me something of an expert in pre-election debates.

Last month, following BBC Three’s First Time Voters’ Question Time, I suggested that the Leaders’ Debates were the kind of media spectacle needed to engage young voters in the political process. On that front, ITV failed spectacularly.

Alastair Stewart was a poor choice of moderator, too little known among the country’s young voters to really fire them up. The studio, along with David Cameron, looked like it would drag us back to the 1980s, and the directing suggested one of the cameramen was frequently having a kind of spasm.

Those visual things matter, superficial as they are, because they make the difference in the split second that someone decides to check out what’s happening rather than flicking over to a Friends re-run. That difference is particularly pronounced when you’re trying to engage those who’ve never had the opportunity to vote before; those who are registered in record low numbers and who might proudly attest to not being interested in politics because it’s boring.

Aside from the lack of glamour, the format was a failure. The questions selected for the debate were insipid, formulaic and, frankly, boring. David Cameron told ITN that he worried the debates would be “slow and sluggish”. Never one to fail to deliver on a promise, Cameron himself ensured the debate was both slow and sluggish by displaying almost no personality whatsoever. Gordon Brown performed much better than I expected, but Ipsos Mori’s ‘worm’ showed dial groups just don’t warm to what he’s saying.

It was Nick Clegg’s debate, and the snap polls seem to back that up. He came across largely as a normal human being – impassioned, but not in a fake politician-type way, and as someone whose own frustrations with the current political situation reflected those of the electorate. It is plausible that a significant number of voters who claimed previously to be “undecided” will now be telling the pollsters they’re climbing into the Lib Dem camp. But if the remaining debates are similar to the first, how many of those will be 18 to 25 year olds?

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April Fools’ Day: a round-up of media mischief

April 1st, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Multimedia, Newspapers, Online Journalism

The venerable old day of leg-pulling and pranking is upon us again, and British news institutions are doing their bit for the fun. Some better than others, it must be said. Here is a short round-up of some headline hilarity from the web.

The Guardian went big and bold with a mock-election campaign designed to show the rough and ready side of our beloved PM:

Brown aides had worried that his reputation for volatility might torpedo Labour’s hopes of re-election, but recent internal polls suggest that, on the contrary, stories of Brown’s testosterone-fuelled eruptions have been almost entirely responsible for a recent recovery in the party’s popularity.

While the traditionally rowdy readers of the Guardian were treated to this new bar-room-brawling Brown, the refined readers of the National Union of Journalist’s site woke up to the news that the bruiser and the posh boy, along with that other one Clegg, were all joining the NUJ executive council as part of a new “affinity programme”.

Through our new affinity scheme NUJ members will now be able to join the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties at a reduced rate. In fact, from now on they can also get membership of all three parties for the price of one, which we believe will appeal particularly to our members at the Guardian and elsewhere.

Harmony was prevailing elsewhere too on The Register’s site, with the equally unlikely news that highly improbable bedfellows Associated Newspapers and the Guardian Media Group would join forces to share a common editorial facility.

Using the latest technology, a single team will produce stories for both groups flagship titles, the Daily Mail and the Guardian, in a process that will be largely automated.

The Independent went with some highly unlikely technical advances to the Circle Line, claiming that London Underground was in talks with the boffins at CERN about using the 23km tunnel to house a new particle accelarator, similar to CERN’s Large Hardon Hadron Collider. Provided, of course, they can iron out the “geo-magnetic ‘kink’ in the circuitry at Edgware Road”.

It would mean that two beams of protons would be travelling in clockwise and counterclockwise directions at 99.999999 per cent of the speed of light, within feet of Circle line passengers stuck in perpetual immobility.

(Meanwhile the boffins were up to some riotous hilarity of their own over in Switzerland (in that charming science-humour sort of way…), declaring that high-energy collisions within the newly restarted LHC had unearthed a “paleoparticle”. In other words, “a hideous particle from the prehistory of the Universe”.)

Also on the science side, the Daily Mail, with news (and video) about the AA’s new rocketmen, able to fly out to the hard-shoulder at high velocity in your time of need. Unfortunately this corker has come down off the site already.

Rather than muck in with its own side-splitting falsity, BBC News ran with a bit of an also-ran in the form of a collection of true stories that really should be April Fools. Although, tucked away on the Radio 4 site is this deadpan gem about the possibility of William Shakespeare being half French, based on some pretty dubious analysis of his mother’s family tree:

It’s a lock of hair, it’s quite faded, which would mean it’s potentially a lock of hair from Mary Queen of Scots.

Lastly, as this is only just a taste of the press’ Herculean April Fools’ effort, the Telegraph, who claimed this morning that ferrets were to be used in the government’s plans to begin broadband to all:

The animals have been used by Virgin Media for over a year to help lay cables for its broadband service, the company has disclosed. The ferrets wear jackets fitted with a microchip which is able to analyse any breaks or damage in the underground network.

What the Telegraph’s story lacks ever so slightly in humour, it more than makes up for with this deftly mocked-up picture of a ferret on the job. Of laying cables, I mean.

Back to frowning at your desks until next year then folks.

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BBC taken to task by bloggers for treatment of National Bullying Helpline

February 22nd, 2010 | 5 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

The BBC is facing criticism online for its treatment of the National Bullying Headline (NBH) as a source in reports on allegations of staff bullying by Gordon Brown.

The story broke over the weekend in an excerpt of journalist Andrew Rawnsley’s new book published in the Observer and reports by the BBC and other news organisations have featured a spokeswoman, Christine Pratt, from the NBH, saying the charity helpline had received calls from staff in the PM’s office in recent years.

Questions over confidentiality breaches aside, several bloggers are challenging a lack of clarity in the BBC’s reports over the bullying charity’s credentials and potential political links to the Conservative party.

On Tory Troll, Adam Bienkov says that basic checks of the NBH website suggest links to the Conservatives – an endorsement from David Cameron and patronage by Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe amongst other potential ties. On Twitter @malcolmcoles and @jackofkent have also been detailing the story and looking into NBH.

[Pratt seems to be back-pedalling now in comments made in a Sky News interview, saying while she did receive an email referring to the PM's behaviour, she did not know if phonecalls to the helpline received from Gordon Brown's staff were complaints about Brown himself.]

BBC reports did contain a statement from NBH’s Pratt that the organisation was non-political and BBC political correspondent Nick Robinson has since blogged on the questions about the NBH’s claims, stating:

Colleagues checked the status of the charity and questioned Ms Pratt’s claims.

We can’t, of course, verify the truth of her allegations – merely report them and Downing Street’s response to them.

But is this enough when Pratt’s statements seem to have eclipsed Rawnsley’s original reports as a central source for the BBC’s story?

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Buscombe continued: ‘We have a dysfunctional democracy’

More from PCC chairman Baroness Peta Buscombe (last night’s speech in full here / report here) on this morning’s Radio 4 Today Programme. She argued that a free press plays an important role in scrutinising government policies, but would not be drawn on the Sun’s use of the Jacqui Janes / Gordon Brown tape.

Listen to Buscombe at this link: (07.56)

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