In case you missed it earlier, here’s the video clip of an attempted foam pie-ing of Rupert Murdoch during today’s culture, media and sport select committee at the House of Commons. The real star is Murdoch’s wife Wendi Deng whose lightning reaction ensured the assailant ended up with most of the foam on his own face.
An MP urged the government to set aside time for a Commons debate on gagging orders today, suggesting there are rumours circulating that another member of Parliament has taken out a super-injunction to prevent discussion of their activities, Jon Slattery reports in this blog post.
The allegation was made in the Commons as MPs discussed future Parliamentary business – including whether to debate judge-made privacy laws and gagging orders.
Conservative MP for Hendon, Matthew Offord reportedly said:
“Is the Leader of the House aware of the anomaly this creates if, as has been rumoured, a member of this place seeks a super-injunction to prevent discussion of their activities?”
Leader of the House Sir George Young was said to reply that it was “a very important issue about how we balance on the one hand an individual’s right to privacy and, on the other hand, the freedom of expression and transparency”.
He said the government would wait for the report from Lord Neuberger’s special committee on the issue, before deciding the next step.
“It may then be appropriate for the House to have a debate on this important issue,” he added.
The Independent reports that Labour MP Chris Bryant has secured a Commons debate on the ongoing phone-hacking case. The paper says that Bryant will make further allegations during the debate, which will take place on Thursday.
Mr Bryant has secured a 30-minute Commons debate on Thursday which will include a formal government response. He said: “It has become apparent that the extent of phone hacking is greater than either News Corporation or the News of the World have admitted to. Indeed, it would seem it was far more substantial than that found by the original investigation that the Metropolitan Police could be bothered to mount.” The Rhondda MP said “enormous issues” had been raised by the scandal, which led to the jailing in 2007 of the private detective Glenn Mulcaire and NOTW’s royal editor Clive Goodman.
MP Tom Watson has speculated that his question in the House of Commons last Thursday, like many other phone hacking concerns, will receive scant attention by the press.
Linking to an Independent on Sunday report, he tweeted: “yet another phone hacking story that won’t be reported anywhere else”.
And Google News shows us Watson is right so far – only the IoS appears to have picked up the solicitor general’s response to his question about the investigation of the News of the World phone hacking case.
Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Will my hon. and learned Friend satisfy herself that the Crown Prosecution Service has not successfully prosecuted cases on the basis of police files that were compiled using evidence illegally obtained by News of the World phone hacking?
The Solicitor-General: Yes – I am not sure that any connection has been made, but I am very well aware of the issue, and it is an issue well raised.
Further to that, the Independent on Sunday reports:
Whitehall sources said that there would not, at this stage, be a full-blown investigation into any concerns, but that the issue would be examined. A more detailed investigation would take place if substantial evidence was put forward, sources said.
According to the paper: “a spokesman for the Met said it would not be commenting on the parliamentary exchange. A News International spokesman declined to comment.”
The House of Commons culture, media and sport committee will hear evidence from Matt Brittin, managing director, Google UK and Paul Bradshaw, lecturer in journalism, Birmingham City University this morning (scheduled for 10.30am but there was a problem with the live feed, which is now working). Caroline Beavon (@carolinebeavon) is liveblogging for the Online Journalism Blog.
As reported by the Guardian, a report published today by the House of Commons culture select committee criticises the ‘arrogance’ of the BBC Trust and the BBC for brushing off MPs’ concerns over the expansion of the BBC’s commercial activities, particularly BBC Worldwide’s acquisition of Lonely Planet. In the report’s conclusions the committee stated:
“The purchase of Lonely Planet remains the most egregious example of the nature of BBC Worldwide’s expansion into areas where the BBC has no, or very limited existing interests. Had the BBC Trust been a more responsible oversight body, it would have given more serious consideration to the likely impact on the commercial sector. We can only speculate as to why it did not.
“Our report demonstrated that, in terms of public disclosure of the financial details of the Lonely Planet purchase, the BBC was certainly not as transparent as it claimed to us to have been. The BBC’s arrogance demonstrated in much that it presented in its case to us in this respect, and in the way that it ignored this aspect in its response, is self-defeating in terms of the preservation of its public reputation.”
The criticisms follow culture minister Ben Bradshaw’s comments at last week’s Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge: he said there could be a case for a ’smaller licence fee’ and also suggested that the BBC Trust model is not ‘sustainable’.
In response to today’s report, the BBC Trust said it had been carrying out its own review of the BBC’s commercial services, the completion of which has been delayed ‘until there is greater clarity around the Digital Britain report’. The Trust announced changes to BBC Worldwide’s governance which were reported to the committee last week, it said. “These changes addressed a number of the issues to which the committee’s latest report refers,” it claimed.
Three high-profile political figures mired in controversy, two thrown out of their jobs, one suffering a humiliating demotion – all thanks to internet activists of differing political hues from green to darkest blue.
But was it really the web wot done it? I’m not so sure.
Or at least I don’t think the web could have done it without the traditional media, television news and newspapers in particular.
Clearly this is at odds with Guido’s reading of the situation.
Writing on his blog this morning yesterday Paul Staines (for it is he) asks who forced Alan Duncan from his role as shadow leader of the House of Commons.
Not Tory leader David Cameron, that’s for sure. Rather it was the unlikely pairing of Tim Montgomerie and Heydon Prowse, ‘the blogosphere’s shepherd of the Tory grassroots and the angry young man with a video-cam’.
Of Prowse, who filmed Duncan on the terrace talking of ‘rations’ in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal, Guido notes:
“Heydon Prowse, who is he? He just destroyed the career of a greasy pole climbing Westminster slitherer. No house-trained political nous, no insight, in fact a little naive. He still did it.”
And Guido is in no doubt what this means in the wider context:
“The news is now disintermediated.”
The same applies, apparently, to the sacking of Damian McBride and Derek Draper, both prime ministerial advisors in their time. McBride and Draper were outed for their parts in a plot to use a pseudo-activist blog to spread rumours about various high-profile Tories.
The emails incriminating the two men found their way to Guido/Staines, and were in turn picked up by the media.
(Ironically, the site was meant to be the left’s answer to right-wing blogosphere attack-dogs, Guido among them.)
This week saw the story take another twist. Would-be smear victim Nadine Dorries MP carried out a threat to sue Draper and McBride and enlisted the help of Guido and fellow blogger Tory Bear to be servers of writs.
No one is doubting the origin of both stories, nor the journalistic craft in exposing the men at the heart of them. But it took the mainstream media to push these events into the public consciousness, into the mainstream.
And it took the attentions of the mainstream media to effect the sackings and demotion.
On the day it broke, the Duncan story led the BBC 10 o’clock News and featured prominently on other channels. In the ensuing 48 hours it spawned dozens of national press stories – the Daily Star went for ‘Dumb and Duncan’, The Mirror for ‘Duncan Donut’, others were more po-faced – as well as leader comments, opinion pieces and letters.
The coverage continued into the weekend and despite Duncan’s very swift apology and Cameron’s initial willingness to draw a line under events (“Alan made a bad mistake. He has acknowledged that, he has apologised and withdrawn the remarks.”) the drip, drip of media focus eventually forced the Tory leader to act.
It was a similar pattern with Smeargate.
Would PM Gordon Brown and Cameron have acted if these had remained just web stories? Not in 2009.
Is the news disintermediated? Not yet. Instead we have a symbiotic – if dysfunctional – relationship between the blogosphere and the traditional media.
The latter fears and dismisses the former in equal measure, but increasingly relies on it to take the temperature of various constituent parts of society and, yes, to source stories. Guido is such a good conduit through which to leak precisely because the media reads him.
The former, meanwhile, is disparaging about the latter (sometimes for good reason) but nonetheless needs it to vindicate its journalistic endeavours.
A final twist to the Alan Duncan story. Heydon Prowse offered Guido first refusal on his secret video recording back in June. Guido turned it down. “D’oh!” he later wrote in a confessional blog post.
Guido always has the good grace to admit when he’s goofed, as he did earlier this year over James Purnell’s fictitious leadership bid.
Will he accept with equally good grace that the mainstream media were a vital ingredient in the sackings and demotion of McBride, Draper and Duncan?
Journalism.co.uk will be reporting today’s culture, media and sport select committee meeting at this post, using CoverItLive. We’ll also send out occasional updates via our event Twitter account, @journalism_live.
Background: following reports by the Guardian newspaper that there were further allegations and evidence, previously unreported, indicating that News International journalists had repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories, the House of Commons culture select committee has begun taking new evidence. Last week it heard evidence from Nick Davies, the Guardian journalist who reported the allegations, Alan Rusbridger, editor in chief of Guardian News & Media and Tim Toulmin, director of the Press Complaints Commission.
Today the committee will hear evidence from Andy Coulson, former News of the World editor (and currently director of communications for the Conservative Party), and Stuart Kuttner, former NOTW managing editor.
The re-opened inquiry into press, standards privacy and libel by the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee will hear evidence from former News of the World editor Andy Coulson and Stuart Kuttner, former Managing Editor, News of the World.
Kick off is 10:30am (BST) – and you should be able to watch a live video stream on the parliament website.
Coulson’s involvement in the recent phone hacking allegations will be top of the bill – in particular to whether he did, or did not, know the extent of the activities at the paper.
Last week the committee heard from Nick Davies, the journalist behind the reports, and Press Complaints Commission (PCC) director Tim Toulmin, who said that while the ‘buck stops’ with the editor, Coulson has since resigned from this post.
Paul Farrelly, member of the House of Commons culture, media and sport select committee, says the committee had to react quickly to the Guardian’s revelations about alleged phone hacking by the News of the World – but acknowledges that ‘the Guardian story has a long pedigree’.
Farrelly adds that the committee will be pursuing the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) further over its phone hacking investigations to date.