Friday 8 July 2011

Phone hacking and morality

This week has been dominated by the news of ‘phone hacking on an industrial scale by the News of the World.  Each day this week has brought another revelation of the scope of this and the number of people who have been targeted. 

We learnt yesterday that the News of The World will be closed.  The paper’s position was increasingly untenable; because of concerted campaigns waged using social media it was haemorrhaging advertisers and many readers were planning a boycott.

The paper’s parent company, News Corps is proposing to take over BSkyB which would give it, with its strong newspaper portfolio, a dominant position in the UK media.  Until the beginning of this week it looked like the Culture Secretary was likely to accept this deal but somewhere in the region of 200,000 people have contacted him to protest, pushing any further decision back until September.

Public support has also pushed politicians to start speaking out.  This is something of a watershed moment as politicians have long been loath to attack the Murdoch empire which is seen to have the power to make or break governments.  At an emergency debate in Parliament phrases such as ‘we've fallen for threats’, ‘we've colluded for too long’ and ‘we were not courageous enough’ were used. 

These public outpourings illustrate the considerable power that we as individuals hold if we work together.  If we don’t speak out our silence condones the status quo which is why individuals making their views known is so important.

However, perhaps we should not be so surprised by this week’s revelations.  We have long held that the media we consume affects our behaviour.   Perhaps the absence of morality in sourcing stories is the logical outcome of abdicating moral responsibility for that which is put out.