Saturday, July 23, 2011

Media Inquiry and Privacy

The actions in Britain involving News Corp, News International, its newspapers and journalists are mind-boggling in their alleged criminality. Phone hacking allegations already total in the thousands. Indeed, it has been reported that more than 4000 people have had their phones hacked to obtain private messages. Already several former editors have contradicted James Murdoch’s testimony to the British Parliamentary committee, and Rebekah Brooks, in her statement to News Of The World journalists said there were worse things to be revealed. Rupert Murdoch, in his testimony to the British Parliament, said that he could not know everything, and blamed those he trusted. He did not name them.

In Australia, The Greens have called for a Parliamentary Inquiry in to Australian media. the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has said that Murdoch’s News Ltd has some “hard questions to answer”.1 News Ltd Chairman and Chief Executive, John Hartigan, responded, saying that     
“The Prime Minister’s comments seek to draw a link between News Corporation operations in the UK and those here in Australia.
"The comments were unjustified and regrettable.
“There is absolutely no connection between events in the UK and our business in Australia
. ” 2
There is certainly an attempt by Mr Hartigan to distance himself from Rupert Murdoch’s British operations, but he does admit that he talks to (Rupert) Murdoch often.3  It has also been reported that Rupert Murdoch does travel to Britain to meet with his executives frequently. Those executives would have included his son James, Rebekah Brooks, and editors of his newspapers.
In Britain, the New Statesman has reported on the meetings of new British PM, David Cameron, and media editors and executives. It notes that Rupert Murdoch was the first media executive Cameron met, and that he met not one BBC (equivalent to our ABC) executive. 4
Meanwhile News Ltd and Fairfax media have indicated their opposition to proposed legislation to protect the privacy of individuals in Australia. As reported in The Australian 5, it has a heavy emphasis on News Ltd’s position/advice. (The Australian is a News Ltd / Murdoch-owned publisher) There are 3 references to News Ltd, 2 to Fairfax media and 1 to the ABC. Sandip Mukerjea, in the Sydney Morning Herald 5 gives a more balanced, but still opposing view.
John Hartigan: News Ltd does not want an inquiry Roger Corbett: Fairfax does not want an inquiry

So, are there hard questions for Australia’s media, including, but not limited to, News Ltd? Yes, and I believe it should encompass print, TV, radio, Internet, and social media used by media organisations.
Questions should include:
  1. To what extent does any media organisation make, or attempt to make, the news? That is, not just report news, but actively try to create it. For example, what role have media organisations and/or their employees and/or their associates played in organising protests. Anti carbon tax rallies and the Cronulla riots 8  spring to mind.
  2. What is the political agenda that drives the reporting of mainstream media?
  3. To what extent have media misrepresented facts to suit their political agenda?
  4. With which politicians, when, and how often have media executives, editors and/or staff met in the last 2 years, including social functions?
  5. Should ‘news’ stories based on a politician’s press release be labelled as such?  eg ‘the following story is based on (or is) a press release from XYZ Politician. It might, or might not contain accurate information’
  6. How do media organisations’ Codes of Conduct compare? What are their shortcomings?
  7. Which private investigators have been used by Australian media, and for which of their investigations?
  8. Since 2002, were any of Australia’s Privacy Principles 6 violated by either the media, their staff, their private detectives or other associates? The Media were issued with a press release from the Privacy Commissioner in 2001.
  9. Does Australia need to amend the Constitution to provide protected freedom of speech, and protected privacy?

In preparing this post, I looked at: