The other day I went to the “Policy Exchange”… This is one of the most effective think tanks in UK politics and other arenas too.
The discussion today was really about “HackGate”, what it means to the media industry, what rules exist regarding the press, and what if any, will be imposed in the future…
Now, the room was small, packed (albeit close to empty when I got there), there was food laid on and yet, no coffee :-(
London was forever bustling and this summer’s tourism was in full swing.
Now, the panel was made up of a (now) former political news editor of New of the World, an MP and former press sec to David Cameron, modern-day freedom and rights fighters and American – Heather Brooke, along with Joanne Cash (a media barrister), Mike Granatt – Former Head of the Government Information Service and former Director of Communications at the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office, all brought together by the Gabriel Milland former hack and now Head of Press at the Policy Exchange.
Now while most of the meeting is watchable below, there were some interesting Issues.
Firstly, the rules in the UK regarding the press are some of the tightest in the world… In many respects they’re too tight, basic information such as police incident and court reports are indeed almost impossible to obtain with any ease, which is surprising as they’re really generally considered news worthy and often in the public interest. But while this may well have been an aid to catalyze the present situation, little was said with regard to the laws that were/are broken to obtain sometimes the most basic of information.
This in no way excuses anything! But several things came to mind while watching, listening and observing…
In the regards of Phone tapping and hacking, especially regarding politicians and Royalty… aren’t the Security Service (aka MI5) supposed to keep an eye on things like that, as it is effectively, well……… espionage!!
Something Joanne Cash mentioned was the problem isn’t the rules – but the sheer lack of teeth to enforce and punish. But again, when you have police and others in the pay of the perpetrators this can’t be too easy.
The general talk was odd to me because there was an underlying belief that the Newspapers stood for something, and I simply believe they don’t!! They lost that mandate a while ago. There was a real feeling that the institution will last a thousand years, yet I felt like I was sitting in a room of people who were oblivious to their impending appointment to sign on at the local Job Centre as newly unemployed.
The newspapers in the UK, like many around the world, for the most part won’t exist in 10 years, not unless they slim down their staff considerably and opt for something we can’t get from the internet by then.
Even on the way home, I was standing at Oxford Circus watching a guy setting up a stand for the now free London Evening Standard… people were walking right by! And when I got to the tube station there were two guys almost pushing the newspapers into your hands… So here, right in front of me was the proof the newspaper is dying and doing so fast. I certainly wish I had thought to video it, but might at a later date anyway.
Nevertheless there was a good point made; “what is a journalist?” When is a blog a journal and so on…?
Now I went to this meeting because it was flashed up on Twitter. My thoughts were; if they change the rules, what does that mean for new media and more over – Me….
But the interesting thing was this lack of understanding that many simply get their news from the internet – like you…
I don’t own a TV, I don’t and don’t need to buy newspapers – I get it ALL from the internet, everything; news, entertainment, fun, laughs, organising work, meeting up with people and of course a little online shopping, smut and communicating with friends and around the world generally…
But what of freedoms? What of these so-called journalists? What of the rules? The lack of teeth?
Well I write this blog, I do not earn money from it, I have a fake listing on Who-Is and unless you know me, you don’t know who I am, where I live and you certainly don’t have my phone number…
I can and sometimes do say what I want, I don’t go out of my way to lie, and when I’m hard on people, I generally do it with very much a tongue in cheek. I also invite people to raise a complaint so I may rectify any issues – something modern media does NOT do…
Yet I’m free to write what I want, with a fair degree of impunity, I’m not chasing circulation or sales… Yet what of modern media?
The modern printed press mimic the televised entertainment interest, in doing so and in the desperate pursuit of readership they have for the most part sold their integrity down the line… A few don’t in the specialised sectors, but unless you do not own a TV, Radio or are on the internet – then the modern newspaper (once the cutting edge) is all you have. They simply provide gossip, TV listings, sport and games while at work. In fact, in this area alone they haven’t fully embraced the market “need and want” at all – yet they believe that uncovering the odd scandal justifies everything. But really – it’s just a fast cash return they want and need…
Some papers will survive 10 years, the FT, and humorous political journals and magazines… The rest will be for the web or TV (which will be web based completely soon). In the last few years, visual and net media has grown, thousands upon thousands work in all these fields alone and so any future of the printed press is all but over
As for phone hacking, well on a landline your phone is simply two small wires, intercept that anywhere and attached a £20 recorder and you’re away – oh and those wires are normally Blue/White and White/Blue as a general rule…
But it’s easy to work out what has gone on, they DO it, they haven’t ever been really caught, so they kept on doing it, more and more and I’m sure it probably still goes on because people wouldn’t expect it now. But they have been caught, and now they’re sorry…
This frankly does not cut it!! yet I can see how easy it can become the norm. People listen in on phone lines all the time, least of which are actual telephone engineers and of course in the UK – GCHQ (the UK equivalent to the NSA). Both of which can trace their beginnings back to Bletchley Park.
And as for which papers do and don’t do it – I doubt very few haven’t used information from these sources…
So the bottom is this:
The laws exist… simply enforce them!! We have specialist departments for dealing with this too.
As for police corruption – sorry, that’s totally inexcusable and the higher the rank of the taker… means that every man and woman in their charge effectively loses the mandate and authority to act – it’s THAT serious!! Because how do we know the bent copper hasn’t given out erroneous orders to the bobby on the beat?
The newspapers have had their day! New media is already several hundred times better and you get it a whole day before!!
The concept of the Press Pass has to be completely re-thought in light of the moving times and as such all main stream news will be TV/Web based.
As for people like me? I don’t need to tap or hack anyone – just learn better written English. I’m guessing I was the only former trucker, free blogger, telecommunication, IT and net design engineer, electrician, qualified bricklayer, trained soldier and unemployed person in the room.
The Discussion at the Policy Exchange (sound isn’t great)