The BBC are obviously smarting from the growing number of allegations that they have covered the phone hacking scandal so much that crucial issues like the increasingly likely collapse of the Euro have been neglected.
Of course many of those allegations are made by people who are themselves uncomfortable politically with the embarrassment being caused by the hacking issue, and of course the phone hacking scandal is absolutely rightly big news. However, if the Euro was to fall over next week with catastrophic economic consequences I suspect much of the public would be wondering how it all happened so suddenly, when in reality this crisis has been brewing for months and years.
The BBC’s Foreign Editor Jon Williams (who is, by the way, well worth following if you’re on Twitter) just said:
It may be an exaggeration to say that other stories have been excluded entirely, but if you look at the evidence it’s pretty clear they’ve been eclipsed by the hacking coverage. Here are the results of searching the BBC News site for references to “hacking”, “euro” and “libya” over the last week:
Libya: 23 mentions
Euro: 32 mentions
Hacking: 246 mentions
As I say, hacking is a huge story and it does deserve large amounts of attention – but it’s hard to claim the BBC hasn’t taken its eye off other major issues while it’s been going on.
Unlike others I don’t necessarily think that’s solely because the BBC is threatened by Murdoch; it’s also because hacking is a media-village story taking place within the world most journalists inhabit. However the BBC in particular has a Charter responsibility to consider the public interest. That isn’t served by neglecting to cover the Euro crisis properly.
An interesting bit of background has arisen with today’s announcement of the inquiry into phone hacking. It’s to be led by Lord Justice Sir Brian Leveson, one of the most senior lawyers in the land and unquestionably someone with a huge bank of knowledge and experience to draw on.
Within his long and prominent career, it seems, is a previous brush with a powerful media mogul. According to this archived article from 1997:
Sir Brian has also been involved in serious complex civil cases including acting for Milford Haven Port Authority following the running aground of the Sea Princess and in hearings connected with the Robert Maxwell scandal.
I can’t find any transcripts from the hearings of the time as yet. It may be that his experience is one of the reasons for his appointment, or it may be that it’s totally irrelevant, but it would be interesting to know what his views on media owners were at the time.
While all eyes have been on the News of the World, the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis has deepened severely over the last few days. Italy’s stock market has taken a hammering, Chinese ratings agencies are warning of a potential credit downgrade, and a new corruption scandal has emerged which may potentially threaten the Finance Minister’s position at a crucial time.
EU President Herman van Rompuy has called an emergency meeting to discuss how to prevent the contagion worsening.
The problem the EU is discovering is that no matter how many times you say things are fine, you can’t buck the basic reality of the markets. If you don’t have the cash, then eventually you’re bound to come unstuck.
It’s remarkable that this story isn’t getting more attention in the UK. If you doubt that it’s a big one, try this quote from the embattled Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti for size:
If I fall, then Italy falls. If Italy falls, then so falls the euro. It is a chain.
Can it get much bigger than that?
The hatred between the Guardian and the Murdochs is a thing of legend, but I hadn’t realised until today quite how far back it goes. Via the ever-excellent Willard Foxton, I came across an intriguing article which incidentally sheds a bit of light on the history of the titanic struggle between the two.
The piece recounts the story of how Rupert Murdoch’s father Keith Murdoch, sent as a war correspondent to cover the disastrous Gallipoli campaign against Turkey in 1915, attempted to expose the military failings which were feeding thousands of British, Australian and Kiwi soldiers into a meatgrinder in the Dardanelles. His and other journalists’ reports were heavily censored by the military authorities on the ground, and eventually Murdoch decided to smuggle a letter to Prime Minister Asquith to bring the mess to light.
(It’s worth noting at this point that the normally excellent Willard Foxton referenced this story on the Huffington Post as an instance of the Murdochs “doing damage to the allied cause in WW1″, whereas I’d personally view it as an example of a journalist doing what they should – investigate and expose serious issues in the public interest, but we’ll have to agree to disagree on that.)
The bit that caught my eye was what happened to Murdoch while he was trying to smuggle the letter back to Britain:
He got as far as Marseilles, but there was detained by a British officer with an escort and warned that he would be kept in custody until he handed over the letter. He had been betrayed…by H. W. Nevinson, the correspondent for the Guardian.
And 96 years later, here we are again, watching the Guardian and a Murdoch kick lumps out of each other. I can’t imagine after this week’s events that there’s any chance that peace will be declared in the next 96 years, either.