My post #24 talked about the impending implosion within the mainstream media, which was not neccessarily that life threatening all be it still pretty serious. In the fast moving world of the dark arts, our liberty seemingly is actually never respected. The story of the phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch owned ‘News of the World’ has been well covered, admittedly after a very slow start. Unsurprisingly, there has been little or no coverage in the News International owned papers including The Sun, The Times and obviously the News of the World. The vanguard was led by The Guardian and Channel 4, alhough the BBC has now fully got behind the investigation.
To recap briefly on the scandal. A national newspaper, The News of the World has been accused of sanctioning wide spread phone hacking (of people in the public eye) and specifically Andy Coulson, former editor of the paper and latterly communications director at No 10 Downing Street, accused of knowingly allowing this disgusting practice to carry on regardless. Add to this the Metropolitan Police and the Press Complaints Commission’s credibility being seriously called to question and you have a right old caper. And not a very funny one. When Andy Coulson resigned a couple of Friday’s back there was little media coverage, which has now called into question whether the phone hacking was restricted to the News of the World or actually whether it was and is rife throughout ‘Fleet Street’?
It is good to see the debate now in full flow and I for one hope that the practice of phone hacking is outlawed and ended. Indeed this scandal could strike deep into the heart of the 4th Estate and question the power exerted in Britain by a foreigner living abroad. The influence of Rupert Murdoch may now be coming under increasing scrutiny and time will tell if the power of the newspapers, not just his, until now peerless and beyond reproach, is beginning to be questioned at long last. Ultimately, the truth will out.
As our means of collecting and accessing information becomes faster and more comprehensive and the role of the traditional media becomes both questioned and strained, so the dynamics within the media challenge their very existence and importance. We begin to see a backlash by the media against the media, especially in Britain where it is a national habit to ‘build ’em up and knock ’em down’. Sometimes the backlash is serious, at other times somewhat more facile. The increasingly open nature of debate means we are seeing the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ becoming more prevalent , which can be a very good thing and sometimes a little more dangerous. This is nothing new, when people are put down, their natural instinct is to rise up. Think 1789 Paris for example. But the crowd is not always right. A couple of weeks back, two prominent presenters on Sky TV lost their jobs, one voluntarily and one without any choice. The ‘crowd’ was right to pronounce their abhorrence and the broadcaster took neccessary action.
But another broadcaster decided not to take action when 3 of their star presenters made racist and insulting comments about Mexicans on their Sunday evening episode of ‘Top Gear’. I did not see the episode, I gave up with Top Gear at the end of the last series, as it seemed to become far too cliched and actually quite boring, like many of these ‘familiar family favourites’ ultimately become. But I have since seen the clips on YouTube and on the national news since, and it confirmed one thing that Top Gear is actually quite smug, full of itself and ultimately actually boring. The presenters are talented enough, but seeem to believe that they can do what they want, when they want and say what they want about whoever they want. In short they have believed in their own publicity and that is always a sad thing to witness. I am actually not really that bothered what these boys say, my main issue is one of consistency. If they had directed their ‘humour’ at women would there have been the same mute approach from our national broadcaster or indeed the ‘crowd’ in general?
Indeed, is it a decision or lack of it, dictated to by sheer commercial principle? Sky could afford to dispose of Messrs Gray and Keys, both reported to be on salaries of £1.3M per annum, as there are many more who could fill their football boots. But could the BBC afford to dispense wholesale with the Top Gear triumvirate ? This series generates a massive amount of cash for BBC Worldwide and removing the holy trinity of Clarkson, Hammond and May would leave a massive hole in their P&L. I actually would not want to see anyone lose their job, but maybe the BBC should have a word in their shell like. Given the Russell Brand/Jonathan Ross episode, there is some track record here. If nothing else, it will give those who write Top Gear a kick up the arse of those Marlboro style cowboy booted, denimed clad legged presenters. Indeed Mr Clarkson stated that ‘it is impossible to be funny without offending someone’. I am not sure I completely agree with that. Mind you, it may just make the show get back to its roots and bcome more interesting and less predictable.
Dear BBC – please restore our faith in your ability to make genuinely funny programmes. We can but hope