As an update to my previous post from this morning, the news has now broken that Sky Sports presenter and former footballer, Andy Gray has been sacked, because of new evidence of further unacceptable behaviour. This feels a little harsh and it will be interesting to see what will happen to his co-miscreant. Richard Keys, who by all accounts has made an apology to the referee’s assistant, Sian Massey. His fate is not yet declared as far as I can see.
There are 2 main issues here as far as I am concerned:-
1) When is a conversation private and when is it in the public domain?
2) Have Sky Sports acted against Mr Gray for any other reason than his outburst at the weekend?
The answer to 1) is pretty straight forward. In this world where news is 24/7 and there is a positive need to fill the channels, demand for ‘news’ has never been higher. Therefore even tittle tattle becomes news, not that Gray and Keys’s outburst is tittle tattle, far from it. They should not have said what they said, but no more is there such a thing as ‘privacy’. With mobile recording devices, telephones, cameras and cables into newsrooms, all vital tools to the journalist, now all packed into an iPhone or a Blackberry, everything you say or do can be recorded and transmitted almost in real time. Thus people in the public eye or positions of responsibility, and there are many of them, will either have to ‘clip’ everything they say, or simply become bland and opinionless. Do we really want people in the public eye to be briefed so tightly that nothing of any interest ever comes out of their mouths? Don’t answer that, plenty of the output from people in the public eye is utter nonsense and of no material interest, but you get where I am coming from. Or we enter a new and arguably more exciting time, one where no one cares what they say, political correctness goes out of the window and we become a society of the median and the extreme. Think Boris Johnson, who, whether you like him or not, really does not care what he says, or more accurately what his brief tells him. Boris tells it as it is, right or wrong and maybe, just maybe that will be a way forward, provided of course it is not too extreme, profane or offensive. Try defining that.
Question 2) is more difficult to answer. Indeed, we will never know if Andy Gray’s legal case against News International, the owner of The News of the World and the 39% owner of Sky Sports, over the phone hacking scandal has influenced the decision. But Rupert Murdoch has flown into town to have top level meetings with his senior lieutenants over the troubled bid to buy the remaining shares at BSkyB and deal with the phone hacking meltdown. You do have to wonder if Mr Murdoch has taken a personal interest in the small chinks that have been exposed in his empire, and Mr Gray is a ‘meaningful gesture’? We really will never know.
You could argue that a fully connected mobile devices, such as an iPhone and Blackberries, have done more to accelerate political correctness than any government enforced initiative or law ever has. There’s a thought and an unintended consequence, if ever I saw one.