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The Leveson Enquiry

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904650.  Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:42 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
The were rumblings that a lawsuit might be filed - but I can see no evidence that one actually was.

And even so, any information in such a suit would not be accessible for the government to slip to News Corp, anyway.

The decision to allow News Corp to buy up BSkyB was not a legal decision: it was a parliamentary one. For sure, interested parties were prepared to draw up legal arguments if it came to that, but a large collection of different media outlets petitioned the minister then involved on 11th October 2010. Since they stood to be affected by the ministerial decision, then I think they counted as "interested parties" that were involved in the process.

If the minister involved was giving information to News Corp and not sharing the same information with the group of interested parties who were opposed to the deal, then I think that shows clear bias.

Neotenic wrote:
Can people be 'accountable' for every interaction, every conversation they or their representatives have? Is this what matters? Or is it the actual outcome which is important?

I would say neither. Minsters should be accountable for the overall way that they handled the process, whether or not the desired out come came to pass. I don't think a single conversation should be grounds for dismissal, but an overall biased approach to what should've been an impartial decision absolutely should be.

904651.  Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:44 am Reply with quote

PDR wrote:
dr.bob wrote:
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Nor is absence of evidence proof of concealed presence. It is in fact a null indicator on what any evidence might support or refute.

All we can infer from the absence of evidence is that it proves...erm...the evidence isn't present.

Yeah, that's the big problem that ministers have: It's very hard to prove a negative.

That's part of the disappointment. Not only is it hard to prove something shady was going on, due to the careful nature of those involved, but it's hard for any innocent parties to prove their innocence, so nobody wins.

904655.  Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:00 am Reply with quote

barbados wrote:
"he cant instruct his officials to get back to Ofcom as he is not supposed to be aware we have received the letter and its content"

Obviously the timeline is published by a newspaper that objected to the takeover bid, so it's hardly objective, but it does paint a pretty damning picture of a minister siding with News Corp and disagreeing with the regulator, OfCom.

Doesn't sound too impartial to me.

A slight niggle with that statement.
Someone saying they cant intervene is about as impartial as you can get isn't it?

He's not saying he can't intervene because he needs to be impartial, he's saying he can't intervene because it would display how partial he's being.

No, that is not as impartial as you can get.

Besides, my comment about impartiality was aimed more at the "picture of a minister siding with News Corp and disagreeing with the regulator, OfCom."

Bear in mind, OfCom is a regulatory body set up by the government to provide a politically independent voice in cases such as these. When OfCom recommend a course of action, and the government decide that they're wrong, you've gotta ask yourself why the government are choosing to ignore the advice of the very people the government set up to make decisions about these kinds of things.

On the 23rd January 2011, Frederic Michel (the PR man hired by James Murdoch) sent a message to Matthew Anderson (James Murdoch's senior aide) saying:

He (Jeremy Hunt) still wants to stick to the following plan ... . Monday receive further details on the UIL ... . Tuesday publication of OFCOM report ... . announcement he has received UIL proposal and is looking into it ... . Then in 2 weeks time he announces ... . has received a very substantial UIL He predicts it should all be done by mid-Feb ... . His view is that once he announces publicly he has a strong UIL, it's almost game over for the opposition. He very specifically said he was keen to get to the same outcome and wanted JRM to understand he needs to build some political cover on the process ... . He said we would get there in the end and he shared our objectives

In this message, "the opposition" refers to OfCom. UIL means "Undertakings in Lieu" which refers to the plan to hive off Sky News to a separate company to avoid being referred to the monopolies commission after OfCom objected that the merger would give News Corp too much influence over the media in this country.

Indeed, later that same day, Michel sent this message to James Murdoch:

He (Jeremy Hunt again) will as he confirmed yesterday, go ahead Tuesday with publication of the OfCom report, our submission, and announce he is looking at UIL. He will not say he is minded to accept in the statement ... He is keen for me to work with his team on the statement ... . and offer some possible language.

So you have a minister that shares the objectives of News Corp, against the advice of the politically independent regulatory body and has requested that News Corp's PR man works with his team to help draw up an announcement about how he's dealing with the process.

Can anyone really claim that there's still no evidence that the process was unbiased?

905727.  Tue May 01, 2012 8:24 am Reply with quote

Oh dear.

Tom Watson has not exactly tried to conceal his contempt for Murdoch and News International, but I fear that, in the report from the Culture, Media And Sport Committee's inquiry into phone hacking he may well have gone a step too far.

This is the important paragraph, and its inclusion in the report was disputed - but the amendment was carried through 6-4.

On the basis of the facts and evidence before the Committee, we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.

Suggesting that an individual is 'not a fit person' to run a company is a particularly serious charge - and, indeed, one that is usually reserved for the most egregious breaches of regulation, or the law. I remain less than convinced that the 'facts and evidence before the Committee' are anywhere near enough justification for rolling out a phrase like this.

And, indeed, if we are going to be up in arms about Hunt supposedly 'cosying up' to the Murdochs - even if that cosiness doesn't appear to be very much more than an informal tone in emails between intermediaries - then doesn't an equal and opposite charge apply here?

Is it possible to have a fair, independent inquiry when a member of the Committee has a clear personal interest in the case, and whose opinions of the company under inquiry are very well known?

As this overblown claim gives people - not least the Murdochs - reason enough to dismiss the entire report, I can't help but think that this was definitely a case of emotions getting in the way of objectivity.

905738.  Tue May 01, 2012 9:16 am Reply with quote

I think using any excuse to dismiss most, if any part of the report simply because not all members agreed with it, will be a massive mistake for NewsCorp.

Personally, I think the conclusions speak for themselves in that either the person in charge was ignoring any wrong doings in his company (the term "don't ask, don't tell" has been used by some), or was complicit. Either way, this is not the MD of a small or medium company, this is the chairman of a publicly listed company, the level of responsibility is a whole lot greater and more answerable.

I note that not only has Mensch and her colleagues announced that all the Tory MPs on the panel voted in unison against parts of the report, but Philip Davies has gone even further by claiming "To me, very clearly, Rupert Murdoch is a fit and proper person to run a major company", which goes completely against the idea of claiming they can't vote on whether Murdoch is fit or not.

Either way, almost literally on the eve of local elections, this is a headache Cameron doesn't need because whatever the final impact of the report in the long term, the public perception at the moment will look like Tory MPs were defending Murdoch, and that will be a bit of a coup for the other parties (I expect Lib Dems to distance themselves from their partners over the next couple of days).

905739.  Tue May 01, 2012 9:17 am Reply with quote

Just as I wrote that, I see that Don Foster from the Lib Dems is urging Ofcom to produce their report now as well. That didn't take long :)

905872.  Wed May 02, 2012 4:26 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
Is it possible to have a fair, independent inquiry when a member of the Committee has a clear personal interest in the case, and whose opinions of the company under inquiry are very well known?

I thought that was the whole point of having a committee of 11 MPs from different backgrounds. If one of them has a clear bias against the Murdochs, then it won't have a major effect on the conclusions as a whole, just as if one of them was secretly being paid by the Murdochs to cast them in a good light.

Neotenic wrote:
As this overblown claim gives people - not least the Murdochs - reason enough to dismiss the entire report, I can't help but think that this was definitely a case of emotions getting in the way of objectivity.

Personally, I think it was probably quite a politically savvy move. Not only did it give the media a snappy, and very punchy, headline that they could run with, ensuring that it got some major, worldwide media coverage, but it also portrayed the Conservatives as defending the Murdochs. Now, it may well be that the Conservative MPs were right to stand up for Rupert on this point (I've not read through all the evidence myself), but it's pretty obvious that public opinion holds Rupert's reputation pretty low so, by forcing the Tory MPs to side with him, the public is being given the impression, on top of the Hunt affair, that the Tory party is in bed with today's bogeyman-du-jour.

Is this a fair thing to do? Certainly not. Neither is it objective. But I think it's far more likely to be a product of cynical politics than rampant emotions.

One interesting point is that Adrian Sanders, the only LibDem MP on the committee, sided with the Labour members. If he'd sided with his coalition partners, they would've had a much better platform to claim that Labour were just playing politics.

905880.  Wed May 02, 2012 5:08 am Reply with quote

Yeah, you're probably right, it is all quite depressingly cynical.

The 'global publicity' thing blatantly didn't work, as News Corp's stock price went up on the NYSE yesterday.

But it's the 'Tories siding with Murdoch' thing that I find most disheartening, simply because calling out Murdoch as 'unfit' is quite outside the remit of the committee.

Those that voted against that paragraph's inclusion were quite right to do so, irrespective of which colour rosette they happen to wear - and it is a genuine shame that the division was down party lines.

To me, it's like an MP demanding that a child killer should be given the death penalty, and then when their opponents point out that it isn't possible, accusing them of 'cosying up' to the murderer in question.

If the 'unfit' charge were to be levelled at anyone, then I can't help but think that they picked the wrong Murdoch. But, considering the Murdoch Jnr has all the charisma and cachet of a wet cucumber sandwich, I can see why they went with Snr - but it does rather expose the whole affair as the same kind of ham-fisted, blundering, petty point-scoring that should really have been left behind once Gordon had been prised out from under the desk at No 10.

905990.  Wed May 02, 2012 10:18 am Reply with quote

Neotenic wrote:
The 'global publicity' thing blatantly didn't work

Errr, I rather think it did. Do a Google search for "Rupert Murdoch" and you'll find well over 3,000 news articles from media all over the world talking about the Culture, Media And Sport Committee's report.

Neotenic wrote:
as News Corp's stock price went up on the NYSE yesterday.

Does that have anything to do with the record profits posted by BSkyB on the same day?

Even if not, I get the feeling that the CMS Committee report wasn't designed to damage News Corp as a company, but Rupert and James Murdoch individually. The whole point about the "not a fit person blah" sentence seems to be aimed at getting News Corp shareholders wondering about whether they should be getting themselves a new CEO.

906006.  Wed May 02, 2012 12:07 pm Reply with quote

The Murdoch family owns nearly 40% of the voting rights to News Corp - I really don't think an appeal to shareholders is going to bear much fruit.

I can't help but think the only phrase that is appropriate, when it comes to Rupert relinquishing his position in the company is 'from his cold, dead hand'.

906047.  Wed May 02, 2012 2:50 pm Reply with quote

That phrase always makes me think of Men in Black. To quote wiki
In the 1997 film Men in Black, Edgar, an upstate New York farmer, tells a recently-landed alien when asked to drop his rifle, "You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers." The alien responds, "Your proposal is acceptable." Edgar is then killed, and the alien uses his skin as a disguise.

906050.  Wed May 02, 2012 2:58 pm Reply with quote

Just browsing the headlines coming out this evening and I can't help thinking there's a bit of the old "let's bury the news" going on.

Currently there's a double whammy for the Government from the image of Tory MPs appearing to back Murdoch, and the fiasco that looks to be building within the Borders Agency, so it's timely that two pieces of information have been released to bury them.

First there's the leak of Danny Alexander's letter to George Osborne, which has "RESTRICTED" printed on every page, this suggests some 2,000 public sector workers may be using loopholes to avoid paying full tax, when in fact it's the number of contracted people over a certain amount of pay, which doesn't automatically mean they're not paying full tax, plus the fact that certain positions are only needed for a short period.

Then there's the story that bills are being delayed because of the Lords reforms, and we're being told this has put back discussions on higher education, the water industry, the electricity industry, aid spending levels and social care for the elderly and the disabled. We're meant to believe that Parliament now can't discuss these various legislations despite the fact that we did have some reform of the Lords a few years ago, at a time when too many legislations were being passed through Parliament (I recall this was one of the election campaign points being scored against Labour).

909706.  Wed May 16, 2012 5:24 am Reply with quote

I was quie amused when, on the news last night, Rebekah Brooks' husband accused the police ect of being on a witch hunt. I can't think of anyone in the scenario who looks anything like a witch....

...oh, hang on......

Spud McLaren
909707.  Wed May 16, 2012 5:39 am Reply with quote

djgordy wrote:
I can't think of anyone in the scenario who looks anything like a witch....

...oh, hang on......
...or who might have been on watch when a few other witch-hunts were being conducted.

...hang on, again...

Prof Wind Up Merchant
910027.  Fri May 18, 2012 5:00 am Reply with quote

Just out of interest has anyone here been victim of any form of hacking?


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