I was recently asked to fill out a survey about my thoughts on how, in light of the phone hacking scandal, the media and the press should be regulated from now on.
Now, that is a touchy subject with most people, as there are so many factors to consider in this. So, I found myself on somewhat of a rant when answering. I edited some of the more Sun worthy statements, but the end result had much the same feel to it. (waddya know, my mum was right – sometimes there really is no need to swear!)
It is believed that over 4000 people may have been affected by phone hacking at the now defunct tabloid, the News of the World. Without a doubt the scandal was a profoundly intrusive experience for many people, the vast majority of them being of high profile or celebrity status. However, this does not excuse the fact that, in the midst of the star spangled bellyaching there were real victims.
A perfect example of this would be the hacking of murdered school girl Milly Dowler. The hacking the phone of a missing/murdered child is out of order, completely. It is something that should never, ever have been done.
The guilty reporters even hacked the phones of victims’ families.
Sara Payne became a campaigner for better child protection laws after her daughter, Sarah, was murdered when she was just an innocent eight year old. The NotW paid her an undisclosed sum.
Whilst the case of Madeleine McCann is still shrouded in mystery and, to this day, remains without conclusion, it was a media hotbed in 2007. Madeleine, three at the time, was taken from her Portuguese hotel room in 2007 while on holiday with her parents. Despite thousands of reports, spanning the world over, no sightings of her in the years since have been confirmed and the most important details of case are still unknown. No one knows who took her, where she is or even if she is still alive. The NotW stand accused of accessing the personal diary of Kate McCann, Madeleine’s mother, and publishing it without permission.
Surely, some morose bell must have rung the heads of those journalists. Some human instinct must have told them that what they were doing was just not right. To unduly increase the agony of the already tortured families of a lost child is perverse, and one must seriously question the morals and professional ethics of those reporters.
The question now is whetherUKmedia should be governed by an independent regulatory body or a government run one. This issue may be complicated with the imminent referendum for Scottish Independence, due in 2014.
Having an independent regulatory body would satisfy the need for freedom so that journalists can actually do their jobs but would also keep the rogues who would step out of line in check. Not all journalists are scum so they shouldn’t all be treated like criminals.
However, the Government should not use the NOTW as an example to let them step in and stop a story being reported just because it isn’t favourable to them. With a government run committee, free media would constantly be watching its’ back, leaving a danger of creating a new branch of reporter more willing to take risks and break new regulation – leading us inevitably right back into the situation we’re in. One disgraced tabloid down and a plethora of angered MPs, a handful of genuinely wronged victims of trauma, and a spattering of wounded pride and celeb drama to top it all off.
The phone hacking scandal has acted as a warning to other news outlets that misconduct will no longer be tolerated within the media. The NOTW has been made an example of and the whole thing has been a farce with all the celebrity attention. But, it has been used to show that no matter how long it takes, investigations will now take place into such accusations.
There is a definite case for more regulation, but as I have said, it’s a volatile issue. I do not want us to suffer a press shackled by a restriction on its freedom of speech, a quality this country has always fought passionately for, but to commit morally unjust acts such as to hack the phone of Milly Dowler, or someone similar, is unacceptable conduct given any circumstance.
If you want to know more deatils about who got paid what: