Dial M For Murdoch – Reviewed

Dial M for MurdochDial M for Murdoch by Tom Watson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A detailed look at the phone hacking scandal that erupted into the public eye in the early 2010s. In essence, all Murdoch cares about is maximising sales and furthering his right-wing nutjob agenda. And he’ll achieve that by any means necessary. This lead to journalists blagging information from authorities, hacking phones and computers, either directly or indirectly, for more salacious stories. There was an unhealthy relationship with the police, paying them for information and also a revolving door where retirees would work for News International. The police were scared of ramifications of investigating News international properly. When victims started suing for damages, they got paid off and were made to sign NDAs. Management must have known what these huge payments were for. In fact, former employees say that, hacking was encouraged and endemic. At best management had wilful blindness, at worst they’re liars.

It’s funny how News International said they were sorry. Yeah, sorry you got caught. They obstructed the investigation at every turn, lied to select committees and destroyed evidence. It is highly alarming examining the level of contact between the Conservative Party and News International. It was long known that Cameron was in Murdoch’s pocket, going on horse rides with Rebekah Brooks (though it later transpired that Blair went to the christening of Murdoch’s grandson and became his godfather). The Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, exchanged thousands of messages with a go-between (and even James Murdoch) at News International, giving him inside knowledge of how the BSkyB takeover bid was progressing and how to adjust the strategy when it hit roadblocks. Incredibly, Hunt was cleared of wrongdoing by the PM and actually promoted. Boris Johnson was also impotent in his response to the scandal.

The book is a treasure trove of facts, like police operation names are chosen at random. The reason the Murdoch press bashes the BBC is to strengthen their dominance of the media, specifically their bid for Sky. Why does something as benign as the Human Rights Act get lambasted by Fleet Street? I used to be flabbergasted by this, now I understand that the act gives devious press barons more legal exposure on the garbage they write about people, because of the right to privacy. Murdoch switched support from Labour to the Tories because Gordon Brown could not give assurances that he would deregulate the press further, after the election.

The book ends somewhat optimistically in that, now that the crimes have been brought to light, things will change. However, the authors acknowledge themselves, that Murdoch is still at the helm. Seven years on not much seems to have changed. Rebekah Brooks was never convicted and is now CEO of News UK the rebranded News International for one. As Private Eye have advocated, there needs to be a Leveson Inquiry Part Two, where rather than getting the press to agree to a voluntary code of practice, fines and jail time should be enforced in law against impropriety. The world will be a better place when this cancer on society is eliminated.

Plaid Cymru MP Adam Price claimed that the committee’s members had been warned that if they had called Brooks [before the committee], their private lives would be raked over.

Boris Johnson [..] had been warned by the Met’s inquiry in 2006 that he had been hacked by Glenn Mulcaire, but he had not sued then or later; and though he was chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority (which oversaw London’s police force) he had also failed to do anything in July 2009 on publication of the Gordon Taylor story. Johnson knew he might need the full-blooded support of News International at the mayoral election in May 2012 or if he was to fulfil his long-held ambition to become Prime Minister.

As they raced to contact other victims of crimes, Scotland Yard had informed Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son died in the 7/7 bombings in July 2005, of evidence that his phone had been hacked.

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