Monday, 11 July 2011

The world about us

Without looking back to check that I'm correct (and I am probably not) I would say that I have not made more than passing mention to what are generally known as current affairs for quite a time. I have been indulging in navel gazing and egocentric trips to an embarrassing extent so today I will make an effort to look wide.

Now, let me think. There has been coverage in our news media of a certain royal visit. William and Kate - sorry, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - seem to have been wowing the Canadians on their first official overseas tour and have gone down pretty well in Los Angeles as well.

(Now that's a surprise. Blogger was telling me that it doesn't recognise the words "Los" or "Angeles". No - wait a minute - it's changed its mind and does recognise them.)

Sorry about that.

The big story, though, has been the phone hacking scandal. It seems that reporters and private detectives employed by the Sunday newspaper The News of the World have been hacking in to mobile phones belonging to all sorts of people. This - the story - is something that has been growing and growing over years rather than days or months. Coincidentally, it all started off with Prince William, or a story about him published in the said red top tabloid. As no information about the knee operation the story was about had been released to anybody, Palace officials were concerned to learn how the newspaper's royal correspondent had come by the story. It transpired that the only way was if he had been privy to the Prince's voicemail and a couple of recorded messages. Eventually the royal correspondent and a private detective were jailed. The Metropolitan Police decided there was no need for further investigations (I think I've got that right) but it transpired that a number of celebrities phone's had been hacked into by the paper. Sienna Miller was the first celeb to accept a cash payment from the paper - £100,000 - which announced it had set aside a cool couple of million to pay off the celebs concerned. Gradually, more names came out and, eventually, it has emerged that the paper was hacking into the phones of relatives of troops killed in Afghanistan, the mobile phone of a missing (later discovered murdered) teenager - even deleting stored messages on her phone to make room for more!

During the period covered by the hacking - and we are talking years - the paper had two editors, both of whom claim not to have been aware of the illegal activity. One of those editors is still employed by one of the companies in the group in a senior position. The other resigned because of the hacking before the full extent of it had become known, and was employed by the Prime Minister as an adviser, a job from which he has also resigned.

The newspaper is one of those owned by Rupert Murdoch's companies, the other titles being the Times, the Sunday Times and the Sun. Murdoch also owns 39% of Britain's main satellite television broadcaster, B Sky B, and is anxious to buy the remaining 61%. Permission for him to do that is needed from the Government who have to be satisfied that the company will be owned by people who are considered suitable to own such a business.

Last week, Murdoch announced that yesterday's edition of the News of the World would be the last and that he was closing the paper. So ended abruptly the 168-year publication of the country's biggest selling paper with a circulation of 7.5 million, putting all the employees out of work. It has been suggested that this was a cynical move by a ruthless businessman who was planning to close the paper anyway as he wanted to change the Sun into a 7-day operation and/or he hoped that this action would show him in a good light when it comes to a takeover of BSkyB.

One wonders how long Rebekah Brooks (the other past editor) will manage to hold onto her highly-paid job with Murdoch or if she will be sacrificed along with the paper. Or does she have some sort of a hold over her boss? Now don't get me wrong - I'm not suggesting she does, simply raising the point and asking the question. Nor would I dream of suggesting what that hold might be if indeed she were to have one.

It seems this matter will be filling many column inches for some days to come.

And why has Blogger managed to lose my followers?

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