We all have something to learn from this saga

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
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Of course, the news has been dominated by the News of The World phone hacking allegations.

It has been high drama. But behind the committee hearings and the revelations, there are important and fundamental questions of how we balance free speech, press responsibility and a proper relationship between the police and the media.

Information released by Number 10, shows that there have been 24 meetings in a year between the Prime Minister and News International executives. This shows the immense influence that the Murdoch organisations have been able to wield and influence is power.

At very least, the saga has shown there has been a massive intertwining between politicians and the media and also the police and the media. We all want the police to pursue wrongdoing and also allow people a fair trial but if the relationship between the media and the police gets too cosy then both are put in jeopardy.

People will remember the tragic murder of Jo Yeates in Bristol and that there was a great deal of adverse newspaper comment on her landlord, who was completely innocent. The Attorney General felt that some national newspapers overstepped the mark. This is something the papers involved deny and judgement is yet to be passed on the contempt trial. But it shows the serious problems that can arise if the media don’t act responsibly.

Vince Cable, who initially had responsibility for looking at the BSkyB bid by Murdoch, wrote recently: ‘Voices outside the Government told me that it would be unwise to tangle with such a powerful company… the bid could allow News International to become a dominant media company straddling UK Press, TV and other media advertising. I therefore used the powers I had to refer the bid to Ofcom, the media regulator. Had I not done so the takeover would now be a fait accompli and the balance of power would be very different.’ Now we must all – politicians, media and police alike – learn the lessons from this saga.