Murdoch, phone hacking and the media at the STUC

Murdoch, phone hacking and the media at the STUC

Alongside a major emphasis on economy and jobs in a time of crisis (the special session this morning was entitled 'A Better Way') media issues are among the concerns being tackled at the 115th STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) annual conference in Inverness, from 23-25 April 2012. I am a delegate of the National Union of Journalists here, and also doing updates on public sessions at the gathering.

At lunchtime today (1.00-2.00pm, La Scala Cinema in the Eden Court Theatre), campaigning MP Tom Watson spoke alongside Unite union General Secretary Len McCuskey (chairing) on 'Murdoch and the Phone Hacking Scandal'.

The MP is, of course, known for his delightfully forensic questioning of News Corp executives, including chief proprietor Rupert Murdoch, at the Parliamentary enquiry into the morass of murky dealing and under-hand activity brought to light by the Millie Dowler case.

Actually, Watson has been digging away at these issues for several years, and along with three Guardian journalists and others, is owed a debt of gratitude for putting the Murdoch empire, which controls 40 per cent of national newspapers and a chunk of BSkyB, into the public and political spotlight.

The issue, he said firmly, is not hacking. It is the operation of what he described as a "toxic" corporate entity, the web of bribery, scandal and intrigue involved, the need to hold politicians up to the light in their dealing with corporate interests, the issue of media reform, and above all the question of huge concentrations of UK media ownership in unaccountable hands and the need to move to a diverse, sustainable and workable economic basis for a free and democratic media.

These questions will arise again at the STUC this afternoon, when the NUJ's motion on the Future of the Scottish Media is debated. Inter alia, that recognises the impact of the digital revolution on all of us, including the expansion of new media and alternative news sources in an industry that was dominated by print, radio and television, and is now multi-agency and multi-platform.

There are deep ethical issues embedded in all this, and of course in the current Leveson enquiry. What kind of media we have, how it is owned and funded, how it works, what and who it is accountable to, how accessible it is, and what codes of conduct it upholds are matters that shape public discourse for better or worse. All of us have a responsibility in this, but especially those of us who earn our income (or lack of it!) in a media-driven environment.

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(c) Simon Barrow is the co-director of Ekklesia, and a member of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

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