Monday, 30 January 2012

News Int Committee Will Break Up the Firm

SATURDAY’S desperate meltdown on the Sun was a crisis waiting to happen.
And as long as News International’s ill-fated Management and Standards Committee continues to exist, it will happen again and again. Until the balance tips and it is either forced to close or is sold off.
Either way, many in the industry now believe there won’t be a Murdoch owned Sun for much longer.
And with the collective losses of the Times and the Sunday Times running at £45 million to the year ending June 2010 and £87.7 million the year before, the likely outcome is that all three titles would be sold off as a more financially attractive package.
The formation of the committee was misguided from the start and is forcing News International to implode.
If you put any newspaper in the world under such microscopic scrutiny, you will find evidence of wrong-doing somewhere along the line or in its past which will be sufficient to embarrass it. Especially if it is then handed to its competitors and the police.
The committee certainly didn’t expect to virtually decapitate the management structure at the Sun.
But it should have done and was naïve to think it was going to be involved in a simple face washing exercise in public before announcing all was well.
A captain of industry once said to me that he believed most small to medium sized businesses go through a brief period of trading whilst insolvent at some time in their history.
And if the police and a team of accountants put each company’s financial history under the microscope, most financial directors would be locked up.
So it is with newspapers and the temptation to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in the desire to gather information in a highly competitive market.
In the high pressure environment of News International, men were tempted to go one step too far. Not many, but in sufficient numbers and levels of seniority to destabilise the company if it became public.
Again it was suicidal naivety for the Management and Standards Committee to ignore this as a possible outcome.
Add to their naivety a huge dose of over-zealous, careless analysis of the evidence and you get a Matt Nixson situation.
Fired by the committee for committing an ‘illegal’ act, a committee member then began a campaign to beg the police to arrest him. To no avail. The police weren’t remotely interested.
No law had been broken but Matt’s career has. Disgraceful.
I notice that the four men at the Sun who were arrested were questioned on suspicion of “aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office”.
This doesn’t sound like paying police officers to me which is covered under the 1906 Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Management and Standards Committee has been trawling through reporters’ expenses going back years.
One reporter was asked why he had been buying drinks for police officers.
The answer is to get a good crime story out of them, of course
Now if that’s “aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office”, then we might as well all pack up and retrain as astronauts.
The outcome of the police investigation into the Sun four will be critical not only for those journalists but also the careers and credibility of those on the committee.
When I was accused of hacking Gordon Taylor’s phone in 2009, I handed News of the World executives the evidence that it wasn’t me but others.
If they’d acted on that instead of sitting on it and clinging to the ‘rogue reporter’ defence, there would have been no continuous media outrage, no political pressure, no second police investigation, no arrests, no sackings, no News of the World closure, no Management and Standards Committee, no Leveson and the Sun would not be looking over the precipice.
News International’s chief fault has always been its inability to self-criticise, preferring to self-aggrandise.
That fault lay at the heart of the events of 2009. And it lies there still.
It will take until the moment they are switching off the lights at Wapping or handing the keys to someone else before they realise they have lost the trust of the readers and now the staff and are embarked on a Kamikaze mission which will end not only in their own destruction but that of thousands of loyal and talented staff who have done no wrong and deserve better from their employer.


  1. Anonymous30 January 2012 17:10

    "I notice that the four men at the Sun who were arrested were questioned on suspicion of “aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office”.
    This doesn’t sound like paying police officers to me which is covered under the 1906 Prevention of Corruption Act."

    Unfortunately not a lot of people noticed that they were questioned on a different thing. The last few days, most of the papers were reporting about "paying the police" allegations.

  2. Anonymous31 January 2012 10:50

    You surprise me Neville. I can see your point about the management hanging out some good journalists to dry, but surely you can see why the Management and Standards Committee is handing over any evidence of illegal activity to the police?! It has definitely got to the point that the cover up is far bigger than the original story, and to ignore any evidence now would surely just be delaying a disaster instead of preventing?

    I only hope everyone involved gets investigated and not just the front line workers whilst the executives hide pleading ignorance.

  3. Anonymous31 January 2012 11:21

    Already happened mate - was talking to a friend who is the editor of a regional and not only are drinks with coppers now banned but the morning call to CID for the half dozen overnight housebreaks has been axed. Reporters now have to wait for the Press Office to post the details on their public website. So, about a week later then....

    1. Neville Thurlbeck31 January 2012 21:31

      Thanks for posting this. Astonishing. Could you supply the name of the newspaper where this is happening?

    2. Reply
  4. Anonymous31 January 2012 11:57

    You set up an argument where you seek to excuse the law breaking at News International by saying that any newspaper will have done something embarrassing in its past if you look closely enough. These are weasel words which do not even come close to acknowledging the wholesale adbication of morals by you and your colleagues over many many years. Loving the implosion...

    1. Neville Thurlbeck31 January 2012 12:20

      Take a look at my other blogs and my TV interview with Channel 4 News (still on-line I believe) and you will see I have made many acknowledgments about press standards. And I don't make my comments under a cloak of anonymity either.

    2. Anonymous31 January 2012 13:19

      Yes, just seen the Channel 4 interview and I am reading your blog with interest. I still maintain that the comments you make in this particular blog are only possible when looking through your own personal rose tinted spectacles. Normally, I'd be happy to give my details when commenting online, but in this instance, I don't trust you not to put your people on to me.

    3. Neville Thurlbeck31 January 2012 18:43

      Blimey! You make me sound like that chap with half a finger missing in The 39 Steps who got his henchmen to kidnap Robert Donat! I must grow a moustache at once and start twirling it.

    4. Anonymous31 January 2012 21:04

      Ha ha... nice reply. & fair play to you for posting it up, I wasn't sure if you would. I do respect you for the various concessions you have made about the behaviour that went on at NoTW and elsewhere. I believe you were a pawn in the game but also instrumental in propogating it. Ah well, good luck with everything, you might need it. Cheers.

    5. Reply
  5. Miranda31 January 2012 18:46

    The trouble with your "acknowledgements about press standards" is that you don't seem to think the same standards should apply to newspapers as the ones demanded by the Fourth Estate of other powerful people/institutions.

    If, for eg, you were assigned to investigate alleged misconduct among a bunch of Labour MPs, would you seriously tell your editor, "Sorry, boss, no can do. Place ANYBODY under microscopic scrutiny and you will find evidence of wrong-doing somewhere along the line. I don't think it's fair to embarrass them in this way - especially if the evidence I unearth is handed over to Tory MPs or the police..."?

    1. Anonymous1 February 2012 00:43

      And therein lies the entire problem with journalists and the news media industry. Hypocrisy. They are more than happy to use the fallibilities of their targets to undermine them and sell more papers, yet when the same spotlight is focussed on them then suddenly its all so unfair. Pathetic.

    2. Reply
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