During the phone hacking scandal that erupted in the summer of 2011, prompting Rupert and James Murdoch to close the News of the World and abandon their bid for the remaining shares of BSkyB, it rapidly became apparent that the political ramifications were more to do with over-concentrated ownership than press regulation. Owning then nearly 40% of the press, and on the verge of taking over Britain’s biggest broadcaster in terms of revenues, Rupert Murdoch was more powerful in media terms than Berlusconi (and the Italian media mogul is at least a citizen of the country he dominates). It was a glaring example of market failure and what Adam Smith calls the ‘special problem’ of monopoly. Continue reading
Yesterday, the CPS announced it has dropped three cases and is re-investigating another 25 after a BBC Panorama documentary detailed the potentially questionable ways one of News UK’s most senior and prolific reporters, Mazher Mahmood, obtained his stories using his famous Fake Sheikh identity.
The night before, at the second Leveson memorial lecture delivered by Tom Watson, the BBC reporter John Sweeney, who presented the Panorama documentary, revealed that the current Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, intervened not once but twice to try to get his Fake Sheikh documentary stopped.
This is unprecedented. Normally, the Attorney General can only intervene when charges have been brought and the Contempt of Court Act locks in.
The first question therefore is: who put pressure on the Attorney General to intervene in a BBC documentary, which was delayed twice under legal pressures? Was it the CPS? The Police? Mahmood’s lawyers at Kingsley Napley? Or News UK? Or a combination of those above?
With Monday’s BBC1 Panorama documentary set to shed new light into the activities of News of the World‘s most famous reporter, Mazher Mahmood, the Fake Sheikh, it is worth going back over his evidence to the Leveson Inquiry.
Though Mahmood’s identity was concealed, his witness statements make for some eye opening reading.
Last year a senior police officer told me that Southern Investigations’ relationship with News of the World,”“was without question the maternity ward where the Dark Arts were born.”