Back in September 2010 Guido produced, with the help of the Information Commissioner’s Office, this “blagging” chart. The idea that this crisis is only about News International is fanciful. Look who had the most recorded offences:
From the Information Commissioner’s report one can infer that at least 140 Mirror Group journalists could be looking at criminal charges. The Operation Motorman investigation was based on a group of blaggers used frequently by Mirror and Mail journalists to obtain information. Missing from this chart is The Telegraph, who according to a Guido source paid a private detective to hold a seminar at their Canary Wharf offices on how to hack phones back in 2000. The bribing of staff at HMRC, the DVLA, BT, the Land Registry, banks and in the police has been endemic for decades. That is where the news you read is sourced.
In short every major newsroom in the land has used illegal techniques to obtain information. We are on the verge of criminalising hundreds of journalists.
We mocked George Monbiot this week for saying “this is our Berlin Wall moment“. On reflection there is a similarity, the Stasi HQ spied on the ordinary citizenry with all the paraphernalia of a police state. In Britain newspaper HQs spied on celebrities and the famous to entertain ordinary citizens. As readers we rewarded them by buying their papers.
Most of the hacking hacks will get suspended sentences and conditional discharges. Will they still be fit and proper journalists? Without the infotainment aspect of newspapers how will popular investigative journalism be financed? We are in danger of either killing off popular journalism or heading towards a French style subsidised newspaper sector, emasculated and servile to the rich and powerful…