on 31 March 2013
The week I bought and read this book started with the three main political parties agreeing a framework for future regulation of the press, with much indignation coming from, of course, the press and in particular the Murdoch press. On the Wednesday the two main stories were the budget and the fact that the Deputy Editor of The Sun had been charged with corruption offences. And on the Thursday The Sun led with a headline stating the budget had been approved by 'the ministry for information'. The irony that The Sun and it's owner were criticsing the government for bringing in tighter press regulation could not be lost. And if you want a full understanding of what led to this state of affairs then I suggest you read this excellent book.
The book reads like a thriller I found myself wanting to read it at every opportunity. It shows just how far corruption within News Corp had gone. You are probably familiar with most of the events in this book, but having them all together in one volume like this really does shock. We now know how low they were prepared to go but the piece where Lesley Ash points out she is not Lesley Chapman really does bring it home. The police, the government and the PCC were all afraid of Murdoch and his bullies in the newsrooms. It took a few brave journalists and politicians to stand up to them and finally bring them to book. What is truly shocking is how the police were prepared to ignore the evidence of the level of hacking that was going on that was right there in front of them. No wonder there are so many miscarriages of justice in this country.
If, like me, you believe Murdoch has been a bad influence in this country read this book it will confirm your worst fears. If, on the other hand, you are undecided, again I suggest you read this book it will open your eyes. Lastly if you believe that the proposed regulation of the press is a step too far, read this book. Many argue that laws were broken and that those laws that are already in place are dealing with the wrong doings at News Corp. But what this book brings home is the fact that those who have been given the job of protecting us failed miserably and only took action when they were put in a position where inaction was no longer an option. If you believe that this new regulation is only to protect the rich and famous then at the back of the book is a list of names found in Glenn Mulcaires notes, and yes most of them are famous, but there is a section where the authors do not know who they are or why they are there.
on 26 March 2013
Being an avid political junkie, and, as a Liverpool football supporter, a long-standing opponent of News International, I was eager to join the dots of all the phone-hacking stories and this book does it brilliantly. Tom Watson deserves immense credit for sticking with this despite all the obstacles placed in his path. I recommend this to anyone who believes in freedom and justice.
I agree with the favourable reviews here - this is a readable and extremely well-informed account of the practices at News Corporation unearthed before and during the Leveson Enquiry. Even allowing for Tom Watson's far-from-impartial stance on the matter, it is a shocking catalogue of malpractice and corruption involving press, politicians, political "advisors" and their ilk and the police. Watson and Hickman actually manage to preserve a reasonably matter-of-fact tone much of the time and their evidence and research is unarguable.
If you have any interest in the matter, or in press and political ethics in general this will interest you, and I recommend it as a fascinating and eye-opening read.
This is a long, dogged and utterly brilliant recounting of the recent problems of that horrible man Rupert Murdoch, who not only dictated what his newspapers could report on, but also what they could say. The story begins with the suspicions of a number of people, from the worlds of celebrity, politics, film and television finding themselves under surveillance, for no other reason that Murdoch's minions fancied attacking them in some way. Fair enough, one might think, if you're famous for something you are open to unwelcome attention. But Murdoch and his minions went much further than merely following them, spying on them, and trying to get compromising photographs of them. His underlings were told to hack their phones and computers in direct contradiction of the law.
I found this book utterly riveting and read it straight through in one vast gulp. I'd seen the odd news item, knew a little of those targeted, but it didn't really hit me until I read this book which gives chapter and verse of the horrendous lies (the corruption, perjury and exaggerated villification), the lengths that some of these wicked people were prepared to go. The vaunting self-assurance of Rebekah Brooks comes out clearly. She appeared to believe that when the News of the World was closed down, there would be the opportunity to create a new newspaper to take its place.
It's all here. The hiring of the odious toady Coulson, the Chipping Norton set, with their summer parties, at which a growing set of other toadies (Jeremy Clarkson, Matthew Freud, the ubiquitous Rebekah Wade, and above all the closeness of Cameron to Murdoch). If you want to know what happened and how Milly Dowler's phone was hacked, how the Soham murders came to be connected - just looking at the faces in the photos in this book allows you to see the toll that was taken on some of those involved - particularly those involved through the Soham murder case.
It may disgust you. No, it should, and Watson and Hickman have made a very good job of unravelling this horrible story and letting us see the real face of the creature at the centre of his spider's web of corruption. But this story isn't over yet....
on 19 March 2013
I couldn't put it down. The book joins the dots of a decade of corrupt and illegal news gathering by the Murdoch press. It deserves to reach a wider audience and would make a wonderful documentary or movie.
on 22 March 2013
It is hard to review a book like this subjectively. Firstly, I am surprised that Murdoch himself has not been profiled by the likes of Tom Bowker who has done very enlightening alt-bios of Branson and soon Sugar. But whatever you think of those two businessmen, Murdoch needs not a book but "a whole conference". Despite the authors own disclosed vested interest, the book reads well and whilst I would say it often does come over as 'angry', it is neither overblown nor paranoid in tone.
The content should disgust you but the indifference and inaction should motivate you. 4 stars only because I suspect volumes 2 and 3 are needed to complete the story.
Whilst the subject matter of this book - shabby journalists aided and abetted by corrupt and/or supine policemen, the unbridled power of the (Murdoch) press and its close relationships with politicians across the spectrum - is shocking and important, I am not sure that this book has done the subject justice. Furthermore, as Watson admits in the preface, the story is not yet over which rather begs the question of why the book has been released when there are clearly threads mentioned which have not been discussed because formal investigations continue. The main thrust of the story is obviously already in the public domain although the book did mention things that were new to me. It is also perhaps helpful to have the details presented together so that the connections can be shown which cannot be achieved from individual newspaper or TV/radio news stories. The police in particular come out badly. You have to question their integrity and backbone if they can allow themselves to be intimidated during a raid on News International premises to the extent that their investigation was seriously hampered.
Watson, and co-author Hickson, have presented plenty of information, although the testimony coming out of the ongoing Leveson enquiry is daily providing more. I have long had an antipathy towards the Murdoch news empire, but I thought at times the story was told with an element of over-statement and bias. In one sense this is unsurprising given Watson's experience but it weakens the book. His constant references to 'the Screws' just seemed petty to me and his story didn't really need this to be compelling. I really didn't like the third person narrative either. Watson explains why he does this (didn't want to over-emphasise their roles) but it still rankled with me, seemingly positing a distance that simply wasn't there and, for me at least, trying to suggest detachment when there is so much personal involvement in the developing story. Overall, I didn't like the writing style. After a very slow start, the book later took on an almost breakneck pace, like a bad thriller. In between times some of the writing is simply awful, occasionally straying into tabloidesque (memorably the description of Rebekah Wade as a "red-haired tabloid queen").
I have to say that one unexpected 'hero' for me was Max Mosley. Whilst he had his own reasons after the salacious headlines about his own private life, his willingness to use his personal fortune to underwrite the legal cases and judicial review in order to bring the News of the World to book was admirable.
My rating for the book owes more to the way the story is told. I cannot fault Watson and Hickman for the doggedness with which they pursued their investigations, and the subject is a matter of tremendous importance, it is just that the telling was a little disappointing.
This hardback book comes with a "Day-glo" red dust cover which should mean that it's not easy to misplace!
Just as everyone should watch the film "Schindler's List" so that hopefully such atrocities as the Holocaust will never occur again, so all should read this book as it shows what happens when great power and wealth are acquired and controlled by a few, and as a result the great and the good are forced to cow-tow to these despots in order to retain some degree of public esteem.
As the old saying goes... "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!" And according to this book (and the Leveson Inquiry) that is just what appears to have happened from within the Murdoch Press in particular. The main scandal that comes out of the book for me is their being so ably assisted by successive British government (including all prime) ministers since the Iron Lady's reign in the early 1980s as a consequence of their fear of the damage the Murdoch Press can do to their public reputations should they ever happen to get on the wrong side of it. For instance, remember Murdoch's The Sun 1992 Election Day front page? It contained a picture of the then Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock's head inside a light bulb accompanied by the caption "if Neil Kinnock wins today, will the last person to leave the country please turn off the lights." Of course, there was no attempt in that headline to influence the election outcome was there?
The book concentrates not so much on the phone-hacking & other illegal intrusions of privacy that News Corp employees and their agents engaged in (Glenn Mulcaire allegedly had over 11,000 A4 pages of other people's personal data in his possession), but more on the lengthy cover-up operations and bully-boy tactics that the Murdoch Machine engaged in over more than 5 years along with the seeming reluctance of the Met Police force to investigate the many instances of wrongdoing within the Murdoch Empire they both uncovered and had reported to them.
High quality writing combined with a clear and attention-holding presentation of copious historical information make this book an eye-opening read. Some have said to me that the two authors have "over-egged the pudding" somewhat: well be that as it may, I didn't get that impression. However, even if there is a grain of truth in that, the book still makes for highly compelling reading - but do watch out for the odd bit of bad language (there isn't much at all) if that sort of thing offends you.
Definitely worth reading!
on 14 April 2015
Tom Watson is the Labour MP for West Bromwich East and a campaigner against unlawful media practices. Martin Hickman has worked for the Independent since 2001 and was named Journalist of the Year by the Foreign Press Association in 2009. They have written a deeply-researched and astonishing exposé of the corrupt activities of Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Murdoch has all too much power. He already has 40 per cent of all national newspaper sales. Yet the coalition, especially Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, secretly aided Murdoch’s bid to take over Britain’s biggest TV network, Sky. The European Commission also approved the bid. This would have given Murdoch 80 per cent of pay TV revenue.
Murdoch encouraged his papers, especially the News of the World and the Sun, in the illegal practice of phone hacking. A 2005 email from hacker Glenn Mulcaire “This is a transcript for Neville’ (Neville Thurlbeck, the NoW’s chief reporter) contained transcripts of 35 hacked voice mail messages. Mulcaire’s notes contained the names and phone numbers of thousands of people and named 28 journalists who had commissioned him. This proved that it was not just a rogue reporter to blame, as the NoW claimed.
The authors show how the Metropolitan Police, the Press Complaints Commission, the Crown Prosecution Service all failed to halt the hacking. In 2003 Rebekah Wade, then editor of the NoW, admitted that the paper had paid police for information – which is of course illegal. But nothing was done.
The authors note that after NoW staff were questioned by Parliament’s Culture Committee, the NoW ordered a team of journalists to investigate the private lives of the Committee’s members.
So great is Murdoch’s power that he cows and corrupts all too many politicians. For example, the Scottish National Party’s leader Alex Salmond lobbied for Murdoch’s BSkyB deal (then lied that he hadn’t), after the Scottish edition of the Sun backed the SNP in the 2010 general election. Another politician, Boris Johnson, foolishly dismissed the allegations against Murdoch as ‘a load of codswallop’.
In 2014, David Cameron’s friend and communications director Andy Coulson (ex-editor of the NoW) was found guilty of conspiring to hack phones. Rebekah Wade, now Brooks, got a £7 million pay-off from Murdoch.
Where to begin when trying to do a review of book which is still topical today, as it was when found out the depths to which certain newspapers were willing to go to get a front page story, and hence sell their papers. No public or private life was safe; these newspapers did not care about the human or ethical cost.
The latest instalment being the arrest of Ms Rebekah Brooks, on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, as part of the investigation into phone hacking. Back 2010, the' Dial M book' claims that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee decided not to push Rebekah Brooks to give evidence in early 2010 because they feared her retribution in the words of the former MP Adam Price, "if we went for her, they would go for us - effectively they would delve into our private lives in order to punish us."
As for the allegations of cosy relations between News Corporation and the police are concerned, a serving police officer was arrested in Jan 2012, a former royal protection and counter terrorism police officer was arrested in May 2012 and thus far Detectives from Operation Elveden have now arrested 27 people over allegations that journalists made illegal payments to public officials and police officers. As for political figures, well the books interesting reading on that topic as well.
The authors Dial M argue convincingly Rupert Murdoch shadow, if not his mode of business twisted the conditions in which hacking was expected to take place, not as an anomaly, but as part of a mode of doing business the success at all costs dictate which bent and ultimately break the rules. Murdoch seems to lurk behind each page in book of this book, he is rarely in the narrative physically, unless in the less congenial surroundings of the Leveson inquiry, as seen recently. The authors theorise, as the Sun newspaper was closed, after the revelations there, that News International may be sacrificed in order to protect News Corp group, and thus insulate the heart of its corporate dynasty - Rupert Murdoch?
While there are detractors of the authors work in Dial M, I give one example from Ms J L Dico review in the Independent. Ms Dico's assessment sited two areas of concern, the first being while the story is very topical and the media have `teased out' every minutia of detail - in essence was there, the authors, account of the time line of events really necessary and hence was there a need for Dial M book, as the narrative was already out `there' via various media outlets. From my perspective I would say yes there was.
The other critique was the concern that Tom Watson was too close to the subject, as he involved in some of the events and his narrative smacks of self-interest as part author of Dial M. On this point I am still to make up my mind.
The authors, Watson and Hickman, interlace the events of the past decade into a driven narrative that includes not only phone hacking but email interception, surveillance, burglary, cover-ups and political influence. For those who have lost track of what happened, or why it matters, this is a must read book.