‘Those who don’t learn from History are doomed to repeat it’- George Santayana
Five and a half years ago, the Leveson Inquiry finished and its report published. However, when looking at news stories this week, Santayana’s famous quote comes to mind.
On Monday, Hugh Grant managed to reach an out of court settlement – a six figure sum, from the Mirror Group. This settlement was a result of the Mirror’s journalists hacking into Grant’s phone.
It is absolutely shocking that 7 years after the phone hacking scandal was first exposed, that cases are still continuing in court. It is even more disappointing that this case was settled outside of court. Whilst I don’t blame or question Grant’s decision, it would be far more beneficial for the country as a whole to see this case and see the whole extent of the Mirror’s wrong doing.
However, this case has more far reaching implications. Richard Desmond the proprietor of the newspapers, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star and Sunday Star as well as the magazine OK!, has sold all his papers to the Mirror Group.
We must preserve our freedom of the press, it is a vital part of any liberal democracy and serves to inform the electorate and help them make decisions. However, as the Leveson inquiry uncovered, many newspapers and their journalists engage in illegal activity to help shape their stories. There clearly needs to be more and stronger oversight into press activity and greater accountability for their actions. Yet, the Mirror Group take over is being allowed to happen, with little investigation from government or Parliament.
Furthermore, having already conquered much of the American media market, Disney have now turned their attention to the UK market reportedly threatening to shut down Sky News.
Given Rupert Murdoch’s stranglehold on much of the UK media, these sort of interventions and amalgamations cannot be tolerated and require far more oversight and investigation. Otherwise, we risk our media becoming dominated by criminal activity and by a lack of plurality in views. It is of high importance that we don’t allow our media to become one sided or controlled by a small number of rich owners.
The reason why the phone hacking scandal and the findings from the Leveson inquiry came as such a big shock was because governments had papered over the cracks for years and had turned a blind eye to what was happening. There are grave concerns with the current moves by Disney and Mirror Group. It may already be too late to stop these moves, however, there is a solution.
The most damning part of the 2017 Conservative manifesto was the refusal to continue with the Leveson Inquiry Part 2. If Theresa May continues to pursue this path, she risks becoming a proponent of Santayana’s age-old quote. May has not learnt from the Leveson inquiry and now she is doomed to repeat its mistakes.