While Murdock appears contrite as he points the finger of blame elsewhere, his grip on this media empire is being slowly loosened.
Murdoch once had Prime Ministers and politicians at his beck and call while he single-handedly destroyed the reputation of the tabloid press. What the Daily Mirror had achieved over many years of socially aware and campaigning journalism in the ‘60s and 70s, the Sun almost instantly crushed when it launched its mix of sleaze, sex and sin.
And what The Sun was doing during the week, the News of the World did every Sunday. This was achieved, according to one former reporter, through a culture of fear and unethical practices. Working within this “culture of fear” journalists felt pressurized into making up stories and engaging in illegal activities, such as phone hacking.
It is this culture the Murdoch virus used not only to destroy the reputation of the press in the UK, but also to infect the Irish media.
The competitive pressures heaped on Irish media by Murdoch’s low cost scandal sheets as they infiltrate our media landscape threaten the high standards of journalism we have often taken for granted.
Thankfully, so far the Irish media has not seemed as susceptible to Muroch’s mighty influence as Fleet Street was. Indeed, to what extent he has succeeded on this side of the Irish Sea remains to be seen.
However, claims made in the High Court last week show, if true, just how the rules of journalism not only change but are thrown out the window when the British tabloid press strolls into town.
The court heard that a Sun journalist allegedly paid the man at the center of false allegations against Louis Walsh to make the untruthful sex claims in an attempt to “take out” the X Factor judge “as a public person.”
The man behind the false allegations was sentenced to six months in prison last January after pleading guilty. The Sun, which originally published the allegations, also accepted they were false. But now Walsh is seeking access to the documents that will allegedly show The Sun offered to pay Watters to make the false complaints.
With the Government is currently obsessed with ensuring RTE pays a heavy price for its defamation of Father Kevin Reynolds, the insidious nature of the British tabloid press should not be forgotten. Because if there is any truth behind The Sun’s part in the false allegations that could have intentionally destroyed Louis Walsh’s career out of simple spite, RTE could be the least of the Government’s worries.
Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.