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Phone hacking: listeners' response

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Chris Mason Chris Mason | 11:36 UK time, Thursday, 7 July 2011

text messages

Listeners' text messages to Your Call

As a reporter, I have what I call the 'Polly Test.' I love news and I love politics but most people have got better things to do. My girlfriend is a teacher and doesn't obsess about op ed pieces in the Telegraph or the tiniest little nuance in the latest gossip online. In other words, she's normal.

But some stories come along that fall into the category marked 'jawdropper.' They pass the 'Polly Test' and this is one, easily. It's being talked about in staffrooms, on the bus, down the pub. 5 live listeners' response has been huge - on our phone-ins, in text messages, emails and on social networks. You've certainly let us know what you think of the allegations, and of journalism in general.

Let's just pause for a moment and consider the sheer scale of this. In the last few days the thesaurus entry for "outrage" has been dredged. Look at the words being used: 'deplorable', 'unacceptable', 'appalling', 'disgusting.' And that's the response of David Cameron and Rupert Murdoch.

Consider too, the relationships Prime Ministers have with News International, the News of the World's parent company. David Cameron now and Tony Blair before him don't just know people like Rebecca Brooks, the Chief Executive, in a stuffy, formal, shake-your-hand, business kind of way. They know her in a peck on the cheek, friendly wave, let's-have-dinner-soon kind of way.

And now this. Inquiries into the largest, most powerful police force in the country, the Met - and allegations some officers were on the take, were corrupt. And an investigation into the media and Rupert Murdoch. After the investigation, the media and Rupert Murdoch will still be there. They will still be influential, and will still be courted by politicians. So the political ramifications are huge.

There are big implications for us reporters too. I heard yesterday of one colleague, out and about chatting to members of the public, copping a load of abuse about being a barbaric moral free zone. Some might plead 'we're different.' Plenty will just say "you're all the same, you're all grubby reporters." What's happening matters for how we're policed, how we're governed and how we're informed about what's going on.

One final thought. Despite the universal outrage at the News of the World's alleged behaviour, their paper is, or was, hugely successful. It's human nature to want to know the gossip in our street, the gossip at work- and, yes, the gossip at a national level too. Of course that can never justify - legally or morally - what's alleged to have been going on. But is all of this likely to diminish our appetite for what the tabloids serve up every day? How many copies will the News of the World shift this weekend compared to last?

Chris Mason is 5 live's political reporter. You can follow him on Twitter.


  • Comment number 1.

    Nicky Campbell's phone-ins for past few days have been nothing more than thinly disguised anti-Murdoch rants; with NC himself as chief protaganist; THe Guardian and the Beeb have whipped themselves up into an orgiastic state of self righteousness ; in their zealous mission to nullify Murdoch/News International. Obviously if these allegations are proven it is hoped that these 'jounalistic' practises will never be allowed/able to be deployed again in ANY newspaper that resorts to these devices. Hoping that tomorrow's phone-in is able to focus on another subject

  • Comment number 2.

    Talking about organisations having a go at - i.e. criticising, Murdoch/News international, it is fair to say that News international criticises the BBC whenever it can. It is in its commercial interests to talk down the BBC.

    Therefore it is only reasonable for News International to expect a little in return.

    There are some people, perhaps you Sarnia are one of them who are pro-News International and anti-BBC. You say, "if these allegations are proven". News International have pleaded guilty. The question is how many of their employees are involved?

    You could say that the BBC is criticising News International. On the other hand you could say, that the BBC is reporting the breaches of the law that News International have committed. Should the BBC keep quiet about that?

  • Comment number 3.

    Let me just say something to other possible posters.

    There are some people on these boards who seem to believe that because they pay a TV licence, they are qualified to run the BBC. Not you, necessarily, Sarnia who says this.

    You can say whether or not you like a programme, and better still, why. However, there are people who post who think they can say how many BBC staff, for example, should be employed on particular projects, and where. It is like saying that you pay income tax, and therefore you should run the national government on day to day basis. In fact, as everyone knows, the licence fee is already allocated. You are not going to be poorer or richer in financial terms, however many people the BBC sends to cover, say, Wimbledon, or a cup final.

    In this particular case, you could say, as Sarnia seems to do, that too many BBC resources, are being used to cover the phone-hacking story. Let me just say this, I passed the newspaper stand and this story was a headline in all the papers, I saw, including the Financial Times. Even the News International owned title the Times had it as a headline although they claimed that it was Parliament that was somehow to blame for raising the issue.

    In these circumstances, it is not surprising that the story is given extensive coverage by the BBC.

  • Comment number 4.

    In light of the daily revelations that this story continues to throw up should we not be demanding to know the nature of the deals done by our two main political parties to garner the support of Rupert Murdoch's media empire? I cannot personally believe that the decision to throw the weight of his media machine behind either party has been made purely on the basis of his changing political ideology and with such an important decision to be made regarding the ownership BSkyB the people of this country need to first know whether their current government is not merely holding up their end of a deal already done?

  • Comment number 5.

    Decent currently employed journalists at the NOTW shafted by the Guardian.

    How this blog becomes a hit at the BBC and bloggers is beyond me. Radio Four has taken a much more reasoned approach to this whole matter.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the police are even more culpable than the NOTW... unfortunately the BBC blowtorch seems to be exclusively on News International.

    Plenty of politics at play here from Labour and the BBC.

  • Comment number 7.

    May I just quickly add a little more by way of explanation? The BBC can be criticised from various quarters. Rival media organisations criticise the BBC. They would would n't they? Other criticisms may from the government, who would like to bring the BBC under control.

    However, research shows that the BBC has one friend- the public. They support the BBC.

    There are some people who do not like the BBC.

    There is one bad thing about the BBC. That is the licence fee. This should be reformed. Under the licence fee, the poorest people pay the same as the richest. In addition, the licence fee is only aimed at people watching live TV. You can listen to BBC radio, use the BBC web site and watch BBC TV programmes on the i player free of charge. Furthermore there are people who watch live TV without a licence because the enforcement process is not efficient enough. Is this fair on the people who do pay a licence fee?

    The licence fee is a way of ensuring that the BBC is independent. It is a public service, but not controlled by the government.

    I would suggest that the BBC should be funded from the Civil List. This is money from taxation, so the poor pay less than the rich. However it is money set apart from normal government expenditure, so that it is not within ministerial control. The Civil List pays an amount to the Royal Family. It also pays for judges and for the leader of the Opposition in parliament. As you see, the principle is to keep these "institutions' independent and outside the control of government.

    This would seem to be a way of funding the BBC - an agreed amount over, a certain period, perhaps five years, and then a review to set the amount for the next five years.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am very sorry but I am bored with this story. NOTW did wrong, police investigations will be held. The NOTW has closed. The media pack in full sanctimonious flight is a very nasty sight.

  • Comment number 9.

    Some 5 Live presenters such as Richard Bacon regularly write columns for News International papers which I have always thought was wrong for a BBC employee to do. I wonder if the light of the phone hacking scandals BBC employees will think twice about writing for the Sun on Sunday?

  • Comment number 10.

    ryan is right (no. 6) Beware of legislation which will neuter the press and enable the Govt/political parties to be unchallenged. And coreze/Fedster I am not anti-BBC because I happen to find its saturation coverage somewhat distasteful (5 Live) and all this jubilation over the closure of NOTW; hundreds of people will lose their jobs. MPs were furious about the expenses gravy train being exposed. A few of them will want a muzzled press for evident reasons; I agree with Zelda it's getting boring;

  • Comment number 11.

    I have been out for an hour and a half and they are still talking about the same story. Thee must be something else to discuss. Please.

  • Comment number 12.

    How anyone who was in the Labour government and had any involvement at all in Iraq and Doctor Kelly has the nerve to comment on this is beyond belief. Personally the news that the BBC journalists are holding two strikes is a bit of news buried by this big NOTW story and I'd like to know more about that.

    There is so much overkill and also bias. Pot and kettle. I remember outside the Old Bailey when the Panorama journalist Vivian White confronted the "dodgy detective". He had to accept the retort that this chap had worked for Panorama researching stories - he couldn't answer!!

  • Comment number 13.

    The difference is the way the Met Police investigated Labour cash for honours, dragging people out of bed, tipping off the media etc and the way they carried out the first investigation into phone hacking, Andy Coulson and Cameron’s horse riding partner Rebecca Brooks.

  • Comment number 14.

    Sarnia why did you include me in your posting? It seems you are getting a bit confused between 2 different people, however the names do sort of suggest the obvious.

    On to the subject, this story has got everyone talking, i feel the BBC/Guardian are justified in the amount of coverge they are giving it, at the end of the day the listerners will decide if they have had enough, by not texting in or calling during the Phone ins, however they still do both, which suggest to me that 5live have got it spot on.

    Why would they want to give lots of coverage to a story which no one is intrested in, it defies logic.

  • Comment number 15.

    I am sure we would all like objective reporting. I get the feeling that however many even slightly positive texts went in this morning after Cameron's speech, it was inevitable that the first four would be vehemently anti and read with just a bit too much relish.

    Time to move on. At least a Judge will hear this inquiry and the evidence will be on oath, unlike Chilcot's efforts. I did go, I did hear it personally, before I am accused of not knowing what I am talking about, and its fault lay in it not being led by a High Court Judge who could cross examine properly instead of making some witnesses feel so cosy and protected.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry for my mistakes in post 7. Instead of "Civil List", it should be "Consolidated Fund", of which the Civil List is a part. Judges salaries are charged to the Consolidated Fund. However the leader of the Opposition in Parliament is not paid from the Consolidated Fund.

  • Comment number 17.

    This hacking may be a shock at the moment but it will change the landscapes of British media forever... and for the good of everyone, at last. NOTW gone yesterday, who knows the Sun by the end of next week. 'Every cloud has a silver lining' - Except in Bristol maybe... 3 murders in a week no more than a few hundred yards from each other and one of the most famous & oldest Banksy images - The Gorilla with Pink Face Mask (pictures here - https://sociorobotics.wordpress.org ) was painted over on the same day that the WOW Gorillas project (https://www.wowgorilla.org.uk/wow-gorillas%29 was launched - now we really have nothing to smile about in Eastville, except maybe the demise of the worst newspaper on the planet!

  • Comment number 18.

    Sarnia. So you think Nicky Campbell is anti News of World?

    I'm not defending him but even if he is (which he's not) what's wrong with presenters airing their opinions. It might stimulate more thoughtful and objective opinions.

    Besides it doesn't stop you going on air and taking him on.

    I'd suggest the force of argument from the defenders of the News of World position is so weak that it makes any presenter running the discussion appear anti News of World!

  • Comment number 19.

    So the worry is that this frenzy about phone-hacking will lead to a gagging of the free press.

    What makes people think that just because there exists what's dubbed a free press that it's not gagged anyway.

    We have a free'commercial' press which means news is either manipulated or distorted to make it a sellable commodity. This phone-hacking saga is merely a more extreme application of such tactics and it will make no difference how many news executives the state locks up, or how many capitalist newspapers close down, this situation will persist until the public own and democratically control the press. Then it will be free!

  • Comment number 20.

    Bit fed up of the holier than thou treatment from some journos the BBC are calling in. Although everyone seems to hate Murdoch and his power, the way to kill it off is to boycott it. Yet I can be totally certain that when the v. India cricket tests begin, the BBC studio presenters will be "watching" the match on their monitors and commenting.

    I am sorry but I am sick of people telling me I am wrong to watch Sky, or read a certain newspaper, because it is Murdoch owned, when they apparently HAVE to read and watch Murdoch products because they are professionals and it is bad for me but informative for them. What a load of hypocritical tosh. Now I am not bothered about NoTW closing, except for sympathy for all the people losing work who are innocently sacked because of the work of a few. If the argument is that they should never have worked for the apparently, according to some commentators, leprous News International, well they would be a load of people out of work for even longer. I am sorry but even Bacon writes for the Murdoch press, I am saying again there is a load of hypocritical nonsense being spouted by quite a few media people.

    And to be lectured about underhand tactics by Campbell of all people, well you have to be joking. Tell that one to Dr Kelly's widow.

  • Comment number 21.

    I agree about the hypocrisy about the NoTW so far they are the only one's to have been caught. Plenty of journalists will have rewarded the police for tip offs in the past. Just look at some recent high profile arrests and the press are seconds behind the police, where did they get their information from?

  • Comment number 22.

    While it is sad for people to lose their jobs, the News of the World represented the worst of the British gutter press and I am not sad to see it go.

    I think Roy Greenslade in the Guardian puts it well:

    "I know some of the staff. And I know many of them are not guilty of any wrong-doing. However, it's a bit rich to claim integrity while working for a paper that has engaged in the dark arts - entrapment, subterfuge, covert filming, the use of agents provocateur and phone hacking - for the best part of 20 years."

  • Comment number 23.

    Are we going to be treated to another week of the downfall of the 'House of Murdoch' on 5live or has the novelty worn off now?

  • Comment number 24.

    Judging by the coverage this morning, obviously not.

  • Comment number 25.

    This is great fodder for the belly button journos. They don't even have to go out to find a story. Additionally, their political bias can come to the fore. Furthermore, can you imagine if the 5 Live offices were already in Salford? Lots of remote interviews with people at Millbank and in Central London.

    Radio Four has been measured and interesting in its coverage today zelda, my advice is to switch station.

    As for Roy Greenslade, his journalistic formative years were spent on Murdoch papers the Sun, Sunday Times and Today. He worked on the Mirror. So he even worked for Maxwell! So he should know the inside story of seedy journalism as he has made enough money out of it.

  • Comment number 26.

    I did switch off carrie - I went to BBC 4 extra and listened to Round the Horne.

    I see the phone in is yet another one regarding the situation.

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 29.

    Thanks for that ryanw, I looked the other day and presumed the process had closed.

  • Comment number 30.

    Ha! Caught the post before it was removed and have commented on it!

  • Comment number 31.

    Can you beleive Zelda that it was removed? Not only has the radio station deleted any mention of it online and the Controller refused when I asked to have it reinstated now a blog post about is removed. I won't mention what 'it' is, as that would be off topic, I might be referring to something to do with phone hacking. Or I might not. Lol.

  • Comment number 32.

    Yes ryan, sadly I can believe it.

  • Comment number 33.

    I am loyal to 5 live. I don't listen to it all the time.

    I think that this blogs or rather the comments that they produce are not worthy of 5 live. I would guess that most listeners don't bother to look at these blogs. You get the same few people who produce the same comments time after time.

    There are good blogs run by the BBC. Just look, for example at the ones that Robert Peston and Stephanie Flanders produce. The current one by Robert Peston has readers' comments on this very topic i.e. the phone hacking scandal.

  • Comment number 34.

    Most blogs don't get commented on at all coreze.

  • Comment number 35.

    Just had a look at Robert Pestons blog dated today. It is closed for entries.

  • Comment number 36.

    @zeldacious Robert Peston's blog is not closed for entries. This is the blog entitled Difficult Questions For News International. There was a message posted within the last twelve minutes i.e. after 20.00 hours.

  • Comment number 37.

    I went to 'phone hacking scandal' which is closed for entries. I misread the date, apologise.

  • Comment number 38.

    This page is called blogs. I think you will find that if the title is attractive enough, people will read and some will post.

    I am just desperate for a break from this subject. It is clear from the parliamentary debate today that members of all parties, probably the Lib Dems aside, have misbehaved with many newspaper owners. Riding with Rebekah, sleepovers with Rebekah, blah blah blah. If I switch on the phone in tomorrow morning and it is this subject again I may have to chuck my radio out.

  • Comment number 39.

    Coreze, I disagree with your comments in post 33 entirely. The quality and relevance of the comments is commensurate with the quality and relevance of the blog piece.

    If the phone hacking item here was relevance and interesting people would contribute their thoughts. Unfortuantly it's like talking in an echo chamber, people are largely fed up with the coverage, there's no real debate that can be had as there are few contributors, in part because 5Live has driven people away as they continue to devalue the blog, and in part because of the poor qualities of posts.

    If we had a message board of course people could decide what to talk about, or even an open thread, both of which have been denied to us.

    You put your finger on it, the posts by Peston, Flanders etc. are topical and relevant, such as Peston's posts on the hacking scandal. He seems to have a hotline to News International. They break news there or expand upon it with insight and expertise. When is the last time you could say that of a blog post here?

  • Comment number 40.

    Can't see them breaking with this subject for a while yet. There's too many other essential newsworthy items which the news executives don't want to report on like for example the US talking to the Taliban after always saying they wouldn't.

    As long as the audience believe they're being informed about 'a scandal' which merely covers up a far more important 'scandal' the more will this run!

  • Comment number 41.

    Still nothing anywhere about the two days of BBC journalist strikes voted for last week. I actually think it is a pity rolling news anywhere, and I include News 24 and Sky news as well as 5Live, seem to have ramped up this phone hacking and are neglecting, because of shortage of time in the hour news cycle, many other important stories which deserve a magnifying glass.

  • Comment number 42.

    It is slightly disturbing i have to admit that there has only been a couple of blogs in the last 2 weeks, i dont think Hasit or Nigel have contributed in ages, maybe they are on annual leave,maybe they have had enough of being moaned at all the time, or maybe even God forbid they are in Secret talks to bring back the Messageboard.

    Care to enlighten us Nigel/Hasit?

  • Comment number 43.

    Isn'y what the Dowlers have been through bad enough without Ed Miliband(wagon) also exploiting them for his own agenda? Shameful.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think the Conservatives would love for this story to disappear with Cameron and Hunt not coming out of it well. I think Miliband judged the public mood right and showed Cameron’s response to be lacking. The error of judgement in appointing Andy Coulson is going to haunt Cameron for a long time to come with more allegations coming out, a public enquiry and a possible future criminal trial.

    I think the problem with the blog in recent weeks has been the excessive moderation of comments preventing discussions developing and expanding with anything mildly critical being removed as 'off topic'.

  • Comment number 45.

    I have sympathy for anyone upset by these phone hackers. Bereaved and heartbroken people deserve justice. But when you think it is only about two years since the disgraceful behaviour of Damian McBride and his email smears, sorry to repeat it but a few years ago Campbell and Dr Kelly, and more recently Sarah Brown and her husband were pretty pally with Rebekah Brooks just like Cameron is now, surely we should see that in this political grouping anyway they are all at it and always have been. My advice to Sarah is to cut the tweets. Cosying up to the press is old news and for "celebrities" the oxygen of publicity is what keeps them visible for future work. Just look at the way they love to pose for cameras and the way their eyes dart about looking for the next one to pose for. I'm afraid I have little sympathy for most of the celebs.

    As for blagging, it has been going on for so long and no-one has batted an eye lid, even though the line has been crossed now unacceptably by trying to get in to bank accounts or medical information. I didn't hear anyone say on the news reports that part of the fault lies with the organisation being contacted and tricked. They should take 50% of the blame for allowing information to be given without full identity checks or authorisations. For as long as I have been old enough to read a newspaper I have read stories and reports gained in this kind of way.

  • Comment number 46.

    I just heard this on another media and wondered whether it gave food for thought. Are those calling for the Canonisation of Julian Assange(sp?) and his Wikileaks the same ones that are all up in arms over the NOTW debacle???

    I have to think there is a lot of hypocrisy about these days.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is.

  • Comment number 48.

    Perhaps the attention given to hacking may begin to reduce with the dropping of the bid for Sky.

    I like Jon Sopel on Drive, I think he is doing a good job.

  • Comment number 49.

    Ed Miliband says that Murdoch's part withdrawal from the BSkyB bid is a victory for people up and down the country.

    What would be a victory for many up and down the country is for the Labour leadership to start attacking the Tories on important economic issues with the same degree of vitality as over phone-hacking; a task he may have forgotten whilst he exploited this scandal to accrue political points without sticking his neck out too far!

  • Comment number 50.

    The mass media obsession over these corrupt journalistic practices obscures the root cause of the problem.

    With few policy differences between the main parties it has incited some sections of the right wing 'corporate' alleged free press to adopt practices like phone hacking to conjure up stories to prevent their readerships from understanding the true cause of the problem and developing objective opinions!

  • Comment number 51.

    No-one seems to have thought about the money sloshing round in football because of Sky deals. If Sky is dumped because Murdoch offloads UK business then we will be left with Citeh, MUFC and a couple of other millionaire owned clubs and the rest who at the present time are dependent on Sky money becoming like a current League One-incomed club.

    I agree with Nick by the way. This may have been the moment Milliband grabbed the agenda but there is so much murk on both sides it could come back to haunt him when the Public Inquiry gets under way. In order to expand his superiority (I don't like him at all by the way, David should have won, and I am playing devil's advocate) he needs to extend his yelling to other more important issues that will mean he can capture and engage the public with his policies. Some of the recent Labour Party tactics and antics will come back to bite him.

  • Comment number 52.

    Nick Clegg doesn’t seem to be getting the same level of kicking from the media, seems that Cameron and Osborne have called off the dogs after the No to AV prevailed. Though it appears Chris Huhne has not been forgiven yet, hopefully this type of vindictive targeting of individuals will decrease.

    I hope Ed Milliband has gained confidence from the perceived success in challenging Cameron over hacking and will be able to provide a more effective opposition to the ConDems.

  • Comment number 53.

    I think alot of this is self righteous reactionary nonsense with News Int the scapegoat.
    I will fascinated to see who comes out of this positively once all the detail surfaces.
    Many a resignation is imminent and plenty of sleepless nights for the secret protagonists.
    Let's hope no-one from the guardian is involved too or they may as well turn the lights off in fleet street.
    Murdoch will ride this out and the glare will soon be off his empire and focussed elsewhere soon,mark my words.

  • Comment number 54.

    tend to agree with mickyweir above. Broon in particluar offends me. He and his then Govt could have done something about this years ago but di dn't coz were in bed with Murdoch at the time. Bunch of hypocrites..Brown was the ringmaster and chief trainer of his attack dogs - Damian McBride, Ed balls - the sanctimony and hypocrisy of characters like them and A. Campbell makes me sick


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