Some of the most riveting television for those with an interest in politics is available on-line at the Leveson enquiry. Tonight at 9pm our time Tony Blair will be questioned by the silken Robert Jay QC, with no doubt the odd interjection from the careful and perceptive judge himself. Blair’s trip to meet Murdoch at Hayman Island, the unspoken agreements trading support for New Labour with a hands-off approach to the media, and more details on the mating of porcupines will no doubt come up as well.
The setting is stark, with the witness brightly lit against a clean white background. Every nuance of facial expression is full on camera, and of course on the camera record. Jay’s questioning is probing, with some of the most important questions being asked askance, others eye-to-eye. It will be really interesting to see what approach the equally silken Blair adopts. It will no doubt be text-book public relations defence, and all the more interesting for that. Memory lapse as employed by Rupert, or full-on counter that Blair prefers? We shall see.
The previous appearances are all on the record. My favourite, after those of Rupert and James Murdoch, was the twinkle-eyed Rebekah Brooks, who did her best to charm the judge and condescend to the QC, in stark contrast to her fury several days later when charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice along with her husband and staff.
On Thursday, Minister of Culture Jeremy Hunt will face the grilling. He was appointed to oversee the Murdoch’s bid to take complete control of BSkyB, which would have given them a dominant position across media, a strategy that Hunt himself revealed in a memo to Prime Minister Cameron shortly before he was appointed to oversee the competition issues surrounding the bid in a quasi-judicial role. This revelation has almost certainly meant that it is now inevitable that he will have to resign as a Cabinet Minister, and puts further pressure on Cameron who is scheduled to appear at the enquiry in the near future.
The process of the enquiry has been inexorable and the revelations of the hidden relationship based on mutual interest between the Murdoch-owned media and politicians in Britain very disturbing. There will no doubt be more prosecutions to follow, and possibly more resignations as well.
But the lessons are not just for Britain.
Here in New Zealand we have Murdoch-owned Sky, which is becoming increasingly dominant in pay television, under scrutiny by the Commerce Commission and facing questioning whether it is limiting competition to internet providers. The Murdochs were strong opponents of the publicly-owned BBC; here our government is about to shut down the increasingly popular last bastion of public service broadcasting in TV7. At least there is a campaign to try to stop that – you can join it here.