The phone-tapping scandal is the beginning of a popular movement for a free Press, Labour veteran Tony Benn told a packed public meeting last week in London (see previous post), writes Chris Youett.
Speaking at a meeting organised by the NUJ and pressure group Defend the Right to Protest at Conway Hall, former BBC current affairs journalist Benn added: “The influence of Rupert Murdoch is so baleful. He has been a very negative force in British politics. He is the most powerful man in the world.
“Governments don’t want us to know anything about what they did for 30 years – and the phone-tapping scandal is the beginning of a movement for a free Press.”
Murdoch wrecked lives
Benn added: “We also need to end the purchasing of the police and strengthen the Labour Party so that it doesn’t need to go to the likes of Murdoch for support.”
Meeting chair David Crouch ( Financial Times) said that the chickens had come home to roost for Murdoch, adding: “He won’t go easily. So many peoples’ lives have been wrecked by the Murdoch media.”
NUJ General Secretary Michelle Stanistreet pointed out that in just three weeks the incestuous relations between politicians and the police have been exposed. “The Cameron sound bites about ‘appropriate discussions’ sound just like President Clinton denying that he has sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky,” she added.
“The tentacles of Murdoch’s power have gone too far. His apologies are particularly hollow. MPs have been too afraid to expose Murdoch for fear that his papers would publish details of their peccadilloes.
Trade unions uphold journalist ethics
Stanistreet said: “The NUJ has been locked out of Wapping for 25 years – and Murdoch was rewarded with anti-union laws. There is a clear link between banning trade union collective bargaining and the drop in reporting standards. Ethics are not an add-on. We have long argued for a conscience clause in all agreements to protect journalists.
She was critical of Prime Minister David Cameron’s attack on the BBC, adding: “We want an immediate renegotiation of the licence fee deal. The BBC has announced 20% cuts. Members are being made compulsorily redundant. Local newspapers are having the life sucked out of them by greedy employers.
“National titles shouldn’t be at the whim of one man or woman – and the NUJ wants media regulation on our terms. This is another Wapping moment,” Stanistreet said.
How Murdoch broke the unions
Tony Bug, Assistant General Secretary of Unite, was involved in the Wapping dispute 25 years ago. He accused Murdoch of starting the race to the bottom, adding: “Murdoch sacked over 5,000 workers.
“Wapping was never about new technology but Murdoch’s world-wide aims. He planned to break the unions. He bought the Wapping site in 1979 – and claimed in 1985 that it was being used to produce a new London evening paper, The Post.
“Under the new terms, there was to be no union recognition, no negotiations, no strikes and the ‘right’ of management to sack workers on the spot. He then bought in a rogue union (the EETPU) and the resources of the Metropolitan Police to get his titles out.
“Murdoch’s executives behaved like the rules of a banana republic,” Bug pointed out.
He praised Labour MPs Tom Watson, Chris Bryant and Ed Miliband for standing up to Murdoch – and called for the abolition of the PCC and the setting up of a Commission on Enquiry to look into cross-media ownership.
Many people had wondered how Murdoch had been allowed to get away with his non-union stance. Bug pointed out that the Blair Government quietly slipped in a clause in the Fairness at Work laws to allow company-controlled staff associations instead of independent trade unions where they already existed.
Bug said: “This is why Murdoch set up NISA at Wapping. To get rid of it, News International employees would need to start a derecognition ballot. We must make sure that Wapping never happens again.”
Reform the media and police
Many in the audience supported calls for a big trade union demonstration on Wapping.
One Liverpool supporter who witnessed the Hillsborough disaster and The Sun’s lies about it being caused by Liverpool supporters said that even mentioning the name of The Sun still made him feel sick and angry. He added that the reporting by the Murdoch media caused revulsion throughout Merseyside. Even to this day, many people up there refused to buy or read a Murdoch title.
Darren Burke, FoC of the South Yorkshire Press, said that even a few weeks ago he never thought that he would be leading a strike. Some of the papers in dispute are in Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s constituency. The owners had a Chairman on £1 million a year while trainees received as little as £12,000 a year. He added: “I want journalists’ pay discussed in any inquiry into media ownership”.
Lawyer Matt Foot said he would be representing the many students who were facing court over recent protests over tuition fees in London. He added: “The resignation of Sir Paul Stevenson as Metropolitan Police Commission is supposed to be about his integrity. He enjoyed five weeks free hospitality worth £12,000 at a health spa.
“Retired Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick said that this was strictly against the rules. Sir Paul was wined and dined by News International on six occasions as well as finding time to go into The Guardian’s offices and berate its staff for their coverage of his police force.
“Sir Paul also said that his policy was to take a professional and restrained approach to student demos. More than 60 protestors were injured, compared with 20 police officers. More than 200 students were arrested on minor charges – yet they were dealt with by the counter-terrorism police,” Mr Foot said.
The TUC is hosting an exhibition to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Wapping dispute at Congress House. Two printers have just published their memoires of the dispute. One said that he hoped it would help bring down Murdoch.
Posted by Keith SellickThis entry was posted on Saturday, July 30th, 2011 at 7:44pm and is filed under BBC, Guardian Media Group, Journalism quality, Media. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.Both comments and pings are currently closed.