Few listeners to the BBC’s Today programme could have escaped the news yesterday that a committee of MPs had heavily criticised News International executives over their attempt to conceal a phone-hacking scandal involving News of the World journalists.
The MPs’ damning finding of “collective amnesia” led the programme, as it did other broadcast outlets. The Guardian, which broke the story of the News of the World paying out £1m to hacking victims in damages and costs, unsurprisingly also led on the story, devoting four more pages inside to the MPs findings.
But readers of several other titles could easily have missed the story altogether. The Sun, the NoW’s sister paper, managed 135 words under the headline “Report ‘hijack’,” which highlighted claims by Philip Davies, a Tory MP, that by “smearing” Andy Coulson, Labour committee members “abused the report for petty party political advantage”.
The Times, another News International stablemate, placed its 230-word story at the bottom of page 15. It carried the MPs’ criticism of News International, followed by a statement from the company attacking some committee members’ “party political agenda”. There was no mention in either piece of the “industrial scale” of the hacking operation and “deliberate obfuscation” by NoW executives, as detailed by the committee.
But News International was not alone in playing down the criticism. Other papers focused on other aspects of the report dealing with press standards, privacy and libel – anything, it seemed, but phone hacking.
Only in the last two paragraphs of a 327-word piece did the Daily Telegraph broach the hacking allegations, simply noting that the MPs said there were a “significant” number of other victims “at the heart of the British establishment”.
The Daily Mail focused on MPs’ calls for curbs to “chilling” libel and privacy laws threatening press freedom, and ran fewer than 150 words on the committee’s hacking conclusions.