As the scandal with News Corporation spreads on both sides of the Atlantic, speculation is growing about what is a greater threat to freedom of speech, tighter regulation of the media or existence of media monopolies like Rupert Murdoch’s empire.
Jim Naureckas from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog, believes the problem lies not in the lack of regulation, but in the existence of companies like News Corporation which consider themselves powerful enough to be above the law.
“I think that what you need is not new rules,” Naureckas told RT. “There were rules in place. This is a violation of the rules, of the law, clearly. What you need are media outlets that are not too powerful to regulate. If you have media outlets which are too powerful that they are deciding whether they can be investigators or not, it does not matter what rules you have.”
According to Naureckas, Murdoch’s News Corporation is a classic monopoly. And this type of business is unacceptable in a functional democracy. He suggests that News Corporation needs to be reduced in size.
“You can’t have a functional democracy when one company is so dominating and deciding what can be talked about, what information is going to be on public record, what information is not,” Naureckas said. “The US and Britain need to look at ways to break up this monopoly and create a more level playing field in the media world.”
Dave Saldana, communications director at American Free Press, an NGO, told RT that there are fears that freedom of speech in Britain is unlikely to survive unscathed.
“And it is a legitimate fear,” he said. “Typically what we see is when the scandals and crisis happen, that the reaction is to take a sledge hammer to kill the fly. If the reaction is overreaction, and there is call for a greater regulation of the press, then ultimately that argues poorly for democracy at large.”
The phone-hacking scandal forced Murdoch to close his News of the World tabloid after it was revealed that his journalists obtained the personal information of politicians, celebrities and private individuals using illegal sources. Two other Murdoch newspapers were accused of sharing private information.