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Politicians & the media: How close is too close?

Written by Rachel Davies on Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Revelations emerging from the Leveson Inquiry this week have suggested that some UK politicians fail to see the risks of close relationships with the media, and are not able to maintain the safeguards that are essential to ensuring integrity.


Revelations emerging from the Leveson Inquiry this week have suggested that some UK politicians fail to see the risks of close relationships with the media and are not able to maintain the safeguards that are essential to ensuring integrity.

It was revealed today that Jeremy Hunt, the UK Government’s Culture Secretary, sent a congratulatory text to James Murdoch hours before he was put in charge of overseeing the bid for News Corp’s  take-over of media group BSkyB.

The relationship between the Murdoch media empire and UK politicians has now been widely acknowledged as unhealthy for democracy. Such a high concentration of ownership of the media and the possibility of cross-media ownership, creates an environment ripe for corruption to thrive. Those who seek to prevent this risk or hold others accountable for it are at best ignored and at worst subject to sustained media attack.

Wider issues regarding the relationship between the media and politics in the UK were highlighted as an area of great concern in Transparency International UK’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry. It is arguable that the reliance of governments and politicians of all parties on the media to promote their messages in a manner that is attractive to the electorate has had a damaging effect on the independence of politicians and their duty to act in the public interest.

Disturbingly, it appears to have distorted government policy, possibly in key areas such as press regulation and regulation over media ownership. While this is difficult to regulate, it is clear that concentration of media ownership, and ownership across different media, creates a series of incentives for politicians and governments to act unethically.

We are concerned about the cosiness of the relationships and the possible conflict of interest which could have clouded the process of decision making on the BskyB bid. TI-UK hopes that the outcomes of the Leveson Inquiry will lead to a better system where the risk of a conflict of interest is greatly reduced.

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Read 6739 times Last modified on Tuesday, 03 January 2017 10:45
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Rachel Davies

Rachel is the Head of UK Advocacy at TI-UK. You can tweet her @rachelcerysd.

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