The Media in the Press 25.2.10

The Guardian has been reporting, for some time, allegations of illegal phone tapping by the News of the World, some of which were proven and led to the imprisonment of a royal correspondent three years ago  and which prompted a committee of MPs to say, the other day, NoW executives who gave evidence to them about the claims were suffering from “collective amnesia” and “deliberate obfuscation”.

Today, the paper splashes: “David Cameron's communications director, Andy Coulson, today came under fresh pressure to defend his editorship of the News of the World and his knowledge about the illegal activities of his journalists amid new allegations about the paper's involvement with private detectives who broke the law.

“The Guardian has learned that, while Coulson was still editor of the tabloid, the newspaper employed a freelance private investigator even though he had been accused of corrupting police officers and had just been released from a seven-year prison sentence for blackmail.

“The private eye was well known to the News of the World, having worked for the paper for several years before he was jailed, when Coulson was deputy editor. He was rehired when he was freed.”

The story is backed up with a two-page feature (pages 10-11), complete with fancy graphics.

Page 12 of the Scottish Daily Mail, meanwhile, reports adverse reaction to BBC TV last Friday placing at the top of its news agenda an apology by golfer, Tiger Woods, about his extra-marital affairs. “The BBC has faced fresh accusations of dumbing down over its extensive coverage of Tiger Woods's apology last week. Scores of viewers complained about the golfer being the top story on the day 1600 workers lost their jobs as the North-East's last steel plant was shut down.”

The report continues: “Last Friday also saw British Gas report a 50 per cent profit rise despite the economic downturn, while it emerged that another British soldier had been killed fighting the Taliban. But rather than leading with these stories, the golfer's public apology for a string of extra-marital affairs, was chosen as the headline story on BBC1's main evening bulletin. The corporation received 283 formal complaints, while many more voiced their dissatisfaction on internet messageboards.”

Google is also in the news. Says The Scotsman (page 8 of its business supplement): “Web search giants Google has been ordered to address allegations from rivals that it actively demotes their websites in its search rankings. The European Commission revealed yesterday it had asked the internet heavyweight to look into the matter after receiving complaints from three of its rivals.”

But the Scottish Daily Mail (page 35) takes a different tack: “Three Google bosses have been found guilty of violating privacy laws after a video of an autistic boy being punched and kicked was posted on the internet. The case is the first of its kind and has raised concerns over web freedom. The footage, posted on Google Video in September 2006, showed an autistic teenager cowering as he was attacked by four boys at a school in Turin, Italy.”

It continues: “Judge Oscar Magi delivers his verdict today. He sentenced the three executives to a six-month suspended sentence and absolved them of defamation charges. Prosecutors in Milan argued that the video violated the boy's privacy and should have been taken down more quickly, but lawyers for Google said it was impossible to regulate the thousands of hours of footage uploaded every day to sites such as Google Video and YouTube.”

The Guardian has the same, conviction angle on its front page, suggesting the conviction then “escalated into a diplomatic incident when the US ambassador took the unusual step of deploring the verdict”. But it's a side tale to its Coulson story.

Moving on, and page 3 of The Herald says that ITV presenter, Lisa Aziz, is “leaving for personal reasons”. It follows her withdrawing, and apologising, for a series of race, sex and age discrimination allegations she made against colleagues.

And finally, the Guardian, on page 6, reports an anticipated Home Office recommendation that 'lads mags', Nuts and Zoo, should be made 'top shelf titles' with age restrictions on their sale.