2nd. article of our 5 week series on the Starsucker documentary.
In the Starsucker documentary (click here to view) it discusses how celebrity gossip has taken over fact based news journalism. In this article we hope to look more in depth at those claims and what we can expect for the future. On the surface the News International phone hacking scandal may appear to be just the press using any method available to gather gossip (before another rival does!) for the public’s insatiable interest in celebrities. The truth is it is a much more muddied affair. The scandal and the Leveson Inquiry have revealed corruption between the media, politics and police. This is only a very brief history and a brief glance into the findings!
In an article published by the Telegraph, Dr Matthew Green explains the early beginnings of the modern press. It can be traced back to 1695 when strict censorship laws were abolished. Editors soon found out that unbiased reporting were viewed as boring to the public; therefore they began to lean towards one political party and eventually began to spin or make up the news. This proved successful and readers flocked to taverns and coffee houses to discuss it with each other. Journalists found these places to be gold mines for gossip and would then take the story they over heard back to the editor, who decided if the story was worth printing. The press rarely cared about the consequences of what they wrote. 
The first case of the celebrity phone hacking began on the 13th November 2005 when the royal editor of the News of the World, Clive Goodman, ran a story about Prince William borrowing a portable editing suite from Tom Bradby (ITV’s royal correspondent). The pair met to figure out how the information got out. Only two other people knew of it so it was suspected that somehow voicemails were being intercepted. This information was passed onto police and in 2006 found that the cell phones of members of the Royal Household were hacked by the News of the World. In August of that year Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, a private detective, were arrested. They admitted their guilt of illegally intercepting voicemails and on the 26th of January 2007, they were sentenced to four and six months respectively in prison.  Despite the newspaper claiming that was the only incident, The Guardian claimed that phone hacking was widely used by the newspaper and over the years, they broke more and more stories of celebrity victims (Sienna Miller, Steve Coogan, David Beckham, Hugh Grant and Elle Macpherson just to name a few! See more here). Exactly four years after Goodman and Mulclaire were sentenced, the British police finally began to investigate the claims. This was the beginning of the end for the News of the World. Things were about to become a lot worse.
On the 4th of July 2011, The Guardian published that in 2002 the News of the World had hacked into, at the time, missing murder victim’s (Milly Dowler) phone and claimed they had deleted messages which misled police and gave her family false hope she was still alive. Later on it was discovered that the phone used auto delete when the message box became full to make room for new messages. Still the paper had hacked into her phone which shockingly at the time the police knew about and did nothing but hold a meeting with them. There were massive public outcries which lead Prime Minister David Cameron to announce a public inquiry (an official review of the scandal open to the public with the conclusion of a report that outlines any improvements needed to be made by the government and/or organisations) would take place. On the 7th of July, it was announced that the newspaper would shut down. Also on this day BBC Radio 4 aired an interview with former News of the World features editor, Paul McMullan, admitting the use of bribery on police to garner information. The last edition was printed on the 10th of July. 
The inquiry began in November 2011 with Lord Justice Leveson appointed as chairman and six assessors who were chosen for their expertise and their unbiased interests. Some of the key issues to be looked at were the practices of News International (owned by Rupert Murdoch), the police and politicians. 474 Witnesses gave evidence over seven months. On the 29th of November 2012 the final report was published. The Press Complaints Commission (or PCC for short. It is a regulatory body for the British press) was found to be inadequate at their job and a new regulatory body should be set up. This should not be made up by current journalists or Members of Parliament but rather former journalists and MPs thus making it independent. They should encourage the media to be transparent when it comes to sources, maintain a high standard and be backed by legislation. The body should also have the power to investigate complaints and to hand out fines if papers are found guilty. Politicians had been found to have too close of a relationship with the press but that police corruption was minimal. It was acknowledged that journalists can be over zealous when investigating a story and that innocent people and celebrities can be hurt in this process (especially in the case of the News of the World). 
The reactions to the findings have been mixed. David Cameron, who had been enthusiastic for change when he announced there was to be an inquiry, accepted the findings but was hesitant over making changes to legislation. Campaigners and victims of the scandal were angry over his change of mind and felt that it would be “yet another voluntary system from which the press can walk away.”  The two other large political parties, Labour and the Liberal Democrats (who have formed a coalition government with the Conservatives and leader Nick Clegg became Deputy Prime Minister), agreed entirely with the findings. The majority of the press sided with Cameron, agreeing that changes needed to be made but any legislation made would be a step towards censorship and dangerous to press freedom. In the following months the main political parties went back and forth over how to go forward. The Conservative wanted a Royal Charter (a formal document which would establish a governing body and the rules it must abided by), Labour and the Liberal Democrats wanted a governing body backed by law. Eventually a plan was made that satisfied all parties plus the victims and campaigners, a governing body established by Royal Charter which could be amended if there was a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament, plus two changes to existing law. The press however, rejected it stating again that it curb press freedom. They proposed applying for their own Royal Charter which would remove politics from the equation and block any charges it didn’t like in the regulation. That was in April of this year and the impasse between politicians, the press and victims/campaigners are still in place.