The actions this week of Guardian joint political editor Heather Stewart, where she went in to bat for the Murdoch mafiosi after Labour grassroots organisation Momentum declined to accredit Sun hacks to their The World Transformed event in Liverpool, may have surprised as many observers as they dismayed. But there is very straightforward method in this particular madness, and it is, as so often, all about money.
For so long, the Guardian lost money. Now, following rounds of staff cuts, those losses have been stemmed, but there is always the need to secure advertising revenue. And it is in bringing in the advertisers that the paper has cosied up to Murdoch. Worse, this new closer relationship has involved compromising the paper’s reporting on matters that may reflect aversely on their new pals - a blatant case of self-censorship.
As the Guardian told earlier this year, “The Guardian’s parent company has joined forces with rivals News UK and the Telegraph to create an online advertising business … The Ozone Project has been launched in response to demand from advertisers for a one-stop shop to buy digital adverts across multiple leading news sites. When it launches in the autumn it will be possible for advertisers to buy online ad space on the Guardian, the Times, the Sun, and the Telegraph from a single site”.
One Zelo Street contact put it thus: “if Ford is launching a new car, instead of dealing with THREE different advertising and display teams on THREE different titles, they just deal with one pooled team at Ozone, who will do one set of adverts, which are used across all papers. It’s called ‘programmable’ or ‘programmatic’ advertising because a computer program distributes the adverts across all of the websites, by simply ‘pressing a button.’”
Neat, eh? But the consequences for the Guardian’s editorial independence have been grave. Not only did Ms Stewart do the previously unthinkable - back the Sun over a ban on its hacks in Liverpool - reporting of Murdoch wrongdoing has also been scaled back to the point where it has become all but invisible. Take, for instance, phone hacking allegations.
Earlier this year, the paper sided with the Murdochs over Leveson 2, abandoning victims of press abuse. As David Hencke put it, “The decision this week to join the rest of the press pack and welcome the demise of Leveson 2 - the inquiry which would have taken a cold hard look at how mainstream media - in particular the News of the World and the Mirror - indulged in phone hacking and other nefarious practices is profoundly disappointing”.
Independents like Byline Media are now far more likely to report the procession of claimants alleging phone hacking, blagging and other malpractice against the Sun, and indeed other Murdoch titles. The Guardian was distinctly lukewarm on the case of former Sunday Times blagger John Ford, who has now blown the whistle on his former title.
Thus the paradox of the modern-day Guardian: it has stabilised its finances for now, but in the process has joined so many others in selling out the causes it once championed. Expect more support for Murdoch hacks and less talk about The Dark Arts in future.
The cowards of Kings Place are complicit in covering up criminality. Sad but true.
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