Now here's a thing, viewers - or not, if I censor it
Someone had invited Steve Coogan on to the Peston show. This was to discuss the issues of bigotry in the media, and especially the press, and more particularly press treatment of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. And as former Screws and Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan had been in the vanguard of Haz and Megs bashing, the discussion inevitably spilled over into that area - an event for which Peston should have been prepared.
Why so? Well, anyone up to speed on the media will also know that Coogan is an unswerving supporter of the Hacked Off campaign. Indeed, the Peston show Twitter feed name checked Hacked Off before broadcast. Moreover, when Coogan settled his phone hacking claim against Trinity Mirror Group, he gave Morgan exceptionally short shrift.
Peston ... should I bother going on?
This is part of what he said outside the court: “Journalists at all three [TMG] papers - The Daily Mirror, the Sunday Mirror and the People - under successive editors hacked the phones of thousands of people … It is my view that editors and executives such as Sly Bailey, Piers Morgan, Paul Vickers, Tina Weaver and Richard Wallace have not yet been subjected to proper scrutiny”. HO’s then joint executive director Evan Harris had more.
“Piers Morgan was either incompetent and ignorant as to the illegality behind hundreds of paper’s stories or he was involved in it - or both. The public should be told which it is”. That’s the same Evan Harris who precipitated an on-screen meltdown from Morgan live on Good Morning Britain, which needed Susanna Reid to intervene to save her co-host.
ITV knew who they were inviting on ...
So what happened yesterday evening? Cue Steve Coogan. “Piers Morgan is symptomatic of the problem with the tabloids. His bullying behaviour …” Peston began to panic, and tried to shout Coogan down. This was initially unsuccessful. “Piers Morgan has denied any knowledge of it, yet everyone else at Mirror Group Newspapers knew it was going on, yet he claims to have no knowledge”. And then Peston panicked some more.
“He has denied knowledge of it, and Leveson agreed that there was absolutely no evidence that he sanctioned any of it”. This is weapons grade sophistry: Leveson LJ decided that he found Morgan’s evidence “utterly unpersuasive”. The contention of Hacked Off - that Morgan was either inept or complicit - still stands.
... so they had no complaints at the result
But for Peston, the worst was yet to come: having become badly flustered, and muted Coogan, he then gave the game away in an aside that he will come to regret. “Anyway … that was all a bit more focused on a former colleague of mine than I might have wanted”.
In other words, Peston was covering for one of his media pals: the iron rule of press Omertà being enforced live on TV, with the enforcer owning up afterwards. But on this occasion, there has been no outrage at free speech being so blatantly curtailed.
Our media class is not merely incestuous, it is riddled with hypocrisy. No change there.
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