Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ian Hislop, Alan Rusbridger, and Colin Myler as witnesses for the Commons Media select committee

Ian Hislop, the editor of the Private Eye, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian, Colin Myler, current editor of the News of the World (NOTW), as well as his newspaper's lawyer, Tom Crone, were before the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee today, in their capacity as witnesses in the Committees ongoing investigation into Press Standards, Libel and Privacy.

The NOTW representatives were interviewed first, and then separately Hislop and Rusbridger were interviewed as a pair. I found Myler to be the most reasonable sounding editor of the right-wing press that I have seen so far, and certainly his answers seemed closer to reality than Mail or Express editors'.

On a seperate note, relating to the fact I was questioned multiple times on a previous visit by Westminister officials, the last two times I went to the Palace of Westminster, my trip was largely uneventful in this regard. I will excuse that one time and suggest that there was heightened tension due to the fact that it was Budget Day.

Myler was speaking under a cloud of the impending libel case brought by Max Mosley, meaning some of what he said may jeopardise the trial, which may explain the presence of Crone, although it is also possible that the Committee called upon him specifically to get the lawyers points of view, although his contributions were minimal.

Myler opened with a brief statement about how the industry as a whole is suffering at present, with the fall in advertising revenue, and the rise in digital culture, and now the privacy rulings are putting further pressure on the newspapers.

He described how he was surprised he got sued by Mosley, because of his position as the elected head of the FIA, and its 100m+ members. He said that the Mosley story was legitimate, because one "can't divorce" the fact that he is a public figure, and his activities in soliciting prostitutes. The costs for the privacy case (and there is an impending libel case), he said were £60,000 damages plus £900,000 in legal costs, and he saw no noticable enhancement in sales. When asked why he would run the story, he simply replied because it was a "very good story," and pointed out the fact that all other news outlets ran with it.
Paul Dacre and Peter Hill both declared they wouldn't have ran the story, he is told, because they are 'family newspapers'. Myler refutes this claim, stating he also runs a family publication, and that people are intelligent and discretionary enough to decide what they buy - "that's why we have the best press in the world."
He informs the panel that Mosley had been made aware that he was potentially being tailed, but he still chose to go to the apartment, and was therefore taking a calculated risk when he met the women.