Well done BBC Inside Sport. Shame on media for news blackout on Coulson bullying case
Posted on 26 November 2009 | 1:11pm
First of all, congratulations to BBC Inside Sport for its film last night on depression in sport.
Gabby Logan’s sensitive and revealing interviews with cricketer Marcus Trescothick, boxer Frank Bruno, footballer Neil Lennon and All Black rugby star John Kirwan were not just good TV. They will also help the continuing campaign to break down stigma and discrimination surrounding mental illness.
As the programme explained, 92 per cent of people admit they would be unlikely to reveal a mental health problem in case it affected their prospects at work.
But surely we have to get to a position where people can be as open about mental health as they are about physical health?
Anyway, I suspect Gabby’s film is an early favourite for a Mental Health Media award this time next year.
Meanwhile at the other end of the caring, sharing, understanding-other-people employment spectrum, I ask you this question ….
If, while I was working for Tony Blair, it had emerged that whilst a journalist I had been responsible for a dreadful case of bullying, and that my paper had had to shell out more than three quarters of a million pounds in compensation to someone who blamed me personally for the bullying, do you think the papers might have covered it?
Yes, I thought so.
Do you think I might have been chased around by the media to explain myself? Do you think TB would have had to explain himself too? Do you reckon it might have been raised in Parliament by Tory MPs? Yep, so do I.
Or, to put it as the one journalist who seems to be taking an interest in it, The Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, says:
‘Imagine for a moment that a bank employee in the City of London was awarded £800,000 for unfair dismissal after a lengthy period of bullying by his or her boss. I haven’t the slightest doubt that it would be a major news item in every newspaper – from the Financial Times to the Daily Star.
‘Or how about this? Imagine The Guardian being required to pay out £800,000 to a journalist because its editor had been exposed as a bully. You can bet that would have made headlines in rival papers.
‘So why, I wonder, was The Guardian the only national paper to report on the fact that former News of the World football reporter Matt Driscoll was awarded £792,736 for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination by an employment tribunal?’
It is a very good question. Roy, my former boss at the Mirror, thinks that it is all part of the ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’ conspiracy of silence between the major newspaper groups, who do not wash each other’s dirty linen in public, whilst thinking anyone else is fair game.
But it is also part of the media’s growing bias against using stories that might be difficult or embarrassing for David Cameron.
Because the journalist-editor in question is Andy Coulson, ex News of the World, now Cameron’s communications director.
Even without the media angle, or the Cameron angle, this case should be big news because it is a record payout, the biggest ever ordered to be made to a media group.
But it is the media angle and the Cameron angle that has led to the virtual news blackout.
This in the week that several of the papers are screaming their indignation that the public inquiry on Iraq is deemed by them not to be open enough.
Not just News International, for which Coulson used to work, but the Mail, Mirror, Telegraph, Independent, Express, FT, the whole lot of them, decided a record payout for bullying and discimination made against someone who is now right-hand man to the man who could be our next Prime Minister, decided it was not worth a single line of copy.
As Roy points out, the Mail and the Telegraph are always reluctant to carry anything critical of Rupert Murdoch’s operations. But this one has gone right across the board.
And because the broadcasters tend to allow their agenda to be set by the papers, we have another ‘protect Dave’ news blackout. If we had a media that was genuinely free and fair, it is what they might term a scandal.