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Jolyon Rubinstein Headshot

Could the Phone-Hacking Scandal Just be the Beginning?

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It seems that criminal activities like phone hacking and bribery have been (as many have posited for years) a regular practice at NOTW. But I don't think that the NOTW is the only actor in this saga. Far from being the sole player it may well just be the first domino to fall. As outrageous as this whole drama has been, wouldn't it be reassuring if it started and ended with a single NI title?

If only it were that simple.

The need to sell-sell-sell coupled with the British public's insatiable appetite for tittle-tattle leads me to believe that this is just the beginning of revelations that will rock newspapers, magazine titles and anyone involved in 'news' to their collective core.

What are we going to do if we discover that the practices that have resulted in so much public revulsion have, in fact, been endemic in all tabloid newsrooms and in their glossy celebrity-filled counterparts?

For many years now I have thought that many popular British glossy magazines are becoming even more trash filled and unscrupulous than the tabloids, and in this belief I know I am not alone.

These magazines have, to my mind, almost become a law unto themselves, selling 'classy-trash' to the addicted masses who identify more with the salacious gossip they provide than anything that 'traditional' media does. Well, you don't get much about X-Factor in the Guardian and the Telegraph, do you? In some strange way they have captured and bottled celebrity, and convinced all who buy them that they are better off knowing the sordid details than not.

What's to say that the next couple of weeks won't reveal that hacking email and facebook accounts, even tracking the GPS signals from smart phones has also been common practice? According to a tech-savvy friend of mine, this all is very easy to do if you know how, and according to my friend, private investigators do...

Until this week a culture of impunity existed. Until this week we thought these practices where 'below' our press. Until this week we thought, with good reason, that common sense prevailed.

We were wrong.
So if the Millie Dowler hack scandal happened, if the hack scandals of the 7/7 victims and the dead of our two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq happened then, I'm sorry to say I am left wondering, what else has been going on? I bet we learn that the perpetrators of these actions have taken it further. I bet they just thought, 'why not'?

Why not clone email accounts and wait for juicy details to come through? Why not spy on facebook chats, private messages and photos? Why not even track your targets whereabouts by locking onto their smart phones' GPS signals?
If I am proved right over the coming weeks and months and in fact what we are dealing with is not simply NOTW, but the majority of the tabloid and 'glossy' press, then we must seriously start thinking about what criminal charges can and should be brought to ensure that this really does become a watershed moment in the history of the British press.

Independent judicial reviews must examine the whole of the industry. Do we really think that NOTW is a one off, acting alone amongst its competition? Hugh Grant, on BBC's Question Time, raised the spectre of the phenomenon being far broader than anyone has previously wanted to admit. And why don't we want to deal with that reality yet? Because when we do, we are going to have to deal with the fundamental question of regulation and standards authorities becoming realities in the tabloid realms.

I can't believe I'm writing this, but I'm starting to think that might be just what we need. I love you 'freedom of speech', but people have been taking the piss for too long, and it's all gone to pot.