When asked what he thought of western civilisation, the Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi replied that 'I think it would be a great idea'. The verdicts handed down from the phone hacking trial together with the information contained during the eight months at the Old Bailey suggest pretty much the same thing. We need a free and fearless press because we certainly don't appear to have one now.
Now the hacking trial verdicts have confirmed that the country's biggest newspaper company suffered a catastrophic collapse in standards, the question must be: has Rupert Murdoch done what is necessary to ensure it won't happen again? And the answer is no, he has not. In fact Murdoch has done the reverse. He has joined a conspiracy with other press bosses to prevent the changes that were demanded by the Leveson Inquiry - changes endorsed by all parties in Parliament, by victims of press abuse and by the public.
The whole of the British press - despite the fact that 95% of it was never involved in the hacking of phones which led to this crackdown - was subjected to a judicial inquiry with draconian powers, greater than those handed to the Chilcot Inquiry which is looking into the war in Iraq in which 100,000 people died... Not only has this been hugely dangerous for the press in Britain, it has robbed us of all moral authority to be able to try to help countries battling authoritarianism in establishing a free press.
We are amid the greatest revolution human life has ever known - the liberation of communication - in the hands of the many as well as that dangerous few. Yes of course the danger is there - the danger that what we call news maybe hijacked, distorted, lied about, propogandised. But today I argue that we stand at the dawn of the golden age of what we have come to describe as journalism. The mediation of information by individuals, collectives, groups, whom WE have the very individual powers to choose.
In a situation in which three companies control some 70% of daily national newspaper circulation, five companies control 70% of regional circulation and a single news wholesaler provides bulletins for the vast majority of commercial radio stations, pluralism is a problem to be addressed now and not simply to be measured later...