16 Jul 2011

Bernstein: phone-hacking culture created by Murdoch

Veteran Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein tells Channel 4 News that Rupert Murdoch “intimidated journalism” and created a culture of manufactured controversy and sensationalism in his newsrooms.

Carl Bernstein is one of the world’s most renowned investigative journalists who uncovered the Watergate scandal with fellow reporter Bob Woodward in the 1970s.

The pair while working for the Washington Post worked undercover and broke the story that led to government investigations, indictment of White House officials and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon – the only American president ever to quit his post.

Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy spoke with the veteran journalist about the phone-hacking scandal that is rocking the Murdoch empire today.

That empire, Bernstein maintains, is one that is built upon manufactured controversy, sensationalism and an invasion of privacy – the “low end of gutter journalism” as he calls it.

We’re talking about an individual who has managed to intimated journalism on both sides of the Atlantic. Carl Bernstein

The problem, he says, is that Murdoch’s assets at the other of the spectrum at the “high end” – the Times, Fox Network etc, have given him enough credibility for those in power to turn a blind eye and not look at what he’s built his empire upon.

And Murdoch, says Bernstein, is directly responsible for the creation of that empire.

Bernstein phone hacking culture created by Murdoch

“We’re talking about an individual who has managed to intimated journalism on both sides of the Atlantic.

“Too many journalists have thrown in their lot with ‘Murdochism’ which is to say an agenda of manufactured controversy and sensationalism.

“It’s not important to know whether Rupert Murdoch knew about this particular illegal act or that one. Rather that this is a culture created in his newsroom by him with his encouragement. I don’t just mean hacking, I mean a culture in which real news is secondary to this kind of trash.”

But although the Murdoch’s empire has taken a beating this week – with the withdrawal of the BSkyB bid, the closure of News of the World and the resignation of Rebekah Brooks and Les Hinton – both key players in the Murdoch empire, Bernstein is not about to say it’s over for Murdoch:

“It doesn’t mean his empire can’t be rebuilt, and it may be. We’ve got a long way to go before we find out what really happened.

“But one of the terrible things about this scandal is that it has made it much more likely that Rupert Murdoch is the reason that the press in Britain is now going to be regulated in some way which is a terrible thing.”