22nd May 2021
If anyone doubted the often indirect power of the crown in the public affairs of the United Kingdom then this week’s media news about the Dyson report is a useful reminder.
A reporter fabricated documents so as to engineer an introduction to a member of the royal family and then lied about it.
This sort of ‘blagging’ – as some of those in the media would call it – was one of what was once euphemistically described as the ‘dark arts’.
And as a result of the exposure of this dishonesty, the future of the BBC (itself founded by royal charter) is now uncertain.
To throw the future of the United Kingdom’s state broadcaster into doubt requires a significant intervention.
It is an example of how the presence of a royal element to a story can electrify things.
And it is not the first time.
The phone hacking scandal – which affected the press in a way that the Dyson report may affect the BBC – also came about because it had a significant royal element.
In short: the telephones of the royal household were hacked – just as the telephones of celebrities and newsworthy non-celebrities were hacked.
(Hacking was another of those ‘dark arts’.)
But because the target was the royal household, a different part of the metropolitan police became involved instead of those parts of the metropolitan police that the press then had a close (and mutually advantageous) relationship.
This in turn led to a police raid of a private investigator’s office, and the documents then seized in turn were a media-legal time-bomb which exploded when disclosed about the time of the Millie Dowler murder trial.
The story is set out in this thread by James Doleman, who reported on the trials (and with whom, I must add, I disagree on other issues):
The News of the World published a story about Harry being injured on a skiing trip. As he was only accompanied by two diplomatic protection officers the spotlight fell on them so there was an internal investigation.— James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) May 22, 2021
They raided his house, and found thousands of pages of evidence of thousands of hacks, however somewhere the decision was made only to prosecute him, and one reporter, Clive Goodman, over that one hack. They both stayed silent and pled guilty and the matter was dropped.— James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) May 22, 2021
When Andy Coulson joined Downing Street though, the press, especially the Guardian, got interested enough to investigate the hacking story, and their revelations led to the case being re-opened.— James Doleman (@jamesdoleman) May 22, 2021
Had the mobile telephones of the royal household not been hacked then it is plausible that – even now – we would not know anything about the real extent of telephone hacking.
Such is the indirect power of the crown in our public affairs.
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