Prince Harry, Morrissey, Murdoch and Clint Eastwood

12 Sep 2012  |  Jim Marshall 

Jim Marshall, chief client officer at Aegis: What a difference a year makes...

This time last year we were bemoaning a summer of riots and discontent, and waving an accusatory finger at certain sectors of the media for potentially fuelling the activities of a lawless minority in our society.

This year we are celebrating a great British achievement in organising, hosting and participating in a fabulously successful Olympics and Paralympics. And this year the media have won plaudits for the quality of their coverage and their contribution to the majority of the nation's feeling of pride, enjoyment and general well being.

(Only the majority because that's just about everyone with the notable exception of Morrissey, who thought the Olympics was "foul with patriotism" and hated it - which made it even more worthwhile.) So three cheers for all of us!

But now it's back to business as usual and the prospect of covering slightly less invigorating media issues. In fact there have been a couple that have almost, though not quite, sneaked under the radar. Namely Prince Harry's antics in Las Vegas and Elisabeth Murdoch's MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival.

Interestingly both shared a consistent theme. Before you try to guess, no, it wasn't nudity, which is unfortunate for arguably both the populations of Edinburgh and Las Vegas. For me, both were about the media grossly misunderstanding the mood of the majority of the population.

How so? Firstly Prince Harry and the Las Vegas bedroom: Though the media tried to portray the event as another potential major 'Royal Scandal', that is not how people in the UK saw it, or certainly from what I could can ascertain.

Rather the view varied between one of complete indifference to the view that what he did is exactly what we all would like to be doing (or would like to do if we were his age and free and single - lucky devil!). It really wasn't a big deal, in spite of the media trying to turn it into one, and those that tried to 'sensationalise it' came out of it with considerably less respect than Prince Harry.

What about Ms Murdoch's MacTaggart lecture? Here was the first time that an insider from the News Corp 'family' has admitted, and very candidly, that the organisation has totally misjudged the views of its readers and the wider population through the way that it has behaved. She said that News Corp had to ask: "... difficult questions about how some behaviours fell so far short of its values".

Later in the speech she said: "Profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster." This was interpreted as a dig at her brother James, but it arguably goes deeper than that. In spite of its protestations, at the heart of the News Corp phone-tapping scandal lay its ambition to pursue profit.

Initially phone-hacking was an effective method to source the occasional exclusive story, mainly involving the Royal Family, celebrities and misbehaving politicians. But eventually, rather like a nasty infectious disease, it seemed to spread throughout the organisation to the point where it became a justified means to the end - the end being scoops that would maintain the business' profit.

The Leveson Inquiry rumbles on but in my view has lost in impetus. However on 26 September, when Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson, among others, appear in court facing an assortment of phone-hacking charges, the focus will move away from Leveson to Southwark Crown Court.

Whatever verdict is reached by the court, it is already clearly apparent that News Corp was guilty of failing to understand that it is now more important with the public how a story is secured and how it is presented as opposed to whether it is 'an exclusive'.

In fact, in the digital world where there appear to be no barriers to information, there is arguably no such thing as a 'scoop' anymore. So all the media, not just the press, now more than ever will be judged on what stories they cover, how they get the stories and how they cover them. And by judged, I don't mean by the courts, Leveson or politician, but by the public.

I think Elisabeth Murdoch was saying in Edinburgh that, based on the above criteria, News Corp does not come out well while (irritatingly for the some of the Murdoch family) the BBC does and it is time that News Corp and all the members of the Murdoch family understood this and why.

On a similar but far lighter point, it is worth taking a look on YouTube at Clint Eastwood's performance (it certainly wasn't a speech!) at Romney's Republican Conference. His conversation with an empty chair was strewn with factual errors and was a wonderful example of misjudging the public mood.

This was clearly apparent because the Republican hardliners loved it. For everyone else, it was great comedy and a great endorsement for Obama.

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