Seven hours of gripping evidence last night from three top British cops, the two Murdochs and Rebekah Brooks was the best advertisement you’ll ever see for an equivalent federal parliamentary committee to fully investigate the regulation, ethics, relationships and ownership of Australia’s media.
Imagine Kerry Stokes, John Hartigan, David Gyngell, David Leckie and co being grilled by a Senate committee.
Last night was a great example of democracy in action. Truckloads of new material was placed on the record that now allows the public, media, regulators, police and the judiciary to get on with their job of dealing with the criminal journalistic practices at the News of the World.
There will be dozens of news stories, fresh investigations and interesting developments that flow from the testimony.
For instance, James Murdoch admitting to be shocked at the ongoing payments to Glenn Mulcaire for his legal expenses in dozens of civil actions. This was an important admission and an insight into the cover-up pursued by News Corp.
Rupert went close to committing to cutting Mulcaire adrift, but it would be fair for the police to provide News Corp with a copy of the 11,000 pages of diary notes seized from Mulcaire’s home.
The world’s most powerful family will be relieved with how Rupert and James performed last night in the teeth of the biggest public grilling they will ever face.
Rupert’s “hear no evil, see no evil” defence, combined with his blind loyalty for far to long to people like Les Hinton and Rebekah Brooks, leave him open to legitimate criticism. But there was no smoking gun that will strengthen the arm of a majority of News Corp’s independent directors to move against him.
That play is now far more likely as some sort of regulatory negotiation around News Corp’s ability to retain its existing 39% controlling stake in BSkyB.