Thursday, 3 March 2011

Scarlett in the Black

John Scarlett, who as head of the JIC showed such independence in ensuring that nothing dodgy could get into any dossiers or anything like that, has now been appointed to the board of News International (Roy Greenslade, his background link.), which is supposedly meant to ensure the independence of the Times papers (you know, the ones hidden from the scrutiny of bloggers behind a paywall.)

Which for the most part a nice sinecure to add to his previous rewards in the shape of a brief stint as head of the SIS, and the consequent KCMG.

But the Eye (1283, 4 Mar 2011, p5) points out that this is splendid timing given that the Chilcott inquiry is going to be rolling out its bland admonishments soon, to be analysed in forensic detail by the News Corp titles, no doubt.

From the link supplied by Greenslade:

217. It is questionable how effective the Independent National Directors have been, even with the increased powers that Rupert Murdoch agreed to give them. The system was strongly criticised by Harold Evans who was Editor of The Sunday Times when Rupert Murdoch bought it, and who was then appointed as Editor of The Times. Mr Evans had fought for the increased powers of the Independent National Directors but in practice, he found they provided him with no effective protection. In his autobiography he wrote that none of the guarantees that Rupert Murdoch gave to safeguard editorial independence "are worth the paper they are written on—unless the proprietor shares the spirit of them. If he does, they are merely ornamental; if he does not, they are unworkable … Internal freedom cannot be acquired by external rules"[91]. Andrew Neil, Editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994, agreed "It was a conceit invented ... to allow Mr Murdoch to take over these papers in the first place, and it was put in place for that reason. It was not really put in place to protect the independence of the editors" (Q 1689).

I'm sure Scarlett will feel very much at home in such a setup, especially one run by the equally reputable Murdoch.

1 comment:

  1. Surely the fearless Mr Aaronovitch will be giving his 'independent take' on Chilcott. No need for pressure from above in his case - conditions of entry take care of it much more neatly.