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September 15, 2015

Murdoch ‘scourge’, hacking exposer and NUJ group chair help make up Labour’s shadow cabinet

By William Turvill

Michael Dugher was named as the new shadow culture secretary yesterday as Chris Bryant moved on after four months in the job to become shadow leader of the House of Commons.

During his time in the position, Bryant warned against BBC cuts as the corporation’s budget became a central issue for the Government and condemned the reappointment of Rebekah Brooks at News UK.

Bryant, a phone-hacking victim, had previously been described by The Independent as the “scourge” of Rupert Murdoch.

The media stance of Dugher, who was elected as an MP in 2010, appears less clear.

However, he is reported, by the Financial Times and others, to be a “close ally” of Labour’s new deputy leader Tom Watson.

Watson played a large part in helping The Guardian expose the phone-hacking scandal from his position on the Culture, Media and Sport committee. In his book Hack Attack, Guardian journalist Nick Davies revealed that Watson became involved in exposing the wrongdoing in 2009.

Watson also delivered the Leveson lecture in December last year, which is organised by campaign group Hacked Off.

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 The Guardian reported him as saying: "I think there is far too much concentration in the hands of too few and so I would look at that again. Diversity in media is something that is intrinsic to a democratic society. We do not want the whole media owned by one person…

"They [the press] have operated like a mafia, intimidating here, bribing there, terminating careers when it suits them and rewarding their most loyal toadies.

"For years, they could ‘fix’ any legislation that affected them, in a way that no other industry could. But it didn’t stop there. Their influence was so great that it became impossible to know who was really running the country."

Watson, along with new shadow chancellors John McDonnell, last year gave their backing to the UK Coalition for Media Pluralism, which sought to use European law to set limits on UK media ownership.

McDonnell is also chair of the National Union of Journalists parliamentary group and was an early backer of the call from Press Gazette’s Save Our Sources campaign, which called for police to require judicial oversight before accessing the phone records of journalists under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act.

McDonnell also led a debate in March this year in Parliament on the future of local newspapers and welcomed Chancellor George Osborne’s call for a consultation on whether to introduce tax breaks for the industry in England.

Jeremy Corbyn, who attacked “abusive” media reporting of his campaign in his acceptance speech, is also secretary of the NUJ parliamentary group.

Picture shows Dugher top left, Watson top right, Bryant bottom left, McDonnell bottom right. Credit: Reuters and public domain.

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