#hackgate #Camillagate...Private Eye's Alex Mitchell call for Rupert Murdoch's 1993 Camillagate tape to be probed!
HACKING: HOW SCOOPS WORK
CAMILLAGATE REVISITED: Will the Leveson inquiry find
out how a magazine, owned by Rupert Murdoch, was
able to publish a transcript of an infamous and illegally
recorded telephone conversation between Brian
and Camilla Parker-Bowles?
HOW far back will Lord Justice Leveson go as he tries to investigate the “ethics and practice of the press” and the lawlessness of the Murdoch empire? Alex Mitchell, a former London correspondent of the Sydney Sun-Herald, suggests that January 1993 might be a good starting point.
That was when New Idea, a woman’s weekly in Australia which was then owned by the Digger, printed the transcript of the “Camillagate” tape – an illegally recorded phone conversation between Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles in which the heir to the throne imagined himself as a tampon. Almost two decades later, those behind this early form of phone-hacking have never been identified, still less prosecuted. “In the tight community of Australian correspondents in London,” Mitchell wrote in the Sun-Herald recently, “there was animated discussion about how a relatively obscure magazine in Sydney had scooped the world.” Their conclusion: that the story had been too hot for the Digger’s London tabloids to handle, at least initially. As the Sunday Age, a non-Murdoch Australian paper, observed in January 1993. “It has been suggested that the transcript was published in Australia in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny of a British government fast losing patience with that country’s tabloids. How better to circumvent such scrutiny than to have the story bob up in the ‘colonies’ and then report that report?” No knowledge of negotiations
When New Idea “broke” the story, a public statement was issued on the Digger’s behalf insisting he had “no knowledge of negotiations to buy the tape, nor that New Idea had it or had published it. He wished he had.” This sounds uncannily like his more recent protestations of ignorance before a Commons select committee; and so does the statement’s final defiant flourish: “Any suggestion of ‘collusion or conspiracy’ between companies in which he has an interest is totally without foundation.”
After New Idea hit the news-stands, in the UK the Sun took the bizarre step of asking its readers to say via a phone-poll whether or not they wanted to read the full transcript. The result, unsurprisingly, was that they did want it – and duly got it. But as Alex Mitchell notes, the media in Britain and Australia were so excited by Charles’s filthy pillow-talk they never stopped to ask some basic questions. Who passed the tape to New Idea? What advice did News Ltd’s lawyers give on the legal ramifications of publishing the transcript of a criminally obtained phone conversation?
“Because none of these questions were asked,” Mitchell concludes, “the culprits got away scot-free. It probably encouraged them to do it again... and again.” Will the questions now at last be asked by Lord Justice Leveson?