The Press Complaints Commission has censured the Daily Telegraph for its use of subterfuge to catch Liberal Democrat MP declaring “war” on News Corporation owner Rupert Murdoch, and his intention to buy BSkyB.
The fallout from the recording led to Mr Cable losing his responsibility on deciding whether to block News Corp’s bid, which was passed on to the Conservative MP Jeremy Hunt, who subsequently permitted the bid.
The business secretary was under the impression he was talking to two female constituents, when he was actually being secretly recorded in what Lib Dem MP, and complainant, Tim Farron called a “fishing expedition”.
The Daily Telegraph argued that it was nothing of the sort, and the information obtained was deemed fair due to its public interest. Although the PCC agreed that the information was in the public interest, it warned the paper that it had “reached the wrong decision in deciding to pursue subterfuge on this occasion”, and had broken Clause 10 of the Editors’ code of conduct.
Daily Telegraph editor Tony Gallagher accepted the judgement, but also claimed his newspaper “had a duty to investigate [MPs] conduct, and that to be effective the use of subterfuge was necessary.
“Our inquiries confirmed that ministers were backing the coalition in public while denouncing it to their constituents. Our revelations led to the demotion of a member of the cabinet, apologies from a string of junior ministers and condemnation from their party leader.” He also warned that the PCC’s ruling has “alarming implications for the future of investigative journalism”.
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