Hacked Off responds to Peter Oborne’s resignation from the Daily Telegraph

In an article headlined ‘Why I Have Resigned from the Telegraph’, the paper’s chief political correspondent, Peter Oborne, makes a series of startling allegations. His piece for Open Democracy, which was clearly written with a heavy heart, exposes a series of decisions – chiefly about the troubled HSBC bank – where Oborne claims commercial considerations dictated the paper’s coverage (or lack of it) of major stories.

The Daily Telegraph is a founder member of the new press regulator IPSO, which Hacked Off has repeatedly described as a sham. If Oborne’s account of the inner workings of the Daily Telegraph is accurate – and he is respected across the political spectrum – it is clearer than ever that Lord Justice Leveson was right to demand an end to the cosy system in which the press regulates itself without independent scrutiny. According to Oborne, one of the key newspaper groups which controls and finances IPSO has repeatedly failed its readers, tailoring its coverage to suit major advertisers.

From his opening sentence, which describes the Daily Telegraph’s coverage of HSBC as “a fraud on its readers”, Oborne pulls no punches. He alleges that:

* The distinction between advertising and editorial “has collapsed”

* Critical stories about HSBC failed to appear over several years or were pulled from the paper’s website

* From the start of 2013, stories critical of HSBC were discouraged after the bank suspended its advertising with the Telegraph. “Winning back the HSBC advertising account became an urgent priority”, Oborne claims

* The paper was equally keen not to offend the Chinese government. In December, the FT, The Times and The Guardian ran powerful leaders on a refusal by the Chinese government to allow a committee of British MPs to visit Hong Kong. The Telegraph “remained silent”

* Online visits – “click culture” – have become more important than importance or accuracy. On 22 September last year, the online paper ran a sensational story about a three-breasted woman which an executive told Oborne “was known” to be “false” before it was published

There are other serious allegations in this unusually candid piece. “There are great issues here” Oborne concludes. “They go to the heart of our democracy, and can no longer be ignored.”

This is exactly what Hacked Off had been saying since it was set up in 2011. Phone hacking was just one of many unethical practices which have done incalculable damage to the reputation of the British press. We welcome Peter Oborne’s brave decision to resign and tell readers what he believes has gone wrong at one of this country’s most influential newspapers.

The case for ending the system in which editors and owners effectively regulate themselves without independent audit – currently in the guise of IPSO – has never been stronger.

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

February 17, 2015 at 10:36 pm

It’s not just a question of the sham that is PCC/IPSO, Oborne’s piece also makes a mockery of the sanctimonious claims of the anti-Leveson cabal (Dacre et al) to be oh-so-unfairly persecuted as they bravely fight for free speech and democracy…

Stuart Moorereply
February 17, 2015 at 11:13 pm

It’s been obvious for a while now to anyone who reads the online Torygraph that the articles have been dumbing down and are often little more than click bate, I assume to inflate hits to make the paper more appealing to advertisers.
And now there’s and election in town, the level of biased anti Labour reporting has been ramped right up, with hardly a mention of just how poor the coalition government has been.
And then there’s the 20 story limit before the paper shuts you out and demands money to continue reading, like we don’t know how top clear our cookie cache, derr.
I might not agree with Oborne on many things, but in this instance, I salute the man, as its so very rare to find someone in public life, and especially the press, who acts in honor in this day and age

Michael McCarthyreply
February 17, 2015 at 11:45 pm

Such is the “free” press: reporting such news items as the advertisers do not object to, and suppressing whatever might incommode the wealthy and politically influential. Another reason to take the media which voters rely on for reliable information out of the realms of profit-making and of being beholden to commercial advertisers, or (in the case of the BBC) government paymasters, and creating a media ecology aimed at producing independence and the greatest possible diversity. Long ago Raymond Williams set out a scheme for achieving just that. Time to dust it down, in my opinion.

No democracy worth the name can allow what people are allowed to know, and the political opinions they are encouraged to regard as defining the possible, to be largely decided by wealthy corporations and obscene wealthy individuals, all following a similar ideological agenda.

Blair Bretonreply
February 18, 2015 at 4:13 pm

There is very serious problem if the press can be controlled by corporate interests. This also shows that when a paper is in the wrong hands of ownership, the Corporate interests are in the owners’ mind and actions. The Telegraph does not seem to be a free press at all. So their claim at Leveson that it is a free press is not apparently true for this paper.

John Cleesereply
March 14, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I would like to know if the Telegraph has devoted any column inches at all to this story

Similarly,can anyone tell me the extent to which the Mirror Group has covered the current trial concerning some of their
former employees

Am I right that if either paper was accused of Press Censorship,they would claim it was merely a matter of editorial judgement ?

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