Houses of Parliament

Fowler: 'One of underlying problems with News International was the belief in its power'

Credit: alancleaver_2000 on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

British journalism is going through "the most tumultuous period" in its history and is entering a "post-Murdoch era", former Times journalist Lord Fowler has told peers.

Speaking in a Lords debate on the governance of the BBC, Fowler said the broadcaster had "a major part to play in demonstrating the true strength of British journalism" and improving public trust in the media at a time when journalistic practices are under intense scrutiny.

"We are now living through the most tumultuous period in media history in modern memory," Fowler said.

"The past months have brought revelations of newspaper phone hacking, involving breaches of the rights of hundreds of citizens; arrests of newspaper executives; corrupt payments to the police and public officials; the revelation that the Press Complaints Commission is a toothless puppy; and, the resignation of James Murdoch from News International.

"We are now entering the post-Murdoch age, and this has a number of consequences for the BBC. First, it is essential that the standards of the BBC are maintained.

"We can point to the BBC as being very much typical of British journalism and very much more typical of British journalism than the phone-hackers and the lawbreakers.

He added: "It is not fanciful to believe that one of the underlying problems with News International was the belief in its power. You had politicians beating a path to the Murdoch door. That can easily become a belief that normal restrictions do not apply.

"All that has come to an end - and if it has not, we must ensure that it does - symbolised by the resignation of James Murdoch, and who knows what the future of the News International newspapers in the UK is going to be?

"The lesson of this is not just to rejoice but to ask how we can prevent any other organisation obtaining that kind of disproportionate power."

Former BBC chairman Michael Grade said: "BBC journalism holds an ever more important role in our democracy, at a time when our newspapers are, as we have heard, in intensive care in more senses than just the economic one.

"It is not hard to imagine that, in years to come, the BBC will find itself as the last bastion of fully funded, independent and impartial news.

"It needs to ensure that its journalism always measures up to that responsibility, to remain trustworthy and trusted. It means resisting any temptation to follow the glib, lazy and often partisan narratives that develop in other media."

For the government, Baroness Garden said ministers would ensure the BBC remained a "national asset" and its editorial independence was "sacrosanct".

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).