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HSBC scandal highlights media’s corporate flaws

ByBeth Sexton

Feb 24, 2015
Image courtesy of The Elkhart Truth

Recently, HSBC hit the headlines after it was claimed it had helped organisations and individuals avoid tax. Yet the scandal, for all its dramatic accusations and speculation, has failed to yield a single conviction. The media frenzy we would expect from such a shocking revelation has yet to materialise and, with each passing day, the spotlight on this issue dwindles. Recently, chief political comment editor Peter Oborne stepped down from his position at The Telegraph due to what he calls a “fraud on its readers” after it failed to provide an adequate report on the affair. Oborne is clearly not alone in thinking that the coverage of the HSBC scandal is woefully disproportionate to its scale, but, so far, he is the only person to voice this concern.

In his article explaining his decision, Oborne highlights the scarcity of stories around HSBC and cites instances where his own attempts to expose misdemeanours by the group were hushed up. What may seem like shocking negligence on behalf of The Telegraph perhaps makes more sense when we consider that it is owned by the Barclay brothers. It seems this latest oversight by the paper is simply concurrent with their policy of avoiding HSBC altogether, and while this is done purely in the interest of banks and other sponsors, it leaves the general public with a skewed version of current affairs. Our society is increasingly being pushed towards a corporatocracy and the cowardice of our national newspapers in the face of their advertisers is certainly doing little to alleviate this. The distinct lack of coverage is merely symptomatic of the current climate of the media, which allows businesses to dictate their content for fear of losing advertising revenue. This is, of course, completely unacceptable, and should not be viewed as anything but a direct affront to democracy.

Oborne’s claims, however, are just the tip of the iceberg, and it is arguably not just The Telegraph who are guilty of bias. The media as a whole is delivering an increasingly narrow world view and evolving more and more into a platform reserved strictly for the elite. It is not just with regards to the financial sector that we see this happening; recently, the deaths of three innocent Muslims who were gunned down in broad daylight received almost no attention, prompting questions over a racial bias. A recent study by the Cardiff Institute of Journalism also found that the BBC, traditionally the pinnacle of neutrality, has actually been peddling a very pointed, Eurosceptic Conservative agenda. Ultimately, while the actions of The Telegraph are decidedly underhand, they are not the only guilty party, the media at large is equally corrupt.

Oborne’s move will no doubt provoke a reaction but it has the capacity to achieve some positive change – indeed, a new enquiry into HSBC’s activities has been scheduled off the back of his accusations. On a deeper level, his resignation will hopefully highlight the worrying amount of power exerted by newspaper proprietors over editorial choices, though it is regrettable that a man should have to lose his job in the process. Peter Oborne’s desperate actions signify the urgency of the situation, and the sooner newspapers curtail the illegitimate power of their owners over editorial content, the sooner they will stop losing talented journalists. Oborne’s decision was obviously a tough one and has had some positive results, but the actions of one man can never be enough – the end of corporate tyranny over the media seems far from sight.

By Beth Sexton

4th year English Literature student

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